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National Govt & Politics
Trump White House wants series of immigration enforcement steps in any DACA deal
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Trump White House wants series of immigration enforcement steps in any DACA deal

Trump White House wants series of immigration enforcement steps in any DACA deal
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

Trump White House wants series of immigration enforcement steps in any DACA deal

The White House has put forward a series of markers for what President Donald Trump wants in any Congressional deal that involves legislative protections for illegal immigrant "Dreamers," as Trump Administration officials made clear on Sunday night, that if the President is going to agree to shield those immigrants from deportation, then Mr. Trump wants some tougher anti-immigration measures in return from lawmakers.

"Now is the time for Congress to adopt these immigration priorities," White House Legislative Affairs chief Marc Short told reporters on a conference call about the administration's immigration plans.

"We're asking that these reforms be included in any legislation concerning the status of DACA recipients," Short added, leaving no doubts that the White House wants something in return for any DACA legislation.

Democrats swiftly labeled the requests, "deeply flawed."

What exactly is the President proposing?

Here is the full list of requests - quoted from his Sunday letter, which was sent to Congressional leaders:

  1. Border Wall.  Our porous southern border presents a clear threat to our national security and public safety, and is exploited by drug traffickers and criminal cartels.  The Administration therefore proposes completing construction of a wall along the southern border of the United States.

    1. Ensure funding for the southern border wall and associated infrastructure.
    2. Authorize the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to raise, collect, and use certain processing fees from immigration benefit applications and border crossings for functions related to border security, physical infrastructure, and law enforcement.
    3. Improve infrastructure and security on the northern border.

 

  1. Unaccompanied Alien Children.  Loopholes in current law prevent “Unaccompanied Alien Children” (UACs) that arrive in the country illegally from being removed.  Rather than being deported, they are instead sheltered by the Department of Health and Human Services at taxpayer expense, and subsequently released to the custody of a parent or family member—who often lack lawful status in the United States themselves.  These loopholes in current law create a dramatic pull factor for additional illegal immigration and in recent years, there has been a significant increase in the apprehensions of UACs at our southern border.  Therefore, the Administration proposes amending current law to ensure the expeditious return of UACs and family units.

 

    1. Amend the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVRPA) to treat all UACs the same regardless of their country of origin, so long as they are not victims of human trafficking and can be safely returned home or removed to safe third countries.
    2. Clarify that alien minors who are not UACs (accompanied by a parent or legal guardian or have a parent or legal guardian in the United States available to provide care and physical custody) are not entitled to the presumptions or protections granted to UACs.
    3. Terminate the Flores Settlement Agreement (FSA) by passing legislation stipulating care standards for minors in custody and clarify corresponding provisions of the TVPRA that supersede the FSA.
    4. Amend the definition of “special immigrant,” as it pertains to juveniles, to require that the applicant prove that reunification with both parents are not viable due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment and that the applicant is a victim of trafficking.  The current legal definition is abused, and provides another avenue for illicit entry.
    5. Repeal the requirement that an asylum officer have initial jurisdiction over UAC asylum applications to expedite processing.

 

  1. Asylum Reform.  The massive asylum backlog has allowed illegal immigrants to enter and stay in the United States by exploiting asylum loopholes.  There are more than 270,000 pending cases in the asylum backlog before USCIS, and approximately 250,000 asylum cases before EOIR.  Therefore, the Administration proposes correcting the systemic deficiencies that created that backlog.

 

    1. Significantly tighten standards and eliminate loopholes in our asylum system.
    2. Elevate the threshold standard of proof in credible fear interviews.
    3. Impose and enforce penalties for the filing of frivolous, baseless, or fraudulent asylum applications, and expand the use of expedited removal as appropriate.
    4. Close loopholes in the law to bar terrorist aliens from entering the country and receiving any immigration benefits.
    5. Clarify and enhance the legal definition of “aggravated felony” to ensure that criminal aliens do not receive certain immigration benefits.
    6. Expand the ability to return asylum seekers to safe third countries.
    7. Ensure only appropriate use of parole authority for aliens with credible fear or asylum claims, to deter meritless claims and ensure the swift removal of those whose claims are denied.
    8. Prevent aliens who have been granted asylum or who entered as refugees from obtaining lawful permanent resident status if they are convicted of an aggravated felony.
    9. Require review of the asylee or refugee status of an alien who returns to their home country absent a material change in circumstances or country conditions.

