President Trump’s immigration crackdown inundates Supreme Court – USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s three-year crackdown on immigration has led to a surge in lawsuits reaching the Supreme Court, where a rebuilt conservative majority increasingly is paying dividends for him.

In the past year, the justices have let the administration deter poor immigrants, deny asylum seekers and redirect military funds to build a wall along the southern border. Federal officials’ efforts to force cooperation from states and cities could be next.

The high court has heard arguments in six immigration cases since its term began in October, including Trump’s plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that has helped nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants work without fear of deportation. Two additional cases will be argued next week, including an effort to speed the removal of migrants without federal court hearings. 

More:Trump administration’s effort to speed removal of migrants seeking asylum headed to Supreme Court

Supreme Court Takes Up Immigration, Including Border Shooting – NPR

The U.S. Supreme Court heard two immigration-related cases on Tuesday, including one about a cross-border shooting involving a border patrol agent. Patrick Semansky/AP hide caption

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Patrick Semansky/AP

Immigration and border-patrol issues took center stage at the U.S. Supreme Court in two cases on Tuesday.

A sharply divided court first ruled that the parents of a Mexican boy shot and killed by a U.S. border patrol agent cannot sue the officer who killed their son. Then, the court heard arguments in a free-speech case that will determine whether people who encourage illegal immigrants to remain in the country can be prosecuted.

Border Patrol shooting

In 2010, 15-year-old Sergio Hernandez and his friends were playing chicken at the U.S. Mexican border, running up and touching the border fence and then running away and hiding. Video of the scene shows Sergio peeking out from behind a railroad trestle on the Mexico side, as Agent Jesus Mesa Jr. points a gun, fires, and kills the boy.

When the U.S. government declined to prosecute the agent or turn him over to Mexican authorities to face murder charges there, the boy’s parents sued the agent for damages, contending that he violated the U.S. Constitution by depriving Hernandez of his life.

The suit was brought under a 1971 Supreme Court ruling that allowed such damage claims against officers who act in bad faith.

The panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that no reasonable officer would have done what Agent Mesa did under the circumstances, but the full appeals court said that it didn’t matter whether Mesa had acted unreasonably because Hernandez was standing on the Mexican side of the border when he was shot, his parents couldn’t sue.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court threw out the suit entirely and went much further, cutting the heart out of much of the court’s 1971 decision.

The vote was 5-to-4 with the court’s conservative justices refusing to allow damage suits for cross-border shootings, and the court’s liberal justices castigating the court’s majority for giving a free pass to the “rogue actions” of law enforcement officers.

Writing for the conservative court majority, Justice Samuel Alito said that in essence the court has come to realize the folly of its earlier decision and has thus sought to limit its effect.

“A federal court’s authority to recognize a damages remedy must rest at bottom on a statute enacted by Congress,” he wrote, “and no statute expressly creates [such] a remedy.”

Alito said there is “a world of difference between” allowing damage claims that have been allowed in the past and a case like this one, where, Alito maintained, there were foreign policy and national security issues at stake. Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch, would have gone further and outright overturned the court’s 1971 decision and others that followed in its wake.

Writing for the dissenters, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that “using lethal force against a person who poses no immediate threat to the officer and no threat to others surely qualifies as an unreasonable” invasion of an individual’s constitutional rights. It should not matter “one whit” that the boy was standing on the Mexican side of the embankment, not the U.S. side, she added.

Mexico perceives cross-border shootings like this one to be a “persistent problem.” Indeed, between 2005 and 2013 there were 42 cross-border shooting deaths, that number has increased in recent years.

Mexico filed a brief in the case saying the U.S. should “hold the agents accountable” and pointing out that the U.S. “would expect no less if … a Mexican government agent, standing in Mexico and shooting across the border, had killed an American child standing on U.S. soil.”

Robert Hilliard, who represents the Hernandez family, was more than disappointed by the ruling, telling NPR that “the path to justice apparently does not travel as far as a bullet.”

