What to Know in Washington: 2020 Democrats Clash on Immigration

Democratic presidential candidates are clashing over their different visions on immigration, an issue Donald Trump has made a cornerstone of his presidency and re-election campaign.

Contenders like Joe Biden want to pursue a moderate platform with the uncertain goal of winning back swing voters who put Trump in the White House.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and others advocate aggressively pro-immigration ideas that could boost turnout among Latinos and progressives in key states but risk turning off middle-of-the road voters.

This presidential election is likely to present the sharpest contrast in generations between Republicans and Democrats on immigration. A January 2019 survey by Pew Research Center found that 83% of Democrats say “immigrants strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents;” just 38% of Republicans agreed with that statement. In a Gallup poll last month, about one-quarter of respondents cited immigration as the country’s most important problem, a record high since the survey began as king the question in 1993.

Trump ran in 2016 on a dark vision of a country threatened by an invasion of “drug dealers, criminals, rapists” who need to be contained by a wall along the southern border, a theme he repeatedly returned to as a candidate and since becoming president.

The Democratic contenders are united in condemning Trump’s harsh policies such as family separation, child detention and the roundups of undocumented people that were expected to have taken place over the weekend. But they don’t agree on the policies needed to fix an immigration system that many Americans consider broken. Read more on the positions from Sahil Kapur.

Trump Called Racist After ‘Go Back’ Tweets: Trump over the weekend was accused of being racist and divisive by many Democrats after suggesting that four female Democratic lawmakers, led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), should return to the “broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

Three of the four women Trump was apparently referencing were born in the U.S.; none is white. The comments, made in a three-tweet string early yesterday, seem aimed at first-term Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.).

In response, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the tweets “xenophobic comments meant to divide our nation,” and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) decried “a racist tweet from a racist president.” Ocasio-Cortez sent four tweets of her own, saying Trump was “angry” because he doesn’t “believe in an America” where women like those in the group are elected to Congress. Read more from Ros Krasny.

Trump Defends Detention Camp Conditions: Trump and his top immigration officials pushed back yesterday against reports of deplorable conditions for migrants at detention facilities on the southern U.S. border, as authorities in big cities prepared for mass arrests of undocumented immigrants.

Vice President Mike Pence toured facilities in Texas on Friday, including a McAllen Border Patrol station where migrants were being kept in cages, and said, “this is tough stuff.” Trump tweeted yesterday that centers for children are fine and that areas for single men “were clean but crowded — also loaded up with a big percentage of criminals.”

“Sorry, can’t let them into our Country,” Trump tweeted. “If too crowded, tell them not to come to USA, and tell the Dems to fix the Loopholes – Problem Solved!”

The comments come as major cities, including Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago and New York, braced yesterday for attempted raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents reportedly targeting 2,000 undocumented immigrants. Read more from Mark Niquette and Ben Brody.

Photographer: John Moore/Getty Images
U.S. Border Patrol agents watch over immigrants after taking them into custody on July 2 in Los Ebanos, Texas.

Happening on the Hill

Warren Warns of Esper ‘Ethics Cloud’: Mark Esper, Trump’s nominee for defense secretary, must do more “to clear any ethics cloud” from his seven years as Raytheon’s top lobbyist, according to Sen. Warren. Warren, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee that will hold a confirmation hearing with Esper tomorrow, set out her concerns in a four-page letter obtained by Bloomberg News. While offering some praise for the Army secretary who has been serving as acting defense chief, Warren said a “cordial” meeting last week proved disappointing.

“I am extremely disappointed by your unwillingness to commit to take the steps needed to clear any ethics cloud related to your former lobbying work for Raytheon,” Warren wrote. “If confirmed as defense secretary, your potential conflicts would raise significant questions about whether the Department of Defense’s contracting decisions would favor Raytheon.” She said Esper “refused to commit to extend” a two-year period for recusal from “participating personally and substantially” in “any particu lar matter involving Raytheon” that will expire in November. Read more from Tony Capaccio.

Budget Caps, Debt Limit Talks: Pelosi told Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a letter over the weekend that the U.S. should increase spending equally on defense and nondefense programs, suggesting that their Saturday phone call to address the debt limit also included the finer points of a budget agreement. In a brief letter to Mnuchin published Saturday, Pelosi said the $22 billion needed over the next two years to implement the VA MISSION Act, which aims to give veterans more health-care options, should be factored into t he two-year budget deal the parties are negotiating along with raising the debt limit. “We all agree on the need to address the debt limit, but we also must reach an agreement on spending priorities based upon the principle of parity as soon as possible,” Pelosi said in the letter, referring to parity between defense and non-defense discretionary spending.