 

  1. Ensure Swift Border Returns.   Immigration judges and supporting personnel face an enormous case backlog, which cripples our ability to remove illegal immigrants in a timely manner.  The Administration therefore proposes providing additional resources to reduce the immigration court backlog and ensure swift return of illegal border crossers.

 

    1. Seek appropriations to hire an additional 370 immigration judges.
    2. Establish performance metrics for immigration judges.
    3. Seek appropriations to hire an additional 1,000 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attorneys, with sufficient support personnel.
    4. Ensure sufficient resources for detention.

 

  1. Inadmissible Aliens.  The current statutory grounds for inadmissibility are too narrow, and allow for the admission of individuals who threaten our public safety.  Therefore, the Administration proposes expanding the criteria that render aliens inadmissible and ensure that such aliens are maintained in continuous custody until removal.

 

  1. Expand the grounds of inadmissibility to include gang membership.
  2. Expand the grounds of inadmissibility to include those who have been convicted of an aggravated felony; identity theft; fraud related to Social Security benefits; domestic violence; child abuse; drunk driving offenses; failure to register as a sex offender; or certain firearm offenses, including the unlawful purchase, sale, possession, or carrying of a firearm.
  3. Expand the grounds of inadmissibility to include former spouses and children of individuals engaged in drug trafficking and trafficking in persons, if the official determines the divorce was a sham or the family members continue to receive benefits from the illicit activity.

 

  1. Discourage Illegal Re-entry.   Many Americans are victims of crime committed by individuals who have repeatedly entered the United States illegally, which also undermines the integrity of the entire immigration system.  Therefore, the Administration proposes increasing penalties for repeat illegal border crossers and those with prior deportations.

 

  1. Facilitate the Removal of Illegal Aliens from Partner Nations . Current barriers prevent the Federal Government from providing assistance to partner nations for the purpose of removing aliens from third countries whose ultimate intent is entering the United States.  Therefore, the Administration proposes authorizing DHS to provide foreign assistance to partner nations to support migration management efforts conducted by those nations.  This will allow DHS to improve the ability of Central and South American countries to curb northbound migration flows and to interrupt ongoing human smuggling, which will also substantially reduce pressures on U.S. taxpayers.

 

 

  1. Expedited Removal.  Limited categories of aliens are currently subject to expedited removal, which erodes border integrity and control by impeding the ability of the Federal Government to efficiently and quickly remove inadmissible and deportable aliens from the United States.  The Administration seeks to expand the grounds of removability and the categories of aliens subject to expedited removal and by ensuring that only aliens with meritorious valid claims of persecution can circumvent expedited removal.

 

 

  1. Interior Enforcement

 

  1. Sanctuary Cities.  Hundreds of sanctuary jurisdictions release dangerous criminals and empower violent cartels like MS-13 by refusing to turn over incarcerated criminal aliens to Federal authorities.  Therefore, the Administration proposes blocking sanctuary cities from receiving certain grants or cooperative agreements administered or awarded by the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security

 

    1. Restrict such grants from being issued to:

  1. Any state or local jurisdiction that fails to cooperate with any United States government entity regarding enforcement of federal immigration laws;
  2. Any entity that provides services or benefits to aliens not entitled to receive them under existing Federal law; and
  3. Any state or local jurisdiction that provides more favorable plea agreements or sentencing for alien criminal defendants for the purpose of immigration consequences of convictions. 

    1. Clarify ICE’s detainer authority, and States’ and localities’ ability to honor that authority, so that States will continue to detain an individual pursuant to civil immigration law for up to 48 hours so that ICE may assume custody.
    2. Provide indemnification for State and local governments to protect them from civil liability based solely on compliance with immigration detainers and transportation of alien detainees.
    3. Require State and local jurisdictions to provide all information requested by ICE relating to aliens in their custody and the circumstances surrounding their detention.
    4. Clarify the definition of a criminal conviction for immigration purposes, to prevent jurisdictions from vacating or modifying criminal convictions to protect illegal immigrants, and roll back erosion of the criminal grounds of removal by courts under the “categorical approach.”

 

  1. Immigration Authority for States and Localities.  The prior Administration suppressed cooperative partnerships between the Federal Government and State or local governments that wanted to help with immigration enforcement, undermining the security of our communities.  Therefore, the Administration proposes enhancing State and local cooperation with Federal immigration law enforcement in order to ensure national security and public safety.