After the announcement of the ruling in the Hernandez case, the Supreme Court moved on to hearing arguments in another immigration case, but this one involved the First Amendment right of free speech.

The First Amendment and immigration advocacy

At issue was a statute that makes it a crime to encourage or advise illegal immigrants to stay in the country. Critics say the law could ensnare grandparents, ministers, lawyers and human rights activists.

The case involves the conviction of Evelyn Sineneng-Smith, a California woman who ran an immigration consulting business that mainly served Filipino home health care workers.

Between 2001 and 2008, she collected more than $3 million from clients applying for an adjustment of their immigration status. The adjustment program, however, had ended in 2001, so the clients she applied for were not actually eligible for the adjustment.

Sineneng-Smith was subsequently convicted of mail fraud, tax violations and also of illegally encouraging or inducing an alien to remain in the U.S.

It was this last conviction — for encouraging undocumented people to stay in the U.S. — that was before the Supreme Court Tuesday.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals threw out that conviction, finding it to be a violation of the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee. Both liberal and conservative advocacy groups have urged the Supreme Court to follow suit, contending that the statute is so broad that it encompasses lots of perfectly legal expression.

Assistant Solicitor General Eric Feigin, representing the Trump administration, took incoming fire from an ideologically diverse set of justices.

What about “a grandmother whose granddaughter is in the United States illegally,” and “tells [her] granddaughter … I hope you will stay,” asked Chief Justice John Roberts. Would that grandmother be at risk of federal prosecution?

“What about a charity,” followed up Justice Brett Kavanaugh. If it’s a charity that “provides food to someone who’s in the country unlawfully … is it covered under the statute?”

Feigin acknowledged that it was possible conduct of that sort “might violate the statute” but added that there was no instance of it actually being used in that way.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor followed up: “It has been used” to create “a watch list at the border” for “charitable organizations, people who were giving legal advice at the border … because they potentially violated this encouragement provision.” And, noted Sotomayor, there was a prosecution in the case of a woman who advised her housekeeper that “if you return to your home country, you may not get back.”

Justice Gorsuch noted that being in the country illegally is not itself a crime, so why is encouraging someone to stay a crime?

Arguing on behalf of Sineneng-Smith, the defendant in the case, lawyer Mark Fleming faced a grilling from Justice Alito who wanted to know if there is any kind of encouraging speech that could be criminalized.

For instance, what if a bullied and depressed teenager calls up a friend to say he is going to kill himself, and the friend says, “I’m tired of hearing this from you … you’re a coward, why don’t you just do it … pull the trigger.”

Asked Alito, “Is that speech protected by the First Amendment?”

No, replied Fleming, because that is inciting imminent harm, which the Supreme Court has said is not protected.

Addressing the government’s argument that the statute is not really used to prosecute most speech, Fleming told the justices that while the statute has historically not been used much, the Trump administration has “recently made it a focus of enforcement.”

Building on Sotomayor’s point about government watch lists of charitable organizations and lawyers working at the border, Fleming noted that should the court uphold the law, it could soon be used against “U.S. citizens for their prayer, for their speech, and for their legal advice.”

A decision in the case is expected by summer.

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Nexhmije Hoxha, widow of Albania’s dictator, dies aged 99 – The Guardian

Opponents of the communist regime under her husband’s rule say an ‘executioner has departed’

Nexhmije Hoxha, widow of Albania’s longtime Stalinist leader Enver Hoxha

Nexhmije Hoxha, widow of Albania’s longtime Stalinist leader Enver Hoxha has died.
Photograph: Arben Celi/Reuters

Nexhmije Hoxha, the widow of Albania’s Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha, died on Tuesday aged 99, her son said, having fallen dramatically from grace following his death but remaining the staunchest defender of his isolationist regime.

Most Albanians view Hoxha’s 40-year rule, when the country was cut off from the world much as North Korea is now and a pervasive secret police clamped down violently on dissent, as a dark period in its history that caused widespread misery and triggered a massive exodus after communism collapsed.

But Nexhmije Hoxha, who was jailed for nine years for embezzlement soon after Albania became the last country to topple communism in 1990, stayed loyal to his memory.

