Inside The Immigrant-Prosecuting Machine That Transformed America’s Deportation Policy

TUCSON, Ariz. ― One morning last October, Irlando sat hunched over a table in the back of a federal courthouse, looking to a court-appointed lawyer for help. Border Patrol agents had found him the day before, wandering through the desert 150 miles away outside Lukeville, Arizona, and he still hadn’t showered. His hands were black with grime and he smelled of dried sweat after spending almost a week trekking in the hot sun.

Irlando had worked as a commercial truck driver in a town north of Guatemala City and fled his homeland after a local gang started extorting his company. First, they killed drivers when the company didn’t pay up. Then gang members killed his boss, and Irlando decided he had to escape.

A friend suggested he try to make it through Mexico and into the United States, where he could earn enough money to help support his wife and four children he was leaving behind. His youngest daughter was just two months old. When Border Patrol picked him up crossing into Arizona, he’d been thankful just to have a sip of water. But now the reality was sinking in: He was going to be deported back to Guatemala.

Irlando’s lawyer, Eréndira Castillo, said she was sorry, but none of his backstory would matter to the judge. He wasn’t in immigration court. He was facing a criminal prosecution for crossing the border illegally, and this judge had no authority to decide whether he should stay in the country. All the judge would see is that he was arrested while trying to jump the border and that he had a prior conviction for attempting to do the same thing in Texas in 2013. 

(Castillo talked to Irlando privately about his right to confidentiality and he decided to waive that right so his story could be told, on the condition that only his first name be used.)

Irlando could accept the plea agreement in front of him, which came with a 75-day jail sentence, or he could take his case to trial, where virtually all defendants lose, and then face two years in prison. Either way, he’d almost certainly be deported after his release. 

It was about 9:30 a.m., and Irlando needed to make up his mind before the proceedings started that afternoon. After a few minutes of discussion, he took the plea deal, which was typed in English. Castillo verbally translated the document for him before he signed it.

“There’s no one to tell that I’m here trying to save my life?” Irlando asked his lawyer. “My baby girl needs three bottles of milk every week. Who’s going to give them to her?”

“It’s very sad, but that’s the way it is,” Castillo replied, patting him on the knee. “The law doesn’t have a heart.”

Improvising An Immigrant-Prosecuting Machine 

When President Donald Trump took control of the immigration enforcement system, he inherited a well-oiled machine for prosecuting immigration violations that has continued to grow even as illegal border crossings decline. When Trump talks about imposing a “deportation force,” most observers interpret that as a reference to Immigration and Customs Enforcement or Border Patrol. But the most powerful tool he wields against unauthorized immigrants may well be the criminal courts.

While residing in the U.S. without authorization is a civil offense, the act of crossing the border illegally is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail. Those who get caught again face the felony charge of “illegal re-entry,” with a prison sentence of up to two years that can expand to two decades if the offender has a criminal record.

Today, roughly one-quarter of immigrants expelled from the U.S. face criminal prosecution for crossing the border illegally and serve jail time before they are deported. Immigration prosecutions topped 91,000 in 2013 ― 28 times the number of prosecutions in 1993.

This marks a fundamental transformation of both deportation policy and the federal courts. While less than 5 percent of federal prosecutions involved immigration in 1993, the first year of Bill Clinton’s presidency, illegal entry and re-entry prosecutions now account for roughly half the federal criminal docket, sapping limited resources to prosecute violent or white-collar crimes.

Immigration authorities have had the power to refer migrants caught making illegal crossings to the criminal courts since the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1952. But the Justice Department’s priorities didn’t begin their steady shift until the Clinton era.

Entering office during one of the largest mass migrations from Mexico in U.S. history and nearly a decade after President Ronald Reagan extended a pathway to U.S. citizenship for some 3 million people, Clinton faced major public backlash against illegal immigration and bipartisan hostility toward incoming migrants. Prior benevolence, Democrats and Republicans largely agreed, had only encouraged more illegal crossings.

Clinton signed immigration reform laws that fast-tracked deportations and helped lay the foundation for the sprawling immigrant detention system that now reserves space to lock up 34,000 immigrants at a time. In a less-publicized development of his presidency, the number of immigration prosecutions ― particularly felony cases ― also steadily crept up, although the process was haphazard and no formal policies governed whether the migrants arrested should face criminal or civil penalties.