 

  1. Clarify the authority of State and local governments to investigate, arrest, detain, or transfer to Federal custody aliens for purposes of enforcing Federal immigration laws when done in cooperation with DHS.
  2. Authorize State and local governments to pass legislation that will support Federal law enforcement efforts.
  3. Incentivize State and local governments to enter into agreements with the Federal Government regarding immigration enforcement efforts. 
  4. Provide the same extent of immunity to State and local law enforcement agencies performing immigration enforcement duties within the scope of their official role as is provided to Federal law enforcement agencies.

 

  1. Visa Overstays.  Visa overstays account for roughly 40 percent of illegal immigration.  The Administration therefore proposes strengthening the removal processes for those who overstay or otherwise violate the terms of their visas, and implementing measures to prevent future visa overstays which may account for a growing percentage of illegal immigration.

 

  1. Discourage visa overstays by classifying such conduct as a misdemeanor.
  2. Require that all nonimmigrant visas held by an alien be cancelled when any one nonimmigrant visa held by that alien is cancelled, to ensure that if an alien abuses one type of visa, he cannot circumvent the immigration system by then relying on another type of visa to enter the United States.
  3. Bar all visa overstays from immigration benefits for a certain period of time with no waiver.
  4. Clarify that the government does not bear any expense for legal counsel for any visa overstay in removal or related proceedings.
  5. Require DHS to provide all available data relating to any deportable alien to the Department of Justice’s National Crime Information Center for purposes of that alien’s inclusion in the Immigration Violators File, with the exception of aliens who cooperate with DHS on criminal investigations.
  6. Enhance the vetting of bond sponsors for those aliens who enter without inspection, to ensure that bond sponsors undergo thorough background checks prior to being eligible to post or receive a bond.
  7. Permit the Department of State to release certain visa records to foreign governments on a case-by-case basis when sharing is in the U.S. national interest.
  8. Permit the Department of State to review the criminal background of foreign diplomats or government officials contained in the National Crime Information Center database before visa adjudication, regardless of whether the applicant’s fingerprints are in the database.

 

  1. Necessary Resources.  The relatively small number of ICE officers is grossly inadequate to serve a nation of 320 million people with tens of millions of tourists and visitors crossing U.S. ports of entry every year.  Therefore, the Administration proposes providing more resources that are vitally needed to enforce visa laws, restore immigration enforcement, and dismantle criminal gangs, networks and cartels.

 

  1. Seek appropriations to hire an additional 10,000 ICE officers.
  2. Seek appropriations to hire an additional 300 Federal prosecutors to support Federal immigration prosecution efforts.
  3. Reforms to help expedite the responsible addition of new ICE personnel.

 

  1. Detention Authority.  Various laws and judicial rulings have eroded ICE’s ability to detain illegal immigrants (including criminal aliens), such that criminal aliens are released from ICE custody into our communities.  Therefore, the Administration proposes terminating outdated catch-and-release laws that make it difficult to remove illegal immigrants.

 

    1. Ensure public safety and national security by providing a legislative fix for the Zadvydas loophole, and authorizing ICE, consistent with the Constitution, to retain custody of illegal aliens whose home countries will not accept their repatriation.
    2. Require the detention of an alien: (1) who was not inspected and admitted into the United States, who holds a revoked nonimmigrant visa (or other nonimmigrant admission document), or who is deportable for failing to maintain nonimmigrant status; and (2) who has been charged in the United States with a crime that resulted in the death or serious bodily injury of another person.

 

  1. Legal Workforce.  Immigrants who come here illegally and enter the workforce undermine job opportunities and reduce wages for American workers, as does the abuse of visa programs.  Therefore, the Administration increasing employment verification and other protections for U.S. workers.

    1. Require the use of the electronic status-verification system (“E-Verify”) to ensure the maintenance of a legal workforce in the United States.
    2. Preempt any State or local law relating to employment of unauthorized aliens.
    3. Impose strong penalties, including debarment of Federal contractors, for failure to comply with E-Verify.
    4. Increase penalties for any person or entity engaging in a pattern or practice of violations.
    5. Require the Social Security Administration to disclose information to DHS to be used in the enforcement of immigration laws.
    6. Expand the definition of unlawful employment discrimination to include replacement of U.S. citizen workers by nonimmigrant workers or the preferential hiring of such foreign workers over U.S. citizen workers.
    7. Strengthen laws prohibiting document fraud related to employment or to any other immigration benefit.

