SCOTUS to Rule on Obama’s Executive Order

Primer: This is the White House official Fact sheet and Executive Order being challenged.

The Supreme Court has often dealt a big blow to presidents in their second term.

LATimes: Harry Truman was rebuked for claiming the power to seize strike-bound steel mills during the Korean War. Richard Nixon resigned shortly after the court ruled unanimously he must turn over the Watergate tapes.

Bill Clinton’s impeachment was triggered by the court’s decision that he must answer questions under oath in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case. And George W. Bush lost before the court when he claimed his power as commander in chief gave him almost unfettered authority over prisoners held at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

Now, as President Obama begins his last year in office, the court is set to render a verdict on his use of his executive authority. The justices will decide whether he violated the law by authorizing more than 4 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally to come out of the shadows without fear of deportation and obtain work permits.

There are signs that at least some of the justices are ready to rein in the president’s ability to take such bold action without the approval of Congress.

Never before has the high court ruled that a president violated his constitutional duty to “take care” that laws are “faithfully executed.” Yet when justices agreed to hear the immigration case, they surprised many by asking both sides to present arguments on whether Obama’s actions violated the rarely invoked “take care” provision. That question had not even been at issue when lower courts blocked Obama’s plan from taking effect.

In a separate pending case this term, the court also will rule on whether the president and his healthcare advisors went too far by requiring Catholic charities and other faith-based employers to formally opt out of providing a full range of contraceptives to their female employees by citing their religious objections.

The faith-based entities argued that by notifying the government of their decision to opt out — which triggers a process under which employees would get contraceptive coverage by other means — they would be “complicit” in supplying “abortion-inducing drugs.”

The decisions, both due by summer, will help answer a question that looms over Obama’s presidency. Has he properly used his power as chief executive to circumvent congressional gridlock on issues such as immigration, climate change and healthcare, or has he gone too far and violated his duty to enforce the laws as set by Congress?

The cases come before the court with a backdrop of Republican claims that the president has overreached and abused his power. Former House Speaker John A. Boehner said Obama was “acting like a king” and “damaging the presidency” when he announced the deportation-relief plan now before the high court.

On the campaign trail, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas promises GOP voters that, if he is elected president, his first task on his first day in the White House will be to “rescind every illegal and unconstitutional executive action of Barack Obama.”

White House officials and supporters of the president counter that Obama’s actions are not only legal and well within his discretionary authority, but that Congress has left him no choice by refusing to take action on pressing national problems.

Conservative scholars think Obama has left himself vulnerable by announcing broad executive actions on policies that had been considered and rejected by Congress, and which even he once said were beyond his authority.

In his first term, Obama told Latino activists who were pushing him to take unilateral action that he could not “waive away the laws Congress put in place” regarding the removal of immigrants who entered the country illegally. But later the president decided he did have the power to suspend deportation and offer “lawful presence” and work permits to as many as 5 million of those immigrants.

So far conservatives have mostly failed to derail Obama in the Supreme Court. Twice, the justices upheld the president’s healthcare law against conservative attacks, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. casting his vote with the court’s four liberals.

Four years ago, in a key test of state-versus-federal power, the court ruled for Obama after his administration sued to block Arizona from enforcing a law to crack down on immigrants in the country illegally.

In 2011, Obama and then-Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. raised ruffles on the right when they announced the administration would not defend in court the Defense of Marriage Act, which recognized only marriages between a man and a woman. House Republicans took up the cause, but two years later the high court agreed with the administration and struck down key parts of the law as unconstitutional.

But the new immigration and contraceptive cases pose a tough test for Obama’s lawyers. In last year’s healthcare case, they were defending a law that had won approval in Congress, when both chambers were controlled by Democrats. “We must respect the role of the legislature and take care not to undo what it has done,” Roberts said in upholding its system of insurance subsidies.

This year, by contrast, Obama is defending an executive action on immigration that was taken without the approval of Congress and in the face of fierce Republican criticism.

Similarly, the “contraceptive mandate” was not spelled out in the Affordable Care Act, as lawyers for Catholic bishops often point out. It was adopted later in a regulation issued by Obama’s healthcare advisors.