That changed dramatically during George W. Bush’s presidency. Seeking a way to deter unauthorized immigrants more effectively, Customs and Border Protection began formalizing a whole host of previously informal policies.

In one of the most sweeping changes, CBP teamed up with the Justice Department to funnel more people who jump the border into criminal court. The model program, called Operation Streamline, was implemented in southern Texas in 2005, when a sudden influx of Central American migrants left immigration authorities with a shortage of bed space in immigrant detention facilities.

“We were taking a look at what consequences were available to us within existing law,” David Aguilar, a top Border Patrol official in the 1990s and CBP commissioner from 2011 to 2013, told HuffPost. “Prosecution was in fact one of those consequences.”

Because the laws were already on the books, neither CBP nor the Justice Department needed to ask Congress for approval. The new system spread over the next decade, immigration violations swallowed up an ever-larger chunk of the federal criminal docket. The number of criminal immigration prosecutions doubled over Barack Obama’s two terms in office, despite the fact that illegal crossings plummeted by roughly half between 2009 and 2016.

The continued criminal prosecution of illegal border crossings meant America’s first black president jailed more people of color on federal charges than any president in modern U.S. history. But because the Justice Department classifies almost all Hispanics as “white” in official statistics, that fact has largely been obscured.

The immigrant-prosecuting machine improvised under Clinton, formalized under Bush and institutionalized by Obama barely merited a mention during last year’s immigration-obsessed presidential election. But Trump noticed.

On the campaign trail, he pledged to raise the mandatory minimum sentence for illegal re-entry to five years. Within a week of taking office, he issued an executive order cracking down on sanctuary cities that contained a provision calling for more immigration prosecutions.

On April 11, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced plans to consider criminal charges for any person caught in the U.S. who has been deported before, regardless of where they’re arrested ― a massive expansion of a constitutionally questionable process that routinely sucks in asylum-seekers and people with long histories in the United States.

“It’s going to break the bank in terms of paying for the jail and prison beds that these people are going to occupy if they are prosecuted,” said Judy Greene, the author of the book Indefensible: A Decade of Mass Incarceration of Migrants Prosecuted for Crossing the Border.

But that’s only one way to look at the cost,” she added. “The other way to look at it is to realize there is a huge cost in human misery for the people who are prosecuted ― their families, their neighbors ― if this happens the way Trump and Sessions have envisioned.”

Two Decades Defending Immigrants 

After meeting with Irlando that morning last fall, his lawyer, Castillo, walked to a nearby restaurant where she half-heartedly picked at a pair of tacos. A first-generation Mexican immigrant who speaks Spanish with native fluency, Castillo wears her black hair in a ponytail and an indigenous embroidered shirt called a huipil beneath her dark blue blazer. She loves practicing law, but hates cases like Irlando’s.

“It’s so upsetting, because I feel complicit,” she told HuffPost.

Castillo has worked these cases since 1998, when she joined the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Tucson to help expand its immigration unit. The job initially excited her: She’d already begun to specialize in immigration before going to law school, processing legalization applications for undocumented immigrants who became eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship under Reagan’s 1986 reform law.

But Castillo’s enthusiasm faded as she faced uncomfortable situations that seemed to flout basic protections for criminal defendants, like the right to due process or the right to keep communications with your attorney confidential. The process from initial hearing to conviction and sentencing ― which routinely takes months, even years, in felony criminal cases ― was collapsed into a few hours for dozens of people at a time. She only got a few minutes to speak with each client, and they spoke in an open room where others could hear their conversations.

“I was a brand-new lawyer,” Castillo said. “[Our bosses] never said, ‘This is the right way, this is the wrong way, this is what we expect from you.’ We just did what they said. I think, in retrospect, I would say, ‘No, the federal public defenders office shouldn’t be doing it this way. This is unconstitutional.’”

Many legal experts agree. But their objections haven’t kept the system from growing. Within five years of joining the public defender’s office, the immigration unit Castillo helped pioneer had grown larger than the office’s entire criminal defense unit ― a reflection of the Justice Department’s shifting priorities.