 

  1. Deportable Aliens.  The categories of aliens that currently qualify for deportation are insufficiently broad to remove aliens who pose a threat to the security of the American public.  Therefore, the Administration proposes expanding and clarifying the type of aliens who present a danger to Americans and should therefore be removable on an expedited basis.

 

  1. Expand grounds of deportability to explicitly include gang members.
  2. Expand the grounds of deportability to include those convicted of multiple drunk driving offenses or a single offense involving death or serious injury.
  3. Expand the grounds of deportability to include those who fail to register as a sex offender.
  4. Clarify the technical definition of “aggravated felony” by referring to “an offense relating to” each of the categories of crimes, rather than specifying the crimes themselves.  This will ensure certain kinds of homicide, sex offenses, and trafficking offenses are encompassed within the statutory definition.

 

  1. Gang Members.  Today, known gang members are still able to win immigration benefits despite the dangers they pose to American society.  As such, the Administration proposes implementing measures that would deny gang members and those associated with criminal gangs from receiving immigration benefits.

 

  1. Visa Security Improvements.  Without sufficient resources, the State Department is hindered from adequately vetting visa applicants.  As such, the Administration proposes enhancing State Department visa and traveler security resources and authorities.

 

    1. Expand the Department of State’s authority to use fraud prevention and detection fees for programs and activities to combat all classes of visa fraud within the United States and abroad.
    2. Ensure funding for the Visa Security Program and facilitate its expansion to all high-risk posts.
    3. Increase the border crossing card fee.
    4. Grant the Department of State authority to apply the Passport Security Surcharge to the costs of protecting U.S. citizens and their interests overseas, and to include those costs when adjusting the surcharge.
    5. Strengthen laws prohibiting civil and criminal immigration fraud and encourage the use of advanced analytics to proactively detect fraud in immigration benefit applications. 

 

  1. Merit-Based Immigration System

 

  1. Merit-Based Immigration.  The current immigration system prioritizes extended family-based chain migration over skills-based immigration and does not serve the national interest.  Decades of low-skilled immigration has suppressed wages, fueled unemployment and strained federal resources.  Therefore, the Administration proposes establishing a merit-based immigration system that protects U.S. workers and taxpayers, and ending chain migration, to promote financial success and assimilation for newcomers.

 

    1. End extended-family chain migration by limiting family-based green cards to spouses and minor children and replace it with a merit-based system that prioritizes skills and economic contributions over family connections.

    2. Establish a new, points-based system for the awarding of Green Cards (lawful permanent residents) based on factors that allow individuals to successfully assimilate and support themselves financially.

    3. Eliminate the “Diversity Visa Lottery.”

    4. Limit the number of refugees to prevent abuse of the generous U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and allow for effective assimilation of admitted refugees into the fabric of our society.

 

 