“When the standard of living was compared to the west, it can be considered modest, but there was an egalitarian spirit,” she said in a 2008 interview.

Enver Hoxha, who died in 1985, banned private property and religion, ran a centralised economy, sealed off the country’s borders and dotted it with thousands of pillbox bunkers and millions of concrete posts topped with sharp spikes to deter the aerial troops he feared would invade.

He allied with the Soviet Union and China only to disagree with them later while remaining an enemy of the west.

His wife died in her house surrounded by books and photos of her husband, children and grandchildren she had taken with her when she was evicted from their sprawling communist-era villa.

She led his propaganda machine, a Marxism and Leninism institute and the Democratic Front – an umbrella organisation that served as a tool of Communist Party control.

“The goal of my trial was political because I was the widow of Enver Hoxha,” she said, telling Reuters her conviction related to a sum of $360 spent on cups and glasses broken when mourners visited to pay condolences for her husband.

She said she did not recognise the streets when she came out of jail and admitted some things had improved since 1990.

She had recently published a book of memoirs that a representative of the association of former political prisoners – jailed by Hoxha’s regime – described as hate-filled.

“An executioner has departed Albanian society, who was … condemned … for spending money on coffee. A charade of post-communist governments chose not to punish her [real] crimes,” Besim Ndregjoni, head of a group of former dissidents, told broadcaster News24 TV.

More than 6,000 people were executed as opponents of the regime under Enver Hoxha’s rule while over 34,000 were jailed, about 1,000 of whom died, while 59,009 were sent into internal exile, the group estimates.

The Democrats’ Dictator Problem – The Atlantic

If there’s one narrative that has united the disparate Democratic candidates when it comes to foreign policy, it’s this: In contrast to the current American president, who makes common cause with autocrats, they will champion democratic forces around the world.

But during the party’s debate in South Carolina last night, that narrative fell apart. At a moment when a post-impeachment Donald Trump is acting in more authoritarian ways and celebrating his friendship with foreign leaders who share those tendencies, the Democrats’ attempts at moral clarity got muddled when the conversation turned to the trade-offs inherent in actually conducting American statecraft.

Things started on-message: “We need to know the difference between our friends and between dictators who would do us harm, and we need to be nicer to our friends than to dictators,” Elizabeth Warren declared, in remarks aimed squarely at Trump.

Soon enough, however, this clean dichotomy got messy. Asked about his comment last year that China’s leader, Xi Jinping, is “not a dictator,” Michael Bloomberg signaled that he might be just as amorally transactional a president as his fellow businessman Trump. Bloomberg, who has not embraced the democracy-versus-authoritarian worldview that most of the other Democratic candidates have, offered the bizarre justification that while Xi “has an enormous amount of power,” he serves “at the behest of the Politburo.” That Politburo, in fact, has become an enabler of Xi’s bid to amass more power and engage in more repression than any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong.

Bloomberg conceded that China had an “abominable” human-rights record and no freedom of the press, but then suggested that he isn’t particularly concerned about all of that. “We should make a fuss [about these issues], which we have been doing, I suppose,” he said. Yet Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall! this was not. Then Bloomberg got to the bottom line: “We have to deal with China” to “solve the climate crisis,” and “because our economies are inextricably linked.”

Yet the Biden campaign’s biggest idea so far to counter gathering illiberal forces is to convene a summit of the world’s democracies during his first year as president, a rather modest proposal to solve a mammoth problem. His comments during the debate also contained contradictions. Asked if he would engage in direct nuclear negotiations with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, the way Trump has, Biden asserted that “you don’t negotiate with a dictator, give him legitimacy without any notion whether he is going to do anything at all.” Kim, he declared, is a “thug.”

His solution? To negotiate with another man he’d just called a thug. “I would be speaking with Xi Jinping,” he explained, and urging him to pressure North Korea into curbing its nuclear-weapons program.

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In South Carolina, Democrats debated when a dictator is really a dictator. So what’s the answer? – Washington Post

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