Castillo left the public defender’s office for private practice three years ago, but still defends immigrants accused of illegal crossings once a week. She takes pride in making small gestures to make the process less painful: offering her clients a glass of water, or calling their family members so she can tell them what’s happening. (The clients aren’t allowed to use the phone in court, so she calls on speakerphone while they listen in silence.)

“I have to explain it’s not my fault,” Castillo said. “I’m a lawyer, I was appointed by the court.”

‘This Process Does Get Somewhat Repetitive’ 

Irlando’s hearing started at 1:30 p.m. A row of five microphones stood in front of Judge Bruce Macdonald. Each of the 41 defendants, lined up on benches before the judge, was a brown-skinned national of Mexico or Central America. They’d already signed plea agreements like Irlando’s, differing only in the length of their sentences.

Macdonald took the bench and explained the process. Everyone would acknowledge their guilt in groups of five. He asked the 14 defense attorneys if their clients were competent to go forward with their hearings. They affirmed in unison. “You’ll quickly notice that I’m asking the same series of questions,” Macdonald told the defendants. “This process does get somewhat repetitive.”

When Irlando’s turn came to plead guilty, Castillo mentioned his fear of returning to Guatemala. The judge said Irlando would be able to raise the issue once he was transferred to immigration court for deportation proceedings after his jail sentence.

At least three other defendants said they feared for their safety if deported. Border Patrol policy dictates that they should have been channeled to an asylum officer or a civil immigration court to hear those claims, but the judge gave them the same reply he gave Irlando.

Several people seemed only hazily aware they faced criminal prosecution at all. One woman, asked how she pleaded, said “yes.”

Three defendants, all of them Guatemalan and all represented by the same attorney, said they didn’t speak Spanish as a first language. (A foreign government official, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak with the media, later told HuffPost there were seven indigenous defendants that day who didn’t speak fluent Spanish.) Macdonald quickly moved on after the lawyer insisted the indigenous language speakers understood the agreement.

The lawyer representing the three indigenous Guatemalans declined to comment about their cases, but acknowledged he wasn’t well qualified to handle their claims. “I don’t really know about immigration,” he said. “I usually call up a friend if there’s an asylum issue to get advice.”

The Consequence Delivery System

About the same time Castillo first went to work defending immigrants facing prosecution in Tucson, John Lawson arrived in the Arizona town of Douglas as a newly minted Border Patrol agent. The town is roughly 260 miles east of where Irlando was picked up crossing.

In 1997, Lawson found only about 100 yards of fencing separating the United States from Mexico. That was a year authorities caught 1.4 million people crossing the border illegally ― almost four times the rate of apprehension in 2016. At that time, Border Patrol had half as many agents trying to stop those migrants, and the barrier between the U.S. and Mexico in that area was an opaque wall, so agents couldn’t see people throwing rocks and or lobbing cinder blocks at passing patrol cars.

“It was kind of Wild West out here,” Lawson said as he led a tour of the border at Nogales in October. “It was insanity, everyone trying to catch who they could.”

In the 1990s, Border Patrol agents usually escorted people they apprehended back to the other side ― a procedure known as “voluntary return.” Unlike a formal deportation, a voluntary return has no legal consequences and returnees can apply for a U.S. immigration visa a minute after returning to Mexico. It wasn’t uncommon for Lawson to catch the same person crossing illegally three times in a single day.

Border Patrol agents struggled to deter people from simply crossing again. Mexico was limping through an economic crisis in the mid-1990s, just as the country’s 1970s baby boom generation reached working age. The 1994 North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement made matters worse, compelling some 2 million Mexicans to flee the country’s farms when they couldn’t compete with subsidized agricultural imports from the United States. Foreign-owned assembly plants sprouted in border towns to take advantage of the cheap labor and lower import taxes NAFTA offered, which pulled out-of-work Mexicans to cities within walking distance of the United States like magnets.

Border Patrol couldn’t control the underlying reasons for the immigration explosion, so the agency worked to make deterrents more effective. Rather than returning the migrants they arrested to the same cities where they crossed, agents might bus them hours away, making the crossing more expensive and breaking the link between migrants and their smugglers. Instead of voluntary removals, Border Patrol increasingly sent unauthorized immigrants to get fingerprinted and face formal deportation proceedings.