Read More

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Update 1 p.m. EDT April 23: Sunday’s bombings claimed the lives of 45 children, officials with the United Nation’s Children’s Fund said Tuesday in a statement. “Many children have lost one or both parents, and countless children have witnessed shocking and senseless violence,” UNICEF officials said. More than 320 people were killed and 500 injured in the bombings. Update 7:11 a.m. EDT April 23: The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the deadly Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka, the Guardian and the Washington Post are reporting. The group, which has lost all the territory it once held in Iraq and Syria, has made a series of unsupported claims of responsibility. Update 5:55 a.m. EDT April 23: Sri Lankan officials said the death toll from Sunday’s bombings has risen to 321, the Guardian and the Washington Post reported Tuesday. The news came as Sri Lankan Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardene said the attacks were “carried out in retaliation” for the deadly mosque shootings in New Zealand last month, according to The Associated Press. So far, at least 40 people have been arrested in connection with the attacks, authorities said. Meanwhile, the country observed a day of mourning, including a three-minute moment of silence Tuesday morning. Mass burials also were held in Negombo, the Guardian reported. Officials have declared a state of emergency in Sri Lanka, giving military officials “enhanced war-time powers,” the AP reported. Authorities also are facing criticism amid reports that a top police official sent a letter April 11 to four security agencies warning that terror group National Towheed Jamaar was planning suicide bombings at churches, the AP reported. Update 9:45 p.m. EDT April 22: Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, issued a statement in response to the bombings.  “Today as a nation we mourn the senseless loss of innocent lives this past Easter Sunday. I would like to thank the military and police forces, the medical personnel and all those who have worked bravely and tirelessly without concern for their own safety, to ensure the safety and security of our citizens. It is imperative  that we remain unified as Sri Lankans in the face of this unspeakable tragedy.” A three-minute moment of silence for the victims of the explosions will be held at 8:30 a.m. local time, according to BBC reporter Azzam Ameen. Update 8 p.m. EDT April 22: The two Australians who officials said had been killed in the explosions have been identified by a family member. Sudesh Kolonne told Australian Broadcasting Corp. his wife, Manik Suriaaratchi, and their 1-year-old daughter Alexendria were killed in an attack in Negombo, which is north of Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo. Kolonne said he was outside when the explosion happened. “I heard a huge noise and I jumped into the church and I saw that my wife and my daughter were on the floor,” he said. “I just saw my daughter on the floor and I tried to lift her up, (but) she was already dead. And (then) exactly the same… next my wife is there.” Kolonne said he and his family moved from Melbourne to Sri Lanka in 2014 when his wife started a consultancy business.  “I don’t know what to do,” he said. “We used to go to that church every Sunday. We never expected this.” Update 4:50 p.m. EDT April 22: A spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed to The AP that the agency is providing assistance with the investigation into the bombings. She would not provide specifics. Update 3:50 p.m. EDT April 22: In an email to parents, officials at Sidwell Friends, a private school in the Washington-area, confirmed one of their students was killed in Sunday’s bombings, The Washington Post reported. School officials identified the student as Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa, a fifth-grade boy who had been on leave in Sri Lanka for the last year, according to the Post. “Kieran was passionate about learning, he adored his friends, and he was incredibly excited about returning to Sidwell Friends this coming school year,” school officials said in the letter. “We are beyond sorry not to get the opportunity to welcome Kieran to the Middle School.” State Department officials said earlier Monday that at least four Americans were among the nearly 300 people killed in Sunday’s attacks. Officials with the English education management company Pearson confirmed that one of the company’s Denver-based employees had also been killed in the bombings. Update 3 p.m. EDT April 22: Officials with the U.S. State Department confirmed Monday that at least four Americans were among the nearly 300 people killed in Sunday’s bombings in Sri Lanka. The department said that in addition to those killed, several others were seriously injured. Officials gave no details about the identities of the victims, citing privacy concerns. Earlier Monday, officials with the English education management company Pearson confirmed that one of the company’s Denver-based employees had been killed in the bombings. Pearson CEO John Fallon said Dieter Kowalski died shortly after arriving at his hotel in Sri Lanka for a business trip. Update 2:10 p.m. EDT April 22: President Donald Trump said he spoke Monday to Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe after a series of bomb attacks in the country. In a tweet, Trump said he told Wickremesinghe “the United States stands by him and his country in the fight against terrorism.” “(I) also expressed condolences on behalf of myself and the People of the United States,” Trump wrote. Earlier Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed the government would provide “all possible assistance” to help in the investigation. Update 1:50 p.m. EDT April 22: Sri Lankan President Maithrpala Sirisena declared April 23 a national day of mourning in a statement obtained Monday by The Associated Press. In the statement, Sirisena said he planned to meet with foreign diplomats to seek international assistance. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier Monday that the U.S. would provide “all possible assistance” to help in the investigation. Officials said nearly 40 foreign tourists from 11 countries were killed in Sunday’s attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka.  Update 11:20 a.m. EDT April 22: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday mourned the victims of Sunday’s bomb attacks in Sri Lanka and promised the government would provide “all possible assistance” to Americans and Sri Lankans alike. Related: Sri Lanka attacks: Who are the National Thowheed Jamath? “We urge that any evil-doers be brought to justice expeditiously and America is prepared to support that,” he Pompeo said. “We also stand with the millions of Sri Lankas who support the freedom of their fellow citizens to worship as they please.” Pompeo confirmed that Americans were among those killed in Sunday’s attack, though he didn’t specify the number of American victims. “It’s heartbreaking that a country which has strived so hard for peace in recent years has been targeted by these terrorists,” he said. Related: Sri Lanka attack: Danish billionaire loses three of his four children in bombings Update 9:50 am. EDT April 22: A Denver man has been identified as one of the nearly 300 people killed Sunday in bombings in Sri Lanka, his employer confirmed Monday. Dieter Kowalski worked as senior leader of the operation technical services team for Pearson, an education management company. Though the company is based in England, Kowalski worked in Pearson’s Denver office, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.  “Colleagues who knew Dieter well talk about how much fun he was to be around, how big-hearted and full-spirited he was,” Pearson CEO John Fallon said in a statement shared with company employees and posted Monday on LinkedIn. “They tell of a man to whom we could give our ugliest and most challenging of engineering problems, knowing full well that he would jump straight in and help us figure it out. Dieter, they tell me, was never happier than cheer-leading for our customers and our company and inspiring people in the best way he knew how – by helping them to fix things and doing it with joy, happiness and grace.” Fallon said Kowalski died shortly after arriving at his hotel Sunday for a business trip. Update 7:55 a.m. EDT April 22: Three children of Anders Holch Povlsen, who owns Bestseller clothing, were killed in Sunday’s attacks, The Associated Press is reporting. The 46-year-old Danish billionaire, who is also the largest shareholder in ASOS, and his family were on vacation in Sri Lanka, the AP reported. Authorities said 39 foreigners were among the 290 people killed in Sunday’s attacks.  Meanwhile, a vehicle parked near St. Anthony’s Shrine, one of the churches that was bombed Sunday, exploded Monday as police tried to defuse three bombs inside, according to the AP. At least 87 bomb detonators have been found in Colombo, officials said. Police have detained at least 24 suspects in connection with Sunday’s bombings. Update 5:15 a.m. EDT April 22:  Government officials said the National Thowheed, a Sri Lankan militant group, was responsible for Sunday’s deadly attacks, the Guardian is reporting. However, a government spokesman said an “international network” helped the attackers. Seven suicide bombers caused six of the nine explosions Sunday, a forensic analyst told The Associated Press. Authorities also said a second Chinese citizen and two Australian citizens were among those killed in Sunday’s attacks. So far, the dead include citizens of the United States, India, Britain, China, Australia, Japan and Portugal, the AP reported. Meanwhile, a Sri Lanka military official said crews defused a homemade pipe bomb discovered late Sunday on a road to the airport outside Colombo, the AP reported. Update 12:10 a.m. EDT April 22: The death toll in the bombings has increased to 290 and more than 500 people have been wounded, according to police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara. Among those killed are five Indians, who were identified in tweets from India’s external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka, The AP reported. China and Portugal also said they lost citizens, and the U.S. said “several” Americans were also killed in the bombings. The AP reported Sri Lankan officials said they would examine reports that intelligence failed to heed or detect warnings of a possible suicide attack.  “Some intelligence officers were aware of this incidence,” Telecommunications Minister Harin Fernando said in a tweet, according to The AP. “Therefore there was a delay in action. Serious action needs to be taken as to why this warning was ignored.”  Update 9:50 p.m. EDT April 21: Japan has confirmed at least one citizen death and four injuries from the bombings. The country has issued a safety warning to Japanese people in the country, telling them to avoid mosques, churches and public places like clubs, malls and government offices, The AP reported. Foreign Minister Taro Kono expressed solidarity with Sri Lanka and sent his condolences to victims of the explosions. He also said Japan was committed to “combating terrorism.” Update 5:40 p.m. EDT April 21: The Associated Press reported that, according to internet censorship monitoring group NetBlocks, social media has been blocked across the country after the attacks. Most services, including YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook have been temporarily blacked out to curb false information spread, according to Sri Lankan officials. According to NetBlocks, such blackouts are usually ineffective. Related: Sri Lanka explosions: Sri Lanka shuts down social media in wake of Easter attacks “We are aware of the government’s statement regarding the temporary blocking of social media platforms,” Facebook, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp, said in a statement to The AP. “People rely on our services to communicate with their loved ones and we are committed to maintaining our services and helping the community and the country during this tragic time.” Update 3:28 p.m. EDT April 21: Police have 13 suspects in custody, impounded a vehicle they believed was used by suspects and located a safe house used by the attackers.  Related: Photos: Easter Sunday blasts at Sri Lanka churches, hotels kill dozens No one has claimed responsibility for what Sri Lankan officials have described as a terrorist attack by religious extremists. Update 9:28 a.m. EDT April 21: Police have so far arrested three people in connection to the blasts, The Guardian reported. A motive for the bombings is still unclear, investigators said.  Update 8:46 a.m. EDT April 21: At least 207 people were killed and 450 hurt in Sunday’s attacks, The Associated Press is reporting. Officials said eight blasts targeted three churches, three hotels, a guesthouse and an area near a Dematagoda overpass, the AP reported. Authorities reportedly have arrested seven people in connection with the incidents. Update 8:07 a.m. EDT April 21: Sri Lankan officials say at least 190 people, including at least 27 foreigners and two police officers, were killed in Sunday’s attacks, The Associated Press is reporting. Seven people have been arrested in connection with the eight explosions, which rocked at least three churches and three hotels, as well as a guesthouse, officials said. Update 7:35 a.m. EDT April 21: President Donald Trump tweeted condolences to the Sri Lankan people Sunday morning. “The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka,” Trump tweeted. “We stand ready to help!” Update 7:19 a.m. EDT April 21: Hours after explosions at Sri Lankan churches and hotels left dozens dead and hundreds more injured, Pope Francis prayed for the victims during his annual Easter message at the Vatican. Related: Sri Lanka explosions: Pope denounces attacks during Easter blessing “I wish to express my heartfelt closeness to the Christian community (of Sri Lanka), wounded as it was gathered in prayer, and to all the victims of such cruel violence,” Francis told the crowd in St. Peter’s Square, according to Vatican News. He later added: “I entrust to the Lord all those who have tragically perished, and I pray for the injured and all those who suffer as a result of this tragic event.” Every year after leading Easter Mass, the pope delivers an “Urbi et Orbi” (“to the city and the world”) message, which addresses global issues and conflicts. Update 5:32 a.m. EDT April 21: Two more blasts have been reported in Sri Lanka. A seventh explosion hit a hotel in Dehiwala, and an eighth blast was reported in the capital, Agence France-Presse is reporting. Update 4:20 a.m. EDT April 21: At least 156 people were killed in blasts at three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka, Agence France-Presse is reporting. The dead include 35 foreigners, officials said. Update 3:34 a.m. EDT April 21: At least 137 people were killed in blasts at three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka, Agence France-Presse is reporting. The dead include 45 people in Colombo, 67 in Negombo and 25 in Batticaloa, officials said. At least nine of the people killed were foreigners, the news agency reported. More than 500 people were hurt in the explosions, according to The Associated Press. Original report:  Explosions hit three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing dozens of people and injuring nearly 300 more, news outlets are reporting. According to The Associated Press, blasts occurred Sunday morning at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo and a church in Batticaloa. Explosions also rocked the Kingsbury, Cinnamon Grand and Shangri La hotels in Colombo, the BBC reported. The Agence France-Presse news agency said 52 people died in the blasts. At least 283 people were taken to the hospital, the AP reported. Suicide bombers may have caused at least two of the church blasts, a security official told the AP.  The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Washington Insider

