Review Category : Poltics

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson Talks Immigration in Los Angeles

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) — Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was in Los Angeles on Thursday to meet with city officials to discuss immigration.

Johnson also participated in a forum, along with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and members of the community, to discuss the Department of Homeland Security’s implementation efforts related to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents plans. Johnson also called upon Congress to pass a full-year appropriations bill funding the department.

Johnson touted the deferred action programs that the Los Angeles Times says will allow up to five million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally the chance to stay and work without the fear of deportation. The government will start accepting applications for the program on Feb. 18.

Johnson is expected to travel to Palo Alto on Friday, where he will participate in a White House summit on cybersecurity.

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Oregon Secretary of State Calls Situation Involving Governor A ‘Bizarre and Unprecedented Situation’

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber. Photo by Anthony Pidgeon/Redferns(PORTLAND, Ore.) — Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown issued a statement on Thursday regarding the “bizarre and unprecedented situation” involving Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, who is under pressure to resign his position in light of a conflict-of-interest controversy involving himself, his fiancee and two past campaign staffers.

According to The Oregonian, the staffers allegedly arrange for Kitzhaber’s fiancee to work jobs with groups who had business before the state. Kitzhaber’s fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, was also acting as an unpaid energy advisor while she held jobs with a pair of nonprofits focusing on energy and jobs.

On Thursday, Brown released a statement saying that she had received a call from Kitzhaber Tuesday asking her to return from a Secretaries of State conference in Washington. “He asked me to come back to Oregon as soon as possible to speak with him in person and alone,” Brown says.

“I got on a plane [Wednesday] morning and arrived at 3:40 in the afternoon,” she said. “I was escorted directly into a meeting with the Governor.” She described the meeting as brief, saying that Kitzhaber “asked me why I came back early from Washington, D.C., which I found strange.” She says that Kitzhaber then told her that he did not intend to resign.

Brown says she “informed the governor that I am ready, and my staff will be ready, should he resign” but that “right now I am focused on doing my job for the people of Oregon.”

The Oregonian reported on Thursday that the Oregon Senate President and House Speaker — both Democrats — met with Kitzhaber on Thursday morning, telling him it was time to resign.

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Obama to Announce Executive Order on Cybersecurity, Information Sharing Friday in California

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — President Obama is traveling to Silicon Valley for a Friday summit on cyber security at Stanford University.

According to the White House, the summit will bring leaders from industry, tech companies, law enforcement and others together to boost collaboration and information sharing, as well as to explore partnerships to bolster American cybersecurity.

Apple CEO Tim Cook is expected to speak and introduce Obama on Friday.

During the appearance, Obama will sign an executive order to “encourage and promote the sharing of cybersecurity threat information within the private sector and between the private sector and the federal government.” Essentially, the White House hopes to set up a series of best practices so that companies interested in participating in information sharing will know how to do so.

Among the corporations expected to announce a commitment to using the White House’s new framework are Intel, Apple, Bank of America, AIG, QVC, Walgreens and Kaiser Permanente.

Visa, Mastercard, Apple, Comerica Bank and U.S. Bank are also expected to announced on Friday that they will invest in new and more secure payment technologies.

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Obama Signs Suicide Prevention for Veterans Act Into Law

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Obama on Thursday signed into law the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act.

The bill is named for a 28-year-old Marine sergeant from Texas, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, who suffered from PTSD and committed suicide in 2011. “Today, we honor a young man who isn’t here, but should be here,” Obama said. “He suffered physical injuries that healed, and he suffered invisible wounds that stayed with him.”

The measure, aimed at preventing suicides among veterans, was unanimously passed in both the House and the Senate.

The signing ceremony was attended by first lady Michelle Obama, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald, Sen. John McCain and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, among others.

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DHS Inspector General Focusing on $500,000 Green Card Program

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general is nearing completion of an investigation into an increasingly popular but controversial immigration program that provides a visa and possibly a Green Card to foreign nationals who invest $500,000 or $1 million in an approved American business venture that creates jobs, agency insiders told ABC News.

Career employees at the federal agency said that the investigation has focused on the way now-Deputy Secretary Alijandro N. Mayorkas ran the program, which has been under scrutiny for approving visas for foreign investors even when background checks raised suspicions about fraud, money laundering, even espionage.

Mayorkas declined to discuss shortcomings in the program, known by its visa designation EB-5, highlighted in a recent ABC News investigation. That investigation found examples of visas being approved in spite of red flags from the FBI and its own fraud detection unit. In one case, an applicant that had been flagged under suspicion of profiting from commercial child pornography was still granted a visa.

Following publication of the ABC News report, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said he was “aware of the concerns” raised by ABC News “centering around security” and said the DHS “continually evaluate[s] whether more security should be provided for the program.”

In response to specific concerns raised about the American businesses certified to recruit investors through the program, known as regional centers, Homeland Security officials said there was little they could do to address the problem. They said in a statement that the immigration agency “only has the authority to terminate a regional center if there is evidence the center is no longer promoting economic growth -– not on the basis of national security concerns.”