“Now everyone gets an alien registration number,” Lawson said. “That’s as permanent as it gets. It stays with you for the rest of your life.”

By the mid-2000s, CBP had institutionalized these policies into a list of penalties the agency calls the “consequence delivery system.” The harshest of those consequences is criminal prosecution.

Lawson is proud of CBP’s work. The sporadic links of opaque fencing have stretched into hundreds of miles of steel beams, which are reinforced with cameras and underground sensors. People scale the barrier so often that the rust has scraped off some of the beams, but Lawson is confident that agents catch most of the people who make it over.

When they do, the migrants’ fingerprints tell them everything they need to know. If a person has tried to cross illegally within the last two decades, a record of the deportation appears. If he or she has ever committed a crime in the United States, that’s there too. Though there are some exceptions ― children, asylum-seekers or people who appear sick ― agents are supposed to deal out a consequence to every unauthorized migrant they apprehend.

There’s only enough slots at the federal courthouse in Tucson to prosecute 70 border-crossers per day. If agents find more unauthorized migrants near that jurisdiction, they’ll face deportation instead. But these days, there are far fewer illegal crossings, so the courthouse rarely fills to capacity for its daily three hours of illegal entry and re-entry cases.

“There’s a bunch of reasons why that could be happening,” Lawson said. “But we’re fairly certain that a lot of it has to do with these consequences.”

Prosecuted Far From The Border

These prosecutions aren’t just happening to migrants picked up along the border. Felony illegal re-entry charges were filed in all but four of the 94 U.S. district courts last year.  

Around the time Irlando was convicted, a gray-haired woman stood before a judge in a federal courtroom in Phoenix in a red jumpsuit, shackled at the wrists and ankles. Two of her daughters, both born in the United States, watched from the benches.

The woman, whom HuffPost is not identifying because her family fears she’ll be deported, was born in the Mexican state of Michoacán but came to the U.S. when she was 9 years old. In 2003, she spent two months in jail for heroin possession and distribution charges, and was then deported. She returned illegally soon after, as unauthorized immigrants with U.S.-born children often do.

She found work cleaning houses and avoided trouble with the law, but ICE arrested her last year. Her daughters are unsure why their mother was targeted, but suspect someone may have reported her.

Given her 13-year-old drug charges, the woman had little choice but to take a plea agreement. To secure a conviction, the only evidence prosecutors needed was a prior order of deportation. Each conviction on a person’s record can enhance their jail sentence. She faced the possibility of 10 years in prison, but was released on time served ― seven months ― in February after taking the deal.

It’s very sad, but that’s the way it is. The law doesn’t have a heart.
Attorney Eréndira Castillo

It’s unclear whether she was deported. The woman’s attorney, Kaitlin Verdura, declined to discuss the specifics of her client’s case, but said her situation is not uncommon. “There are people in the United States that have been here for a very long time, who have assimilated into the country, and get prosecuted for the crime of illegal re-entry,” she said.

When Sessions announced on April 11 the Justice Department’s plans to consider prosecution for anyone who enters the country illegally, he likely wasn’t directing his attention at border-crossers like Irlando. People like the woman in Phoenix will probably bear the brunt of the Trump administration’s changes. The Justice Department did not reply to HuffPost’s request for comment.

It’s unclear how many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants who live in the United States have deportations on their records. But the number is likely high, given Border Patrol’s efforts to make sure most people the agency apprehends pass through formal deportation proceedings.

Since prosecutors can easily secure convictions for illegal re-entry, Sessions’ order could fundamentally transform the federal justice system in a way CBP never imagined when it recommended systematically hauling border-crossers into criminal court with Operation Streamline in 2005. People nowhere near the border who would’ve previously been deported could further swell the court system and federal prisons.

‘Legalized Racism’

Castillo sees the direction the Justice Department is moving under Trump and it unsettles her. Even after two decades of serving agreements to people pleading guilty of immigration violations, she rarely thinks of her clients as criminals. She sees parents trying to return to their children, jobless people looking for work, and people like Irlando who are scared for their lives.

She’s fought losing battles to convince judges that the weight of the law falls too heavily on her clients. She’s represented people who grew up in Phoenix and wound up with criminal records at a time when former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio famously targeted Hispanics for traffic stops to identify undocumented immigrants.