But Obama’s defenders, including immigration law experts, say the critics are missing the crucial point that the deportation laws give the chief executive a free hand to decide how or whether to deport those living here illegally. Contrary to what many assume, the law does not say federal officials must arrest and deport such people. Rather, it says they are “subject” to removal, based on policies and priorities set by the executive branch.

Obama’s administration says it wants to focus on deporting criminals, security threats, gang members and drug traffickers, not parents and grandparents who have children in the United States legally.

The administration can quote a powerful voice to back up its view of the matter. “Aliens may be removed” if they entered the country illegally and committed crimes, said Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, but “a principal feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials…. Federal officials, as an initial matter, must decide whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all. As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States.”

Kennedy spoke for the court four years ago in rejecting Arizona’s claim that immigrants who could not prove their citizenship should be arrested, and Roberts agreed. Kennedy’s explanation of the deportation system may also defeat any claims that Obama is violating his duty to “faithfully execute” the law.

“The president is not claiming a constitutional authority to not enforce the law. He’s claiming authority based on the immigration statute,” said Walter Dellinger, a White House lawyer under President Clinton. “And if the court says he is wrong, then he will comply with that.”

El Chapo’s America: Flooded with Heroin-Fentanyl

The DEA operation, called “Project Cassandra,” is meant to disrupt and dismantle Hezbollah’s global network that supplies drugs to the U.S. and Europe as well as cut into the terror organization’s ability to fund its activities through drug trafficking.

In the investigation, authorities uncovered a network of money couriers who collect and transport millions of euros in drug proceeds from Europe to the Middle East. The currency is then paid in Colombia to drug traffickers using the Hawala disbursement system, which makes it difficult to track. ***

Last spring, Brazil’s Civil Police arrested Hamzi Ahmad Barakat in the city of Curitiba under allegations that he had connections to a network of front companies that fleeced Lebanese immigrants who had recently moved to Brazil.

Barakat, who allegedly has ties to the infamous Triple Frontier region, is listed in the United States as a member of Hezbollah and is suspected of trafficking arms, drugs, explosives and counterfeit bills.

“He was preying on his own countrymen, using their identities to create companies to carry out schemes,” said Cassiano Aufiero, the police investigator in charge of the case.

Aufiero added that while he knew of Barakat’s purported ties to the Islamic militant group, he said that he was under arrest for different matters, including embezzlement and the creation of false documents.

Barakat’s arrest shed more light on the Triple Border region, which has become a hotspot for smugglers and drawn the attention of the U.S., Israel and governments throughout South America.

The region has drawn a number of immigrants for the Middle East, particularly from Lebanon, and is believed to be one of Hezbollah’s major areas of operation outside of the Islamic world, due to its seclusion, loose borders, rampant political corruption and weak judicial system. Brazil has one of the largest Lebanese population’s outside of Lebanon with at least 7 million people from that country residing there and some estimates claiming closer to 13 million.

In 2004, Barakat’s brother, Assad Ahmad Barakat, was named by the Treasury Department as one of Hezbollah’s “most prominent and influential members” and was believed to have used an electronics wholesale store in the Triple Frontier as a cover for raising funds for Hezbollah. The Brazilian police arrested him in 2002 and deported him to Paraguay, where he went to prison for tax evasion.

The Department of Justice National Drug Threat Assessment report.

Fentanyl: drug 50 times more potent than heroin ravages New Hampshire

Of 69 fatal overdose victims last year, 68% had taken the synthetic opioid, which Mexican cartels have learned to make and smuggle to interstate highways. The drug ‘is what is killing our citizens,’ says Manchester’s police chief

Guardian: to the Drug Enforcement Administration, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 100 times more powerful than morphine, and 30-50 times more powerful than heroin.

“Fentanyl is what is killing our citizens,” said Manchester’s chief of police, Nick Willard, in testimony before Congress last week.

In 2013, the city of Manchester had 14 fatal overdoses, one of which (7%) involved a victim with fentanyl in their system, according to Willard. In 2015, 69 people fatally overdosed, 68% of whom had taken fentanyl. The state statistics are no more cheery. Officials at the office of the chief medical examiner in New Hampshire say they have yet to receive testing results from 36 suspected overdoses, but they’ve counted 399 fatal overdose victims so far, more than two-thirds of whom died with fentanyl in their system.

