A federal judge on May 24 blocked construction of Donald Trump's border wall, ruling that Trump cannot use a "national emergency" to take money from government agencies for the barrier. Judge Haywood Gilliam of the US District Court for Northern California ruled that the diversion of the money, largely from the US military, likely oversteps a president's statutory authority. The injunction specifically limits wall construction projects in El Paso, Tex., and Yuma, Ariz. Gilliam quoted Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, who said in a TV interview the wall "is going to get built, with or without Congress." The judge said presidential action "without Congress," when legislators refuse a funding request from the White House, "does not square with fundamental separation of powers principles dating back to the earliest days of our Republic."
Trump's executive order officially calling for an end to separating migrant families on the border actually contains provisions laying the groundwork for the indefinite detention of intercepted migrants. Entitled "Temporary Detention Policy for Families Entering this Country Illegally," it instructs the Secretary of Defense to provide "any existing facilities available for the housing and care of alien families" to the Department of Homeland Security—a clear reference to placing detained migrants in military bases. It also charges the Defense Department with responsibility to "construct such facilities if necessary..."
President Trump's Aug. 25 pardon of former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio is a clear signal that constitutional and human rights violations are to be rewarded, not punished, under his administration. A federal judge found Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt last month, for violating a court order in a racial profiling case and continuing his immigration patrols that discriminated against Latinos. In his announcement, Trump said that "Arpaio's life and career...exemplify selfless public service." He cited Arpaio's army time and his tenure as the Drug Enforcement Administration's Arizona chief before concluding: "In 1992, the problems facing his community pulled Arpaio out of retirement to return to law enforcement. He ran and won a campaign to become Sheriff of Maricopa County. Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life's work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration. Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now eighty-five years old, and after more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, speaking to the Justice Department's Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) on April 18, pledged that the Trump administration will have "zero tolerance for gang violence" from "transnational criminal organizations"—particularly singling out MS-13, the Central American narco-network that has its roots on the streets of Los Angeles. Citing a February executive order in which President Trump directed the Justice Department "to interdict and dismantle transnational criminal organizations," Sessions promised "concrete ideas to follow through" on the directive.
After President Donald Trump's inauguration, Mexico saw a wave of angry protests against his proposed border wall, with more than 20,000 marching in Mexico City on Feb. 12, chanting "Pay for your own wall!" But now this wave of anger is crystalizing around concrete legal initiatives that could be very problematic for the White House. First, the front-runner for next year's Mexican presidential election, the left-populist Andres Manuel López Obrador, has filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against the proposed wall.
The New York Times on Nov. 21 released Donald Trump's "short list" for cabinet appointments—compiled based on "information from the Trump transition team, lawmakers, lobbyists and Washington experts." The picks for Homeland Security are particularly notable. Joe Arpaio, his long reign of terror as Maricopa County sheriff finally ended by federal indictment and getting booted by the voters this year, is now being considered to oversee the Border Patrol and entire federal immigration apparatus. From his election in the early '90s, Arpaio ran a "Tent City" detainment camp for undocumented immigrants and others caught up in his sweeps. In an unsubtle moment in 2010, caught on film and reported by Pheonix New Times (despite his transparent later denials), he actually responded to a question at a public meeting about whether he would start using "concentration camps" by boasting: "I already have a concentration camp... It's called Tent City."
A federal judge on Oct. 25 ordered (PDF) Arizona's Sheriff Joe Arpaio to be tried on a charge of criminal contempt. Judge Susan Bolton of the US District Court for the District of Arizona made the order after determining that Arpaio disobeyed a court order in a racial profiling case. This comes after Judge G Murray Snow requested that the US Attorney's Office file criminal contempt charges against Arpaio. The criminal contempt charges are a result of a 2007 lawsuit claiming that Arpaio discriminated against Latinos in his enforcement of his immigration patrols. Bolton found that Snow had prohibited Arpaio from enforcing his immigration patrols, in which persons were detained without state charges, but that Arpaio continued to detain such persons and deliver them to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement when there were no charges to bring. Bolton ordered Arpaio's trial for Dec. 6 in Phoenix. The charges against Arpaio could result in fines or prison time if he is convicted.
Just weeks before President Obama announced details of his climate change action plan, federal officials approved a deal to allow expanded mining of coal on Navajo lands and its continued burning at the Four Corners Power Plant near Farmington, NM. The deal extends the lease on the plant by 25 years, and allows for an expansion of the Navajo Mine that supplies it. It came less than a month after operators of the Four Corners plant (chiefly Arizona Public Service) agreed to settle a lawsuit by federal officials and environmental groups that claimed plant emissions violated the Clean Air Act. Under the settlement, operators agreed to spend up to $160 million on equipment to reduce harmful emissions, and to set aside millions more for health and environmental programs. The regional haze produced by the plant and others ringing the Navajo reservation has long drawn protest. Under pressure from the EPA, the plant in 2013 shut down the oldest and dirtiest three of the five generating units to help the facility meet emission standards. But many locals are not appeased. "Our Mother Earth is being ruined," said Mary Lane, president of the Forgotten People, a grassroots Navajo organization. "We don't want the power plant to go on. It's ruining all the environment, the air, the water." (Navajo-Hopi Observer, July 21)