A federal court ruled in 2013 that those tactics amounted to racial profiling and ordered him to stop. But some of the people who got profiled and wound up with convictions and deportations showed up later in federal court for illegal re-entry charges. They face enhanced penalties that can boost their sentences up to 20 years.

“It’s legalized racism,” Castillo said. “That’s the whole problem with the criminal justice system ― we’re not allowed to talk about racism as a factor of a person’s story. But their criminal records are overrepresented … I’ve brought this up in court and the judges just sort of look at me with this blank stare.”  

Like most of Castillo’s clients with immigration convictions, Irlando served his 75 days in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, then faced a swift deportation back to Guatemala. Despite Judge Macdonald’s assurances, the immigration court never heard his appeals about how he feared for his safety back home. “They didn’t listen to anything I had to say,” Irlando said on a phone call from Guatemala last month.

Unable to return to his old job, he now works planting corn. He said he feels safe for the moment, but is unsure about his future in Guatemala. “Who knows,” he said. “I might try to cross again.”  

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Cop Called To End Kids’ Dance Event Ends Up Teaching Them How To Salsa

This police officer in San Antonio, Texas, has sure got some smooth moves.

When a neighbor called cops out to shut down a children’s dance club event that was being held in a backyard late Saturday, the unidentified officer went off script — and ended up teaching the attending youngsters how to dance salsa.

See how it went down here:

Leslie Sapp, whose daughter was attending the Next Generation Dance Crew event, shared the above footage of the heartwarming moment to Facebook. It’s now going viral.

Instead of shutting it down or even interrupting, the officer asked to play a song and then his song came on, and well, the video speaks for itself,” Sapp told KSAT.

The officer danced with several children and posed with the crew once the song had ended. 

Sapp said the officer had helped alter her daughter’s perception of law enforcers. “As a parent, especially these days, there is a lot of negativity in the world when it comes to cops, and he broke that stereotype,” she said.

HuffPost has reached out for comment.

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– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

People Laughed When Bill De Blasio First Proposed Free Pre-K. Now He’s Expanding It.

When Bill de Blasio ran for New York City mayor in 2013, his plan to enact a universal preschool program for 4-year-olds was treated more like a lofty ideal than a workable promise. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten suggested the goal was unrealistic, and called the proposal’s early iteration “non-serious.” Experts were skeptical that he could adequately overcome the obstacles to providing pre-K for so many children

Four years later, de Blasio has successfully implemented a Pre-K for All program that serves about 70,000 kids. But as he gears up to run for his second term, he has ambitious plans to expand the early education services offered to city families. On Monday, de Blasio announced plans for 3-K for All, a program that could roll out free pre-K for all the city’s 3-year-olds by 2021.

It’s a plan that is undoubtedly ambitious for the largest city in the country, and its scope stands out even among other progressive states and municipalities with preschool programs. Yet, unlike when de Blasio first proposed universal pre-K on the campaign trail, this proposal is getting taken seriously, he says. 

“When I first introduced pre-K, I can’t tell you how many people told me it was a pipe dream,” de Blasio told The Huffington Post on Tuesday. “The press was openly dismissive,” questioning where the money to pay for the plan would come from, and whether it could serve so many children so quickly, he said.  

This time around, neither “political insiders” nor “everyday people” seem flippant about the plan, “even if it’s going to take a lot of work and time.”

.@NYCMayor introduces plan to offer high-quality, full day preschool to all 3 year olds by 2021! #3KforAll https://t.co/eXo3VUGMJ6

— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) April 24, 2017

3-K for All will face obvious obstacles ― and it is rolling out at a slow, incremental pace compared to its Pre-K for All predecessor, which took two years. The city already struggled to find space for centers for 4-year-olds, and de Blasio predicts that it will have to “build early childhood centers from scratch” over the next few years. The state budget helped fund the first pre-K program, and the city will need significant funding commitments from the state and federal government to fully enact the new plan as well. 

The mayor is optimistic that the city’s efforts on this front will inspire people in both red and blue areas to continue to fight for young children on the local level. There are few indications that Donald Trump’s administration will prioritize early childhood education, and even when Barack Obama was president and pushed the issue, Congress didn’t pass funding for a nationwide pre-K program. Democratic and Republican voters both express support for the issue, though. 