“It’s not like Mario Batali,” said Willard from his office in Manchester, comparing heroin dealers cutting their supply with the famed chef. “These guys are just throwing it in a mixer. You could get a bag that’s perfect and no one is going to die from it. You could also get a bag [that’s] straight fentanyl and that would kill you.”

Willard said that during a recent raid in Manchester, he found a dealer mixing fentanyl with whey protein. In another sting that led to a seizure in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the dealer was allegedly mixing heroin and fentanyl in a kitchen blender.

For the most part, said Willard, the story of opiate use in Manchester follows the same patterns as the rest of the country. The crisis was ushered in by the rise of prescription painkillers like OxyContin. Addicts looking for a cheaper high frequently turned to the more dangerous, yet significantly cheaper, heroin.

The turning point, he says, happened sometime after 2010, when Purdue Pharma altered the medication to make it more difficult to tamper with and get high. Suppliers in Mexico were quick to keep up with the burgeoning market, and addicts in Manchester, which sits near Interstate 93, Route 3, Route 81, and Route 9, had no problem tapping into the supply. More here.


“What Al Capone was to beer and whiskey, Guzmán is to narcotics,” Art Bilek, the commission’s executive vice president, said at the time. Except, Bilek added, Guzmán “is clearly more dangerous than Al Capone was at his height.” (Zambada is plenty dangerous, too: Prosecutors say he commanded logistics and security for the cartel, including assassinations. He is suspected in a number of slayings, including the murders of government officials.)

The cartel’s scope is staggering. About half of the estimated $65 billion worth of illegal cocaine, heroin, and other narcotics that Americans buy each year enters the United States via Mexico, according to law enforcement experts (though the drugs often originate in South or Central America). More than half of that is believed to be supplied by Sinaloa. Drug enforcement experts estimate, conservatively, that the cartel’s annual revenues exceed $3 billion: more than those of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group.

In Chicago, the cartel has a near monopoly. “I’d say 70 to 80 percent of the narcotics here are controlled by Sinaloa and Chapo Guzmán,” says Jack Riley, director of the DEA’s Chicago office. “Virtually all of our major investigations at some point lead back to other investigations tied to Sinaloa.”

In August 2009, five months after Zambada’s capture, a federal grand jury in Chicago indicted him and 45 others tied to a Sinaloa-led drug ring in the city. Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney at the time, called the indictments “the most significant drug importation conspiracies ever charged in Chicago,” claiming that the cartel imported and distributed nearly $6 billion worth of illegal narcotics mostly to the Chicago area between 1990 and 2008.

Immigration: Senator Sessions Just Released Shocking Report

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest released a new chart on Thursday exclusively to Breitbart News that shows that the number of fugitive criminal aliens in America outnumbers the populations of every city in New Hampshire.

Fugitive Criminal Aliens Outnumber Populations Of All New Hampshire Cities

The release accompanying the chart shows:

Breitbart: According to data provided to the Subcommittee by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), there are at least 179,027 aliens in the United States who not only have been ordered to leave the country for violating our immigration laws, but who have also been convicted of a criminal offense, and have not left as required or been removed by ICE. Because of the Obama Administration’s lax enforcement policies, ICE removed only 63,539 of these criminal aliens from the interior of the United States in Fiscal Year 2015. At that rate, it would take nearly three years to remove just the existing criminal aliens who have been ordered removed from the United States (not future criminal aliens who will be ordered removed). While the ICE data includes only criminal aliens who have already been ordered removed, Jessica Vaughan, Director of Policy Studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, estimates there are more than 2 million total criminal aliens in the United States.

The chart shows that the at-least-179,027 fugitive criminal aliens in the United States outnumber the populations of every single New Hampshire city. Manchester, New Hampshire, the most populous city, has 110,000 people — about 70,000 less people than fugitive criminal aliens in America — while Nashua has 87,000 people. Concord, New Hamsphire’s capital city, has 42,000 people and Dover has 31,000, while Rochester has 30,000.

The subcommittee, which is chaired by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) — the intellectual leader of the modern conservative movement — has essentially proved that no matter where anyone in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire lives, there are well more fugitive criminal aliens in the United States than the entire population of their home city. It will be interesting to see how this plays on the campaign trail in the final days.