  • Aggravated by the efforts of House Democrats to continue to ask questions about the Russia investigation, President Donald Trump on Wednesday said his administration would not cooperate with those hearings in Congress, as Mr. Trump said a subpoena for testimony by his former White House Counsel was 'ridiculous,' calling on Democrats to move past Russia and on to domestic issues. 'We're fighting all the subpoenas,' the President said, casting the investigative efforts in Congress about Russia and the Mueller Report as nothing more than a political gambit by Democrats to damage his re-election chances. 'Look, these aren't impartial people,' he told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House. 'The Democrats are trying to win 2020.' Before leaving for events in Atlanta, the President again complained that Democrats were still focusing on the Russia probe, even after the release of a redacted version of the Mueller Report. 'I thought after two years, we would be finished with it,' Mr. Trump added, again declaring that the Mueller investigation found nothing. 'No collusion, no obstruction,' he said. Mr. Trump's comments came after a blitz of posts on Twitter Tuesday morning in which he denounced efforts by Democrats to further investigate Russian interference in the 2016 elections, again arguing that only Democrats deserved scrutiny. The President's Wednesday comments echoed remarks he made in an interview with the Washington Post on Tuesday night, in which he said his administration won't help Democrats with what he charged were 'partisan' hearings. On Tuesday, a former White House official defied a subpoena from a House committee to testify about security clearances granted to the President's son-in-law and other officials - despite red flags in their background checks. Tuesday also brought a second missed deadline to turn over seven years of Mr. Trump's tax returns, as the Secretary of Treasury said a final decision on the request would be made by May 6. “The president just made it clear that he is trying to stifle our investigation into his prior conduct,” said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO).