The real enemy R us

 Recent reports from Washington DC show beyond reasonable doubt that the Trump Administration regards California, not Russia, as the real enemy of His America. California, after all, has a bigger economy than poor old Russia with all those Great Power pretentions. In the view of California, home of Silicon Valley, Stanford, the University of California and nearly 40 million sun bathers, Russia should go back to playing mini-empire games with Turkey, the former Ottoman Empire.
And who cares if Russia invades one of those other countries on its western border? We'll just rent another video and buy another app.
And, by the way, Donald, we can call our governor "Moonbeam" all we want. We've earned the right by applauding and suffering his various administrations through the decades. But you have not earned that right -- one of the many, many things that you have not earned.
-- blj
Washington Post
Why Gov. Jerry Brown pardoned 5 ex-convicts facing deportation, drawing Trump’s ire
By Kristine Phillips
In a Saturday morning tweet from Florida, President Trump took aim at  California Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who a day earlier pardoned five immigrants who were facing deportation.
“Governor Jerry ‘Moonbeam’ Brown pardoned 5 criminal illegal aliens whose crimes include (1) Kidnapping and Robbery (2) Badly beating wife and threatening a crime with intent to terrorize (3) Dealing drugs. Is this really what the great people of California want? @FoxNews,” Trump tweeted. “Moonbeam” was a nickname given to Brown partly because of his interest in space exploration during his earlier terms as California’s governor in the 1970s.
Trump’s tweet, sent while the president was traveling from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., to the nearby Trump International Golf Club, may have been prompted by a report during the 6 a.m. hour of “Fox and Friends,” which Trump watches regularly. The show aired a segment titled “Lawless in California.” As an infographic described the crimes for which the five pardoned men were convicted, the show’s weekend hosts tore into Brown, suggesting that he was putting Californians at risk.
“He wants to show mercy,” Fox chief national correspondent Ed Henry said. “But show mercy toward people who maybe have committed a misdemeanor and are now rehabbed. If they’re dealing drugs to our children, these are not the folks you want to pardon.”
According to Brown’s office, the governor granted pardons Friday to 56 people who had completed their sentences years ago after being convicted of drug-related and other nonviolent crimes. Five of those are immigrants facing deportation, the Sacramento Bee reported. All five have since led law-abiding lives, according to Brown’s office.
Trump’s tweet is part of the rising tension between his administration and California. On Monday, the state sued the Trump administrationover its decision to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census. And three weeks earlier, the Justice Department sued California over state laws considered to be friendly to undocumented immigrants.
Two of the immigrants who were granted pardons came to the United States as child refugees.
[ A deported veteran has been granted U.S. citizenship, after 14 years of living in Mexico ]
Sokha Chhan came from Cambodia at age 13. His family had escaped from the brutal  Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s. Chhan lost his U.S. legal status in 2002 when he was convicted of inflicting corporal injury on spouse or cohabitant and threatening a crime with the intent to terrorize, both misdemeanors. He served nearly a year in jail and three years of probation. According to Brown’s office, Chhan served in the Army Reserve and volunteers at his local temple.
After he served his sentence, Chhan raised his five children as a single father by “working in the fields, working as a mechanic, or baking donuts for 12-13 hours every day with no days off,” according to one of his daughters, who was quoted in the pardon statement.
Phann Pheach was born at a refugee camp in Thailand and came to the United States as a Cambodian refugee when he was 1, according to a GoFundMe page created by his wife. Sopeant Pheach wrote that her husband grew up in a bad neighborhood and committed drug crimes to “fit in.” Phann Pheach was convicted in 2005 of possession of a controlled substance for sale and obstructing a police officer. He served a six-month custodial sentence and 13 months on parole.
The three others who received pardons are Francisco Acevedo Alaniz, Daniel Maher and Sergio Mena.
Alaniz was convicted in 1997 of vehicle theft and served a five-month custodial sentence and 13 months on parole. The pardon statement said that Alaniz is active in his church and volunteers for a youth sports program.
Maher was convicted in 1995 of kidnapping, robbery and firearm charges. He served five years in prison and three years on parole. Originally from Macau, a small Chinese territory, Maher and his family moved to the United States legally when he was 3 years old, KQED reported.
[ Trump pardons former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio ]
Maher is now the recycling program director of Ecology Center, a nonprofit organization based in Berkeley, Calif. He had been under the threat of deportation to China since at least 2015, according to the center, which launched a petition, held news conferences and organized a rally in San Francisco on Maher’s behalf.
“Daniel’s case is of a person who made one mistake as a young adult, served his time and then completely turned his life around,” the center said. “He is an asset to all who know him.”
Mena was convicted in 2003 of possession of a controlled substance for sale and served three years of probation.
A gubernatorial pardon does not guarantee that a person will not be deported, but it does erase the conviction that triggered possible deportation. It also makes a person eligible to apply for naturalization, said Margaret Stock, a retired Army officer and an Anchorage-based immigration lawyer.
“Normally, it’s not done lightly, and normally it’s only done when somebody has shown rehabilitation,” Stock said. “We also have a principle in America that we allow people to rehabilitate themselves. … It’s a power given to governors and presidents because people think that you should be allowed to forgive people.”
Trump’s tweet criticizing Brown is “odd,” Stock said, “because the president himself has exercised the pardon power.” She cited Trump’s decision to pardon Joe Arpaio, a former sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., and one of the president’s staunchest political allies and a hard-liner on immigration. The August pardon came less than a month after Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt for ignoring a judge’s order to stop detaining people merely because he suspected them of being undocumented immigrants.
Friday’s executive actions weren’t the first time Brown has pardoned immigrants facing deportation. In December, the governor pardoned two men who, like Chhan, fled Cambodia as children during the Khmer Rouge regime and later lost their legal status after committing crimes.
In April, Brown pardoned three deported veterans who committed crimes after leaving the military. One is Hector Barajas-Varela, an Army veteran who was granted U.S. citizenship last week, 14 years after he was deported to Mexico.
David Weigel and Matt Zapotosky contributed to this article.
Trump congratulates Putin on winning reelection, gets slammed by McCain
By Dan Merica, CNN
 Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump said Tuesday he congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin for winning reelection earlier this month, provoking a strong rebuke from GOP Sen. John McCain.

Speaking with reporters in the Oval Office, Trump said that he congratulated Putin -- a figure who has loomed over his administration because of Russia's meddling in the 2016 election -- on winning another term. The result of the election, however, was never in doubt, given Putin's autocratic stranglehold on power.
Trump's decision to congratulate Putin on his electoral win drew consternation from McCain who said that "an American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections."

International monitors slam Russian election as 'overly controlled'
"And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country's future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin's regime," McCain added.
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White House press secretary Sarah Sanders later said that two key issues -- Russia's meddling in the 2016 election and accusations that Russia used a nerve agent to poison a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom -- likely did not come up during the call, but disagreed with McCain's criticism.
"We don't get to dictate how other countries operate. Putin has been elected in their country and it not something we can dictate to them how they operate," Sanders said.
Trump did tell reporters that he would meet with Putin in the "not too distant future."
"I had a call with President Putin and congratulated him on the victory, his electoral victory," Trump said during his meeting with Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. "The call had to do also with the fact that we will probably get together in the not too distant future so that we can discuss arms, we can discuss the arms race."
Trump said the call was "very good" and added that a meeting could focus on Ukraine, Syria, North Korea and other issues.
"So, I think probably we will be seeing president Putin in the not too distant future," he said.
Sanders told reporters after the call that there are "no specific plans made at this time" for a possible meeting between Trump and Putin.
The official White House statement on the phone call said that the two leaders discussed "the state of bilateral relations and resolved to continue dialogue about mutual national security priorities and challenges" and the importance of "denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula."
Sanders was pressed on Trump's call with Putin, but said that the White House believes maintaining a relationship with Putin is worth it, despite some outstanding issues.
"I don't believe it came up on this specific call but it is something that we have spoken extensively about and continue to look at ways and steps forward to make sure it never happens again," Sanders said of election meddling. She later said that she didn't believe that Russia's use of a nerve agent came up, either.
Trump is not the first commander in chief to call Putin to congratulate him on winning reelection. President Barack Obama called the Russian leader in 2012 and, according to a White House readout, congratulated him on winning his last reelection campaign.
Any interactions between Trump and Putin are closely watched given the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The issue has loomed over the administration since Trump took office last year and has infuriated the President.
Trump and Putin last met in Vietnam during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. The two did not hold a formal meeting, but they did informally talk a number of times during the two-day summit. The talks, while brief, looked friendly.
The two formally met in July at the G-20 in Hamburg, Germany. After the meeting, a diplomatic dust-up immediately broke out over whether Trump accepted Putin's assurances there was no Russian involvement in the 2016 election.
The Kremlin also said on Tuesday that Trump congratulated Putin on his win during their call and the leaders spoke "in favor of developing practical cooperation in various areas, including in ensuring strategic stability and combating international terrorism. In particular they underlined the importance of coordinated efforts to limit an arms race."
Los Angeles Times
ICE arrests farmworkers, sparking fears in the Central Valley over immigrants and the economy
Andrea Castillo
Jesus Aceves, center, who was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, prays at his brother's church, El Aposento Alto, in Wasco, Calif. Aceves was released on bond and is awaiting a hearing before an immigration judge. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Jesus Aceves was driving three of his fellow farmworkers to the tomato fields in the early-morning darkness when he saw lights flash behind him.
ICE agents pulled him over and asked for his license, registration and insurance and, most forebodingly, whether the men were in the United States legally.
Aceves and his passengers were taken to an immigrant detention facility. But none of them had been the target of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Three of the men had no criminal records. The most serious blots on the 44-year-old Aceves’ record were several convictions — the most recent in 2012 — for driving without a license.
That morning, an ICE spokesman said, agents went to a Kern County residence where they thought an immigration target lived. One of the men who got into Aceves’ car matched that person’s description, he said. The ICE agents followed.
The arrests were part of a larger sweep in California’s agricultural heartland that has sent fear through the Central Valley, where for generations, immigrants here — both legally and illegally — have picked crops. In some fields, almost all of the foreign workers are in the country without legal status.
While many immigrants have been on edge since President Trump vowed a crackdown on illegal immigration, the recent sweeps have been particularly concerning because they included the arrests of people not specifically targeted by ICE.
The concern extends to farmers, who fear more sweeps will drive away labor at a time when some are struggling to get enough workers to pick the crops.
Manuel Cunha Jr., president of Nisei Farmers League, which represents agricultural employers and their workers throughout the state, said farmers are worried about losing trusted workers. He said the increasingly tense relationship between the Trump administration and California, which declared itself a “sanctuary state,” has upped the anxiety.