“This lack of discretion limits the ability of the Director or the Secretary to terminate a regional center in the event of suspected or even proven criminal activity,” the statement says, adding that the administration sought additional leeway from Congress to act on security concerns but did not receive it.

Career employees inside the department, several of whom have been aware of interviews being conducted by investigators with the inspector general’s office, said they believe the report will focus on the impression that Mayorkas opened the door to politicians who sought to expedite visa approvals for foreign investors who had put money into projects in their home states or congressional districts. In an appearance before Congress in 2014, Mayorkas denied doing so, saying, “I will tell you that the allegations as they have been framed are unequivocally false.”

Congressional critics of the visa program, however, have continued to voice concerns about the vulnerabilities it has created, especially the possibility raised in internal Homeland Security documents suggesting that the boutique immigration program could be exploited by terrorists.

“It is shocking,” said Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican. “Particularly when you have F.B.I. and other law enforcement agencies that are saying national security could be compromised or is being compromised — that’s enough for us to be concerned.”

Five different Homeland Security whistle-blowers spoke with ABC News for its original report about a range of cases where visas were approved despite numerous red flags. They said objections were often ignored because the immigration program is so popular within the Obama administration and with members of Congress from both parties. Known as the EB-5 visa program, foreigners who are willing to invest $500,000 in an American business can jump to the front of the line and obtain legal status to live in the U.S. for two years. If the investment is shown to create at least 10 jobs, the investors can receive a “Green Card” — permanent residency.

Some immigration groups have criticized the program as “nothing more than selling Green Cards.” Brent Wilkes, the executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, one of the largest Hispanic civil rights groups in the U.S., said it “short circuits” the immigration process, allowing foreign nationals “with enough cash” to leap ahead of legitimate applicants who lack the means.

Supporters call the program a “win-win” because as the investors accelerate through the immigration process, their overseas money helps spur job-creating projects in the U.S.

“The American worker [is] able to get to work thanks to the capital investment coming through the program,” said Peter Joseph, the executive director of the Association to Invest in the U.S.A., a Washington, D.C. group that has advocated for the little-known immigration program.

But an ABC News investigation found that in addition to reaching wealthy foreign investors, the program has become a magnet for those seeking to sidestep the scrutiny of the traditional immigration process. In one case, immigration officials pushed through a visa application from a Chinese investor in a Las Vegas hotel project despite an internal review that found the investor had previously been turned back at the border, and much of his visa application had likely been fabricated, immigration records show.

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Senate Confirms Ash Carter as Defense Secretary

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) — The Senate confirmed Ash Carter as the next secretary of Defense with a vote of 93-5 on Thursday.

Carter, who was nominated to the post in December, earned bipartisan support throughout his confirmation process.

Carter, 60, is a veteran Pentagon official, recently serving as deputy secretary of Defense from 2011 to 2013. But he also has a unique background as a physicist and medieval historian by training. His aides once referred to him as the “600-pound brain in the room.”

Carter will replace Chuck Hagel as secretary of Defense and will be President Obama’s fourth defense secretary in six years.

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White House Welcomes Cease-fire Deal for Ukraine

creisinger/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The White House welcomes the peace deal for Ukraine that was reached by the leaders of Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine in Belarus Thursday.

The deal, which came after more than 15 hours of discussion, calls for a cease-fire starting Sunday, followed by a process of constitutional reform.

“The agreement represents a potentially significant step toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict and the restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty consistent with the Minsk agreements from last September,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement.

“This agreement must now be followed by immediate, concrete steps to fulfill the commitments by all parties. The cease-fire must be implemented and honored. Heavy weapons must be withdrawn from the conflict zone, and Russia must end its support for the separatists and withdraw its soldiers and military equipment from eastern Ukraine,” Earnest added.

In a separate statement, Secretary of State John Kerry also welcomed the news, commending the efforts by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande to reach an agreement.

Mirroring Earnest’s remarks, Kerry said, “Actions will be what matter now.”

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2016 Democratic National Convention: Why Was Brooklyn Snubbed?

JaysonPhotography/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Democratic National Convention will be in Philadelphia, not Columbus, Ohio, or the most talked about possibility: New York City, specifically Brooklyn.

Philly may have been the leading favorite, but why did Brooklyn get snubbed? It turns out there are quite a few reasons.

In a conference call Thursday, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chair, said the decision was a “yearlong effort,” that is “primary a business decision” and the “decision was not easy,” adding “all the cities who initially bid were phenomenal American cities.”

She added that while “New York City put together a very strong bid,” Philadelphia’s bid was “unmatched” and that the committee wanted to “ensure a city could transport and house attendees seamlessly.”

In Brooklyn, delegates would have to be bussed in from hotels in New York City and in Philadelphia, Wasserman Schultz noted, there are 18,500 hotels just a “15-minute walk” from the convention site.

“Delegate experience was a very, very important thing for us,” she said.