“This is something happening to the grassroots and bubbling up all over the country,” said de Blasio. “What we do know is what happens locally, that’s the tangible reality. Local dynamics around the country add up to something.”

Pre-K for all has generally received successful marks, although it has not been without criticism. Preschool classrooms tend to be heavily segregated by race, similar to the city’s K-12 system. 

But overall it has succeeded in its goals of giving parents greater early childhood education options. This is a luxury that de Blasio did not have when his kids were growing up, and he worried about whether his kids would get a spot at the competitive preschool center near them. He says the experienced helped spur him to champion this issue. 

“I think there’s a real argument here that we got to create a less stressful environment for parents,” said de Blasio. “This is the march of history, and it’s about showing it can happen and work in places all over the country.” 

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

People Laughed When Bill De Blasio First Proposed Free Pre-K. Now He’s Expanding It.

When Bill de Blasio ran for New York City mayor in 2013, his plan to enact a universal preschool program for 4-year-olds was treated more like a lofty ideal than a workable promise. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten suggested the goal was unrealistic, and called the proposal’s early iteration “non-serious.” Experts were skeptical that he could adequately overcome the obstacles to providing pre-K for so many children

Four years later, de Blasio has successfully implemented a Pre-K for All program that serves about 70,000 kids. But as he gears up to run for his second term, he has ambitious plans to expand the early education services offered to city families. On Monday, de Blasio announced plans for 3-K for All, a program that could roll out free pre-K for all the city’s 3-year-olds by 2021.

It’s a plan that is undoubtedly ambitious for the largest city in the country, and its scope stands out even among other progressive states and municipalities with preschool programs. Yet, unlike when de Blasio first proposed universal pre-K on the campaign trail, this proposal is getting taken seriously, he says. 

“When I first introduced pre-K, I can’t tell you how many people told me it was a pipe dream,” de Blasio told The Huffington Post on Tuesday. “The press was openly dismissive,” questioning where the money to pay for the plan would come from, and whether it could serve so many children so quickly, he said.  

This time around, neither “political insiders” nor “everyday people” seem flippant about the plan, “even if it’s going to take a lot of work and time.”

.@NYCMayor introduces plan to offer high-quality, full day preschool to all 3 year olds by 2021! #3KforAll https://t.co/eXo3VUGMJ6

— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) April 24, 2017

3-K for All will face obvious obstacles ― and it is rolling out at a slow, incremental pace compared to its Pre-K for All predecessor, which took two years. The city already struggled to find space for centers for 4-year-olds, and de Blasio predicts that it will have to “build early childhood centers from scratch” over the next few years. The state budget helped fund the first pre-K program, and the city will need significant funding commitments from the state and federal government to fully enact the new plan as well. 

The mayor is optimistic that the city’s efforts on this front will inspire people in both red and blue areas to continue to fight for young children on the local level. There are few indications that Donald Trump’s administration will prioritize early childhood education, and even when Barack Obama was president and pushed the issue, Congress didn’t pass funding for a nationwide pre-K program. Democratic and Republican voters both express support for the issue, though. 

“This is something happening to the grassroots and bubbling up all over the country,” said de Blasio. “What we do know is what happens locally, that’s the tangible reality. Local dynamics around the country add up to something.”

Pre-K for all has generally received successful marks, although it has not been without criticism. Preschool classrooms tend to be heavily segregated by race, similar to the city’s K-12 system. 

But overall it has succeeded in its goals of giving parents greater early childhood education options. This is a luxury that de Blasio did not have when his kids were growing up, and he worried about whether his kids would get a spot at the competitive preschool center near them. He says the experienced helped spur him to champion this issue. 

“I think there’s a real argument here that we got to create a less stressful environment for parents,” said de Blasio. “This is the march of history, and it’s about showing it can happen and work in places all over the country.” 

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

One State Shows Just How Easy It Is To Get More Americans To Vote

Oregon saw big hikes in voter turnout among youth and voter registration among communities of color in its first election since adopting automatic voter registration, a new report shows.

In early 2016, Oregon was the first state to implement a system in which eligible residents are automatically registered to vote when they have any significant interaction with the motor vehicles department. People have to opt out if they don’t want to register. 