“They’re not going to be replaced by American workers,” Cunha said. “Don’t punish the businesses. We’re not the ones that came up with the sanctuary state.”
In the February sweep across the Central Valley, 232 people were arrested. Of those, 180 were either convicted criminals, had been issued a final order of removal or had been previously removed from the U.S. and returned illegally.
The United Farm Workers of America identified at least 26 farmworkers arrested in Kern, Tulare and Madera counties, most of them stopped before dawn on their way to work.
Left: Pastor Guillermo Aceves, right, and other members of El Aposento Alto church pray for his brother Jesus Aceves, center. Right: Pastor Guillermo Aceves kneels while praying for his brother Jesus Aceves, who was detained by immigration agents Feb. 27. Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times
ICE Director Thomas Homan has said that immigrants who have entered the U.S. illegally “should be afraid.”
He warned that California’s so-called sanctuary policies, which limit the cooperation between local and federal law enforcement, give the agency no choice but to make arrests in neighborhoods and at work sites. That leads to the arrests of other immigrants in the country illegally who are not intended targets, he said.
“This is a prime example of how sanctuary policies, which have pushed ICE out of jails, force our officers to conduct more enforcement in the community — which poses increased risks for law enforcement and the public,” Homan said in a statement to The Times. “It also increases the likelihood that ICE will encounter other illegal aliens who previously weren’t on our radar. It is nonsensical to demand that ICE solely focus on criminals, while simultaneously preventing ICE from arresting criminal aliens inside the secure confines of local jails.”
Win Eaton, an attorney in Bakersfield, is representing some of the detained farmworkers in immigration court.
“It’s just terrible that these people are going to be used as pawns,” he said.
On an overcast day a week after the immigration sweep, 33 workers pulled cases of jalapeño sprouts off a truck and transplanted them into tilled soil at a farm in Lamont, Calif.
Some workers said they had altered their driving routes, taking back roads instead of main highways. Many stayed tuned to Facebook groups dedicated to confirming sightings of immigration agents and reminding people of their rights.
In the early afternoon, Melitón Ferred took a water break. His lower back ached after hours of work. Ferred, who emigrated from Veracruz 13 years ago, said just being a Latino — and particularly one working in the fields — made him feel like a target.
“Who is going to work the fields? No one,” he said. “This is a difficult job, and all of us are from Mexico.”
Alejandra Galacia, 35, said she hardly left her home, not even to buy groceries, the week of the February arrests. The Lamont resident said she worried about being separated from her three young daughters.
She sat them down and told them they would all go back to Mexico together if she was deported. But her oldest daughter, who was born in Mexico and is a junior in high school, has dreams of becoming an oncologist. She told her mother she does not want to return the country of her birth.
“I leave everything in God’s hands,” Galacia said.
Dozens of workers have fled since immigration agents began checking employee records at San Joaquin Valley farms. ICE said 77 businesses — in the jurisdiction that includes Northern California, Hawaii, Guam and Saipan — were served with employment authorization audit notices in January.
Farmers have struggled in recent years with labor shortages. A summer 2017 survey by the California Farm Bureau Federation showed that 55% of responding farmers experienced shortages, with problems most acute among those whose crops require intensive hand labor, such as tree fruits and grapes.
Phil Martin, professor emeritus of agricultural and resource economics at UC Davis, said while that’s true, it would take a huge, targeted immigration operation to really put a dent in the agricultural industry. That’s because production requires so many workers and the industry is using more and more people from a temporary guestworker program.
It also would take more deportation officers. While Trump last year pledged to hire 10,000 new ICE agents, Congress has yet to appropriate money for the hiring process.
Pastor Guillermo Aceves, far left, and members of El Aposento Alto church in Wasco pray for his brother Jesus Aceves, third from left, who was detained by ICE agents during a raid Feb. 27. Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times
Aceves, who was arrested while picking up coworkers in Wasco, Calif., spent just under a week in detention. He was released after his family posted an $8,000 bond. He could wait years before facing a judge because of a massive immigration court backlog.
Two other men in his car also were released after posting bond. The fourth man, Alfredo Diaz, voluntarily returned to Mexico after having lived illegally in the U.S. for more than two decades.
The night after his release, Aceves attended a local church service at El Aposento Alto, where his brother Guillermo Aceves has been pastor for eight years.
Guillermo, 46, told the congregation that what happened to his brother could happen to anyone. If ICE knocks on the door, don’t answer, he said. You have the right to stay silent. Don’t sign anything.
He urged them to decide who would care for their children if they were detained and to save money in case they need to pay a bond.
“These are things we don’t like to talk about because there’s so much fear,” he said. “But you have to do it. You have to make a plan.”
Jesus Aceves has been in California for two-thirds of his life, having come to the U.S. when he was 17. He has three U.S.-born children. From the pulpit, he tearfully talked about spending his days at the Adelanto Detention Facility thinking of his kids and his wife.
“I didn’t expect this. I never thought it would happen to me,” he said.
Guillermo Aceves obtained citizenship through the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. But younger brother Jesus arrived in the U.S. years later and missed out on President Reagan’s amnesty. Now his future is more uncertain than ever.
Toward the end of the service, Jesus stood in a circle with one of the other farmworkers arrested with him that late February morning. He raised his right arm in praise and shut his eyes tight as his brother led the congregation in prayer.
Maegan Vazquez, CNN








Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump again called for an end to the filibuster and said there will be no deal with Democrats on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA.
"Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. 'Caravans' coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL," Trump tweeted Sunday morning.




Donald J. Trump
Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. “Caravans” coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!
6:56 AM - Apr 1, 2018



In two more tweets Sunday morning, Trump threatened to dismantle the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which he called Mexico's "cash cow," if the country doesn't reduce the flow of immigrants coming across the southern US border. Trump also tweeted that "big flows of people are all trying to take advantage of DACA. They want in on the act!"



\Mexico is doing very little, if not NOTHING, at stopping people from flowing into Mexico through their Southern Border, and then into the U.S. They laugh at our dumb immigration laws. They must stop the big drug and people flows, or I will stop their cash cow, NAFTA. NEED WALL!
7:25 AM - Apr 1, 2018


The President followed up on his tweets as he went into Easter Sunday church service in West Palm Beach, Florida.


"Mexico has got to help us at the border. If they're not going to help us at the border, it's a very sad thing between two countries. Mexico has got to help us at the border. And a lot of people are coming in because they want to take advantage of DACA and we're going to have to really see," he said. "They had a great chance. The Democrats blew it. They had a great, great chance. But we'll have to take a look. But Mexico has got to help us at the border. They flow right through Mexico. They send them into the United States. Can't happen that way anymore."

This isn't the first time Trump has called for a change to Senate rules by invoking the "nuclear option," which would permit a simple majority to move forward on a measure. Last May, he called for Congress to move to a simple majority to pass health care and tax reform bills.



How Trump is quietly rewriting US immigration policy



Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has emphatically stated he is against changing senate rules to initiate a nuclear option for the legislative filibuster.
Current Senate rules mandate that 60 senators -- three-fifths of the 100-member Senate -- must agree in order to end debate and move forward to a vote on a measure or piece of legislation -- a process known as invoking cloture.
CNN's Tal Kopan and Miranda Green contributed to this report.