Feb. 3, 2016

Refugee and Visa Programs

Homeland Security and State Department officials testified at a hearing on security concerns related to U.S. refugee and visa… read more

Homeland Security and State Department officials testified at a hearing on security concerns related to U.S. refugee and visa policy. Francis Taylor told committee members that the Department of Homeland Security was now looking at the social media accounts of refugees coming from “high risk” nations. The change was in response to the mass shooting by a husband and wife team in San Bernadino, California. The wife was a Pakistani immigrant in the U.S. on a visa

Obama to Evict Thousands, Julian and Hillary?

Obama administration considering evictions of thousands from low-income housing

WashingtonTimes:The Department of Housing and Urban development announced Tuesday that it would consider evicting tens of thousands of public housing residents who earn too much money to qualify for public housing.

The announcement comes in response to a July audit from the department’s Office of Inspector General that revealed over 25,000 families had an income that exceeded the maximum level to qualify for government-assisted housing. At least one tenant had roughly nearly $1 million in assets.

Now the department will reexamine tenant’s public housing needs in an effort to root out “over-income” tenants occupying low-income housing that is desperately needed by poorer families.

“Some of those families significantly exceeded the income limits,” HUD wrote in the Federal Register, warning that “scarce public resources must be provided to those most in need of affordable housing.”

Currently, federal law does not prohibit over-income families from continuing to live in low-income housing as long as they met the income requirements when they moved in.

Now HUD is grappling with whether to evict over-income tenants and how long to give them to find new homes.

“An increase in income is a good and welcomed event for families, and when a family’s income steadily rises, it may be an indication that the family is on its way to self-sufficiency,” HUD wrote.

“Any changes that would require the termination of tenancy for over-income families should be enacted with caution so as not to impede a family’s progress,” the agency continued.

The department will seek comment from the public on what to do about over-income families over the next 30 days.

The House is expected to vote Tuesday on an Amendment proposed by Rep. Vern Buchanan, Florida Republican, to tighten income asset verification requirements for public housing applicants.

“It is outrageous that taxpayers are footing the bill for millionaires’ housing,” Mr. Buchanan said in a statement. “This type of abuse hurts truly needy families and erodes faith in government. Holding HUD to the same standards used for other federal benefits will provide much-needed oversight on taxpayer funds and help create consistency across the vast array of assistance programs.”

*** HUD is corrupt and the Secretary of HUD, Julian Castro is just as corrupt. But as a sidebar, he is earnestly jockeying for sharing the presidential ticket with Hillary Clinton.

HUD Secretary Julian Castro attends Maine fundraiser for Clinton

He headlines the private event at the law offices of Preti Flaherty in Portland.

Julian Castro, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development secretary and a rising star in the Democratic Party, was in Portland Monday morning for a private fundraiser for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The event at the law offices of Preti Flaherty in downtown Portland included U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree and longtime Maine lobbyist and attorney Tony Buxton.

According to an invitation provided by Hillary for America, Castro’s visit was billed as “coffee and conversation.” It was closed to the public and to the media.

Castro arrived at the fundraiser with Pingree and his twin brother, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas. After the event, Julian Castro said the crowd was enthusiastic and looking forward to seeing Clinton win the nomination.

When asked if he would accept if Clinton wins the nomination and asks him to run for vice president, he would say only that he is focused on his work with HUD and campaigning for Clinton.

“Both Joaquin and I are happy to help her out,” he said.

Julian Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, was tabbed by President Obama in 2014 to serve as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. His ethnic background – Mexican American – makes him a powerful surrogate for Clinton, who will likely need strong support from Hispanic voters, both in the Democratic primaries and in the general election, if she becomes the nominee.

During an interview Monday morning on the “Ken & Mike” show on WGAN, the Castro brothers said they have long supported Clinton, whom they described as a tenacious and strong leader.

When asked by the radio hosts if he would accept an invitation to be Clinton’s running mate if she wins the nomination, Julian Castro said he feels “it’s not going to happen.”

“That’s flattering, but I doubt that,” he said. “I fully expect a year from now to be back in Texas.”

So you voters for Hillary, here is some more facts, Julian is a radical, a Marxist.

Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio, who will be giving the keynote address tonight, is, according to some, the next Obama. But while Obama’s radicalism may have escaped the notice of the DNC in 2004, Castro’s views are bit more transparent.