A senior Democratic official tells ABC News Wasserman Schultz’s biggest concern was logistics, noting the security perimeter around the Barclay’s Center is in a residential area, and the hotel problem.

Of course there are other issues too, ones the DNC may not want to discuss. As for whether the police shootings and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent rift with police had anything to do with the decision, as well as U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s crackdown on political corruption, including former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, she answered no.

“There were only three factors that we considered when deciding the strongest city and those were logistics, security, and resources,” she said. “Extraneous issues were not a factor whatsoever.”

A source from the mayor’s office notes the problems with the 2012 convention in Charlotte, North Carolina and the DNC was “looking for [the] simplest logistics in a smaller city,” as well as the advantage Philadelphia has with being a swing state. They also note the possibility that Hillary Clinton’s likely campaign would be headquartered in Brooklyn, saying the “DNC likely wanted to spread the wealth around.”

Another official from the de Blasio administration said pitching Brooklyn was a risk and agreed it was likely logistics that did the bid in, specifically noting the large security perimeter needed to pull off a modern convention. It would require blocks fenced off with restricted access and possibly having residents displaced ahead of the convention.

In Philadelphia, the convention site is much more commercial, surrounded by parking lots and football and baseball stadiums.

“Look, our bid was creative, different, unconventional — and they wanted a simple, surer thing,” the official said.

Longtime New York City Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf says it was a culmination of reasons that turned the DNC away from the hipster mecca. Firstly, Pennsylvania is still a swing state.

“Pennsylvania is a state that could potentially vote Republican and has elected Republicans statewide in recent times. Democrats need to [be] more in tune with the heartland and Pennsylvania represents that,” Sheinkopf said.

“Being in Brooklyn and considering recent events in New York City, it would be seen as too far to the left, not far enough to the center, and it would be challenge for Democrats not to be seen that way,” Sheinkopf said.

De Blasio took a front and center role in the bid, even recruiting high profile and high dollar New York City celebrities and donors to put together what seemed like a convincing package.

Sheinkopf said it seemed like de Blasio was “acting on his own,” without much action from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo but in the end, with recent events like the police and corruption scandals, it “wouldn’t matter what the mayor or the governor would have done.”

De Blasio is close to the Clintons and a progressive champion but it still didn’t matter.

“The mayor was first and out front,” Sheinkopf said, noting it “would have been a great moment for his administration when in fact it will be seen as a non-starter.”

In a statement after the decision, de Blasio said Brooklyn “is America’s greatest urban success story, which would have made it a great backdrop to nominate the next President of the United States,” adding his thanks to the “thousands of New Yorkers who lent their time, energy and resources to support our effort.”

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Voter Engagement Adds Value to New Hampshire Primary, Say Experts

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The New Hampshire primary is the “cultural epicenter” of politics. The centennial celebration of the New Hampshire primary centered on this theme Wednesday night, as a panel gathered at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. to discuss the primary’s political and historical value.

Bloomberg Columnist Albert Hunt moderated the discussion with Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., political consultant James Carville, former New Hampshire Attorney General Tom Rath and New Hampshire Union Leader Publisher Joe McQuaid.

Members of the panel said the benefits of the open primary in New Hampshire force the candidates to interact with voters on the ground and be authentic, especially when it comes to networking with independent and influential voters. In contrast with the closed Iowa caucuses New Hampshire can feel more like an election, they said, though the momentum from success in Iowa doesn’t hurt a candidate in New Hampshire.

The panelists reminisced about the days when candidates, consultants and journalists would socialize at the Mayfair Hotel bar but said that time ended with the age of Twitter, trackers, and “gotcha politics,” making the future of the primary less clear.

Shaheen ended with the note that New Hampshire will always be important as one of the few stops on the modern campaign trail where candidates really have to engage with voters. On the potential 2016 field? Most were reluctant to comment, though Jeb Bush was one of the first names thrown out. Carville said he doubted Bush could win in Iowa and that if he didn’t win New Hampshire, there was a threat that Mitt Romney could get back in the race.

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Democrats Choose Philadelphia as Site for 2016 Convention

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The host of the 2016 Democratic National Convention has been chosen.

“I am thrilled to announce that Philadelphia will host the convention where we will nominate the 45th President of the United States,” Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced in a statement Thursday.

Philadelphia, along with Columbus, Ohio and New York, were all in contention to host the convention, which will take place the week of July 25, 2016.

The DNC made its decision after considering factors such as security, financing, transportation and hotel capacity.

“In addition to their commitment to a seamless and safe convention, Philadelphia’s deep rooted place in American history provides a perfect setting for this special gathering,” Wasserman Schultz said. “I cannot wait to join Democrats across the country to celebrate our shared values, lay out a Democratic vision for the future, and support our nominee.”

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said the city is “excited and honored” to be chosen as the host city for the convention.

“We believe that it was our proven track record of hosting big events safely and efficiently with a dynamic team of top-tier professionals to organize and manage a conference of this magnitude, paired with our City’s tremendous amenities, its accessible location and historical significance, which made Philadelphia the ideal choice for the 2016 DNC,” he said in a statement.

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