Following the change, Oregon saw some major gains in underrepresented communities, according to the Alliance for Youth Action’s report. Turnout among voters ages 18 to 29 increased by 20 percentage points, from 37 percent in 2012 to 57 percent in 2016. Registration among voters of color increased by 26 points, from 53 percent in 2012 to 79 percent in 2016. 

The Alliance for Youth Action is an advocacy group that supports automatic voter registration generally and Oregon’s law specifically.

The specific increases in turnout among youth and registration among people of color in Oregon were the biggest among the 40 states that make their data publicly available, the report says. The increases in youth registration outpaced Oregon’s population growth in that demographic.

Sarah Audelo, executive director of the Alliance for Youth Action, noted that the campaign to pass Oregon’s law in 2015 was led by young organizers and said even her group was surprised by the size of the increases in turnout and registration.

“Access to the ballot matters. As a country we should be taking a hard look at ourselves to see what are we doing to make sure that our people are able to vote, that they’re able to participate in our democracy,” Audelo told HuffPost. “We absolutely are fighting back hard against efforts to restrict access to the ballot, but oh my gosh, look what happens when we make it easier for people to participate.”

survey by the Black Youth Project found that in late 2012, the most-common reason young Americans gave for not voting was that they were not registered. Nationally, just 45 percent of eligible voters under 29 voted in 2012, compared to 66 percent of eligible voters 30 and older, according to the Alliance for Youth Action report.

“Oregon shows us that AVR [automatic voter registration] can be the great equalizer ― and help build a robust electorate that mirrors this country’s make-up,” said Allegra Chapman, director of voting and elections at Common Cause. “The state already had one of the highest turnout rates in the country, and now it’s building an ever stronger voter base. This is definitely the direction in which the country needs to go: amplifying all eligible voices to create a democracy that accounts for all.”

Lawmakers in California, Vermont, West Virginia and the District of Columbia have also all enacted automatic voter registration. Colorado and Connecticut did it administratively. And Alaska voters approved a slightly different version through a ballot measure this past November.

Despite signs of success in Oregon soon after the election, Republican governors in a number of states have blocked attempts to pass automatic voter registration. They often cite concerns about voter fraud, although several studies and investigations have shown it is not a widespread problem in the United States. Over the last two years, automatic voter registration bills have been introduced in nearly 30 states.

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

One State Shows Just How Easy It Is To Get More Americans To Vote

Oregon saw big hikes in voter turnout among youth and voter registration among communities of color in its first election since adopting automatic voter registration, a new report shows.

In early 2016, Oregon was the first state to implement a system in which eligible residents are automatically registered to vote when they have any significant interaction with the motor vehicles department. People have to opt out if they don’t want to register. 

Following the change, Oregon saw some major gains in underrepresented communities, according to the Alliance for Youth Action’s report. Turnout among voters ages 18 to 29 increased by 20 percentage points, from 37 percent in 2012 to 57 percent in 2016. Registration among voters of color increased by 26 points, from 53 percent in 2012 to 79 percent in 2016. 

The Alliance for Youth Action is an advocacy group that supports automatic voter registration generally and Oregon’s law specifically.

The specific increases in turnout among youth and registration among people of color in Oregon were the biggest among the 40 states that make their data publicly available, the report says. The increases in youth registration outpaced Oregon’s population growth in that demographic.

Sarah Audelo, executive director of the Alliance for Youth Action, noted that the campaign to pass Oregon’s law in 2015 was led by young organizers and said even her group was surprised by the size of the increases in turnout and registration.

“Access to the ballot matters. As a country we should be taking a hard look at ourselves to see what are we doing to make sure that our people are able to vote, that they’re able to participate in our democracy,” Audelo told HuffPost. “We absolutely are fighting back hard against efforts to restrict access to the ballot, but oh my gosh, look what happens when we make it easier for people to participate.”

survey by the Black Youth Project found that in late 2012, the most-common reason young Americans gave for not voting was that they were not registered. Nationally, just 45 percent of eligible voters under 29 voted in 2012, compared to 66 percent of eligible voters 30 and older, according to the Alliance for Youth Action report.