Indeed, he, along with his twin, Joaquin, currently running for Congress, learned their politics on their mother’s knee and in the streets of San Antonio. Their mother, Rosie helped found a radical, anti-white, socialist Chicano party called La Raza Unida (literally “The Race United”) that sought to create a separate country–Aztlan–in the Southwest.

Today she helps manage her sons’ political careers, after a storied career of her own as a community activist and a stint as San Antonio Housing Authority ombudsman.

Far from denouncing his mother’s controversial politics, Castro sees them as his inspiration. As a student at Stanford Castro penned an essay for Writing for Change: A Community Reader (1994) in which he praised his mother’s accomplishments and cited them as an inspiration for his own future political involvement.

“[My mother] sees political activism as an opportunity to change people’s lives for the better. Perhaps that is because of her outspoken nature or because Chicanos in the early 1970s (and, of course, for many years before) had no other option. To make themselves heard Chicanos needed the opportunity that the political system provided. In any event, my mother’s fervor for activism affected the first years of my life, as it touches it today.

Castro wrote fondly of those early days and basked in the slogans of the day. “‘Viva La Raza!’ ‘Black and Brown United!’ ‘Accept me for who I am–Chicano.’ These and many other powerful slogans rang in my ears like war cries.” These war cries, Castro believes, advanced the interests of their political community. He sees her rabble-rousing as the cause for Latino successes, not the individual successes of those hard-working men and women who persevered despite some wrinkles in the American meritocracy.

[My mother] insisted that things were changing because of political activism, participation in the system. Maria del Rosario Castro has never held a political office. Her name is seldom mentioned in a San Antonio newspaper. However, today, years later, I read the newspapers, and I see that more Valdezes are sitting on school boards, that a greater number of Garcias are now doctors, lawyers, engineers, and, of course, teachers. And I look around me and see a few other brown faces in the crowd at [Stanford]. I also see in me a product of my mother’s diligence and her friends’ hard work. Twenty years ago I would not have been here…. My opportunities are not the gift of the majority; they are the result of a lifetime of struggle and commitment by adetermined minority. My mother is one of these persons. And each year I realize more and more how much easier my life has been made by the toil of past generations. I wonder what form my service will take, since I am expected by those who know my mother to continue the family tradition. [Emphasis Castro’s]

DHS Fleecing and Iffy Bookkeeping

DHS Reports Spending Only 1 Percent of its $1.4B Training Budget

Though Congress provides more than $1 billion in funds to train personnel at the Department of Homeland Security, DHS spends a small fraction of that on workforce training—at least according to its bookkeepers.


As an example of the iffy bookkeeping, auditors found that in fiscal 2014, Congress provided $1.4 billion for training, but the department reported spending only $1.9 million to the Office of Personnel Management. And as of August 2015, the DHS Office of the Chief Financial Officer could account for only $267 million in training expenditures in the prior year. Such lack of oversight on data quality, the Homeland Security inspector general found, meant the department reported only 1 percent of its training expenditures that year.

“DHS lacks reliable training cost information and data needed to make effective and efficient management decisions,” the IG concluded in a report released Wednesday. “It does not have an effective governance structure for its training oversight, including clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and delegated authorities” to oversee training programs, the watchdog wrote.

The difficulty the massive department would have in tracking training funds was predicted as far back as 2003, when the Government Accountability Office named human capital management as a high-risk area for the fledgling new department merging 22 agencies.

But DHS has failed to fully implement as many as 29 recommendations for improving training efficiencies made by several working groups, the new report said.

Among other problems, the IG found that the Transportation Security Administration did not report any training costs for January 2015, but after being questioned by IG staff, that agency reported $23 million in training expenditures.

DHS also lacks an oversight structure to monitor training after it transferred authority in 2012 to the Office of the Chief Financial Officer and to departmental components. Such oversight is supposed to be supervised by the undersecretary for management, through the chief financial officer.

Inspector General John Roth recommended that DHS establish a better process for tracking training funds, set up an oversight structure and implement the remaining past efficiency recommendations.

Departmental managers agreed with the recommendations, with corrective actions underway for completion this year.

The actual Inspector General report is here.

Here is a previous interview with DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, where he gives clues that he is in way above his head.