A statement from Pelosi’s office said she will speak with Mnuchin again on Monday, Anna Edgerton reports.

Facebook Crypto Plan Unites Washington: Washington’s bipartisan distrust of Facebook will be on display this week as it defends its digital-money proposal in two congressional hearings. Facebook’s traditional pre-hearing courtesy visits to discuss Libra in the House and Senate aren’t going well, according to interviews with lawmakers and congressional staff. While the company has taken pains to describe its initiative in utopian and futuristic terms, lawmakers have been more interested in data security, the company’s awesome market po wer, and why it decided to base the operation outside the U.S.

The Banking Committee hearing is Tuesday, with the Financial Services hearing set for Wednesday. Robert Schmidt, Ben Bain and Kurt Wagner have more on those hearings.

Senators Call for Content Curation Probe: Two Republican senators pressed the Federal Trade Commission to investigate how Facebook, Google and Twitter decide what content appears on their social media platforms, calling the companies’ power a potential threat to democracy. Sens Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) made their demand in a letter sent to the FTC today, a day before a hearing by a Senate panel into social media bias that will feature testimony from a top Google executive. The letter and hearing come just days after Trump aired similar grievances at a White House summit of conservative tech critics, fringe social media voices and GOP lawmakers including Hawley. Read more from Ben Brody.

Trump Pushes for USMCA Passage: Trump told Congress to approve his trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, saying it would bring jobs to the U.S. and stop factories from leaving. “I’m calling on Congress to pass the USMCA,” Trump told an audience in Milwaukee on Friday, referring to the trade pact. “Every day that goes by it gets more and more political.”

Democrats haven’t yet signed onto Trump’s U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying they want to change provisions on pharmaceuticals, the environment, labor and overall enforcement of the accord. Read more from Jennifer Jacobs and Jenny Leonard.

Mueller Hearing Moved: The highly anticipated testimony of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller before two House committees will be put off for one week, the panel leaders announced Friday night.

Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said in a joint statement that they had reached an agreement with Mueller to appear on July 24 so that he could be questioned for an additional hour by Nadler’s panel. “This will allow the American public to gain further insight into the special counsel’s investigation and the evidence uncovered regarding Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and President Trump’s possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power,” the two Democratic congressmen said.

There was no mention in the announcement of whether any of Mueller’s former deputies on the special counsel’s staff have agreed, as requested, to provide closed-door interviews. Read more from Billy House.

More Politics & Elections

Sanders, Biden Intensify Fight Over Health Care: Democrats are headed into a week of sparring over health care as two leading presidential contenders prepare to intensify their fight over the issue.

Today, front-runner Joe Biden will unveil a plan that relies heavily on defending the Affordable Care Act enacted in 2010 when he was vice president. It would give Americans the choice of a Medicare-like, public option for insurance while increasing the value of tax credits, lowering the cap on the cost of insurance and offering coverage to 4.9 million Americans in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid under Obamacare. The proposal would cost an estimated $750 billion in its first decade.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who champions a “Medicare for All” government-run insurance system, plans a Wednesday speech in Washington to “confront the Democratic opponents of Medicare for All and directly challenge the insurance and drug industry.” After months of maintaining a steady grip on second place behind Biden in polls, Sanders has slid to third or fourth in some surveys, and his advisers have encouraged him to take on Biden more directly. Read more from Jennifer Epstein.

Trump Trails Biden, Warren, Sanders: Trump trails at least three Democratic hopefuls — Biden, Sanders and Warren — in theoretical head-to-head matchups for the 2020 general election, a new poll showed.

Biden, the former vice president, held the biggest lead among registered voters in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday: 51% to 42%, well outside the survey’s margin of error, which was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Sanders led Trump by 50% to 43%, and Warren was up 48% to 43%. A fourth Democrat, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), was up against Trump by a point, 45% to 44%. Read more from Ros Krasny.

Trump Renews Attack on Ryan: Trump continued to slam Paul Ryan over the weekend ahead of the publication of a book in which Ryan reportedly criticizes the president, saying the former House Speaker “almost killed the Republican Party.”

“Weak, ineffective & stupid are not exactly the qualities that Republicans, or CITIZENS of our Country, were looking for,” Trump said in a pair of Twitter messages Saturday afternoon, after returning from several hours at the golf course. Trump called House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) “a far superior leader” to Ryan, who opted not to seek re-election to his Wisconsin House seat in 2018.

The president has taken on Ryan after an interview the former lawmaker gave to author Tim Alberta for the book “American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump,” which details Trump’s ascendance to the White House. The book is scheduled for release tomorrow. Read more from Ros Krasny

What Else to Know Today

Guatemala Says It’s Postponing Presidential Visit to Washington: Guatemala’s government said yesterday that it will postpone a visit to Washington by President Jimmy Morales that had been scheduled for today. The trip was postponed because of pending legal matters that were filed with the country’s constitutional court, according to a statement published on the government’s Facebook account. Read more from Nathan Crooks.

Trump Nixed Iran Deal for ‘Personality Reasons,’ Mail Says: Trump abandoned the nuclear pact with Iran last year because it was signed by his predecessor Barack Obama, according to the latest U.K. diplomatic cables published in a British newspaper. The emails, reportedly from Kim Darroch, who was Britain’s ambassador to the U.S. until he quit last week following the first batch of leaks, center on Boris Johnson’s last-ditch visit to Washington in May 2018, when he was still foreign secretary. Johnson, now closing in on the prime minister’s position, tr ied in vain to get Trump to stick with the nuclear deal. Read more from James Ludden.

Trump Asks Supreme Court to Allow Use of Pentagon Money for Wall: Trump asked the U.S. Supreme Court to clear his administration to start using Pentagon funds for construction of more than 100 miles of fencing along the Mexican border. Filing an emergency request Friday, the president asked the justices to lift a freeze on the money while a legal fight with the Sierra Club and another advocacy group plays out. The request marks the first time the Supreme Court has been confronted with the dispute stemming from Trump’s declaration of a national emergency in February to free up federal money for his border wall. Greg Stohr has the latest.

Trump Gets Win in Immigration Case: The Trump administration got a rare win in the traditionally left-leaning U.S. appeals court in California, which said Friday that the Justice Department can take into account the cooperation of local police departments on immigration enforcement when awarding federal grants. The City of Los Angeles had sued in 2017 to prevent Trump from using the grants to encourage local law enforcement to help with efforts to crack down on illegal immigration. The city won a lower court decision that has now been overturned. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a split ruling, with two judges appointed by George W. Bush siding with the Justice Department while a Bill Clinton appointee dissented. Read more from Edvard Pettersson.

Census Bureau Ready for Data Sharing Order: The U.S. Census Bureau was already using administrative data from federal departments and agencies long before Trump ordered the bureau to do it as a fallback after losing a fight to add a citizenship question to the 2020 headcount. Trump on Thursday issued an executive order directing the Census Bureau to determine the number of citizens, non-citizens and undocumented immigrants in the U.S. using administrative data from the departments of Homeland Security, State, and Health and Human Services , among others. The Supreme Court last month denied the administration’s bid to ask about citizenship in the Census questionnaire. Read more from Cheryl Bolen.

Trump Tosses Fuel Economy Fine Proposal: The Trump administration threw out steeper fines proposed by Obama-era regulators for automakers that fail to meet tougher fuel economy standards, a boost for luxury brands like Jaguar, BMW and Porsche that have paid the highest penalties in the past. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in a filing late Friday, said fines for breaching Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards would remain at the current rate. A 2015 proposal by the Obama administration, to take effect for the 2019 model year, would have more than doubled the civil penalties on manufacturers. Read more from Steve Geimann and Ryan Beene.

China Media Hints at Sanctioning U.S. Defense Firms: Chinese state media raised the specter of backlash against U.S. companies including General Dynamics and Honeywell International, as the foreign ministry warned firms would be sanctioned if a potential $2 billion arms sale to Taiwan goes ahead. Firms including General Dynamics, Honeywell, Oshkosh, Raytheon and the Pennsylvania operations of BAE Systems were cited as having been involved in recent arms sales to Taiwan. The Communist Party’s flagship People’s Daily newspaper said their non-defense businesses in China may be “boycotted” in an article circulated on WeChat, without specifying what that would entail. State broadcaster CCTV and news agency Xinhua carried similar stories. Read more.

To contact the reporters on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com; Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com

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