“Oregon shows us that AVR [automatic voter registration] can be the great equalizer ― and help build a robust electorate that mirrors this country’s make-up,” said Allegra Chapman, director of voting and elections at Common Cause. “The state already had one of the highest turnout rates in the country, and now it’s building an ever stronger voter base. This is definitely the direction in which the country needs to go: amplifying all eligible voices to create a democracy that accounts for all.”

Lawmakers in California, Vermont, West Virginia and the District of Columbia have also all enacted automatic voter registration. Colorado and Connecticut did it administratively. And Alaska voters approved a slightly different version through a ballot measure this past November.

Despite signs of success in Oregon soon after the election, Republican governors in a number of states have blocked attempts to pass automatic voter registration. They often cite concerns about voter fraud, although several studies and investigations have shown it is not a widespread problem in the United States. Over the last two years, automatic voter registration bills have been introduced in nearly 30 states.

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Family Creates Blockbuster At Home For Son With Autism After Store Closes

Hector Andres Zuniga, a 20-year-old man who has autism and is non-verbal, had been going to his local Blockbuster store in Sharyland, Texas since he was 13.

He made the trip to the store at least twice a week to pick up snacks and rent his favorite movies, which typically involve “Barney,” “Rugrats,” Elmo or “Blue’s Clues.”

Most of the staff at Blockbuster watched him grow up. His father, also named Hector, told HuffPost that whenever they passed the store in the car, his son would point to it and utter one the few words he says: “Barney.”

A few months ago, Hector Andres’ mother, Rosa, got some heartbreaking news.

A Blockbuster employee pulled her aside while she and Hector Andres were visiting and told her that the store would be closing. Blockbuster declared bankruptcy in 2010, and only a handful of stores remain open across the U.S.

Rosa immediately called her husband.

“[Hector Andres] is a happy-go-lucky kid,” Hector Sr. said. “He’s all heart, he’s very tender, but like anyone else, he has bad days. And we knew one of those bad days were around the corner when we found out that the Blockbuster was about to close.”

Since the store was such a huge part of Hector Andres’ routine, his parents would have to break the news to him very gently.

While on the phone with her husband, Rosa got an idea. Since the store would be selling all of its inventory before officially closing, why not buy some of those items and recreate Blockbuster at home for Hector Andres?

Hector Sr. loved the idea.

“The employees told us when they’d start selling their stock, and when they did, I was one of the first customers in the store,” he said

The Zunigas began to secretly buy and squirrel away all kinds of things from Blockbuster, including DVDs, signs and even a rack that employees helped Rosa set up and transport to her car. Hector Sr. said Blockbuster employees would also set aside items they knew Hector Andres would like for the Zunigas to buy when they came into the store.

“Those employees really came out to bat for my son,” Hector Sr. said. “They really paid attention and did a hell of a job.”

Then on April 23, closing day finally arrived.

The entire Zuniga family, including Hector Andres’ 19-year-old brother, Javier, went to the store. The family waited until later in the day, when most of the store’s inventory was cleared out, and there were empty walls and racks, before bringing Hector Andres there.

The Zunigas wanted him to fully understand that the store was closing. Hector Sr. said he also wanted his son to have closure.

“He made a beeline to the area where he usually rents movies,” Hector Sr. said. “And there was nothing there. The shelves that usually had his DVDs were already gone.”

Hector Andres got the message, loud and clear.

“He understood, I could see it in his eyes,” Hector Sr. said. “And he almost started having a meltdown.”

But Hector Sr. knew what to do. He grabbed his son’s hands, looked into his eyes and said, “This place is closing, but it’s OK. We have a surprise for you at home.”

Once home, the Zunigas gave Hector Andres a puzzle to play with while he processed what had just happened. While he was busy, Hector Sr. and Javier went into a spare room and set up their at-home Blockbuster store.

About an hour later, they walked Hector Andres to the room with his eyes covered and surprised him. 

“It’s hard for my son to express emotions,” Hector Sr. said. “But when he saw the room, his eyes were as big as saucers.”

Hector Andres looked around the room in disbelief, his family explaining the entire time that all of it was for him. Hector Sr. said his son even went up to a few DVDs and touched them “almost like he was checking to see if they were real.”

After Hector Andres had fully taken in the surprise, he thanked his dad in his own way.

“His way of saying ‘I love you,’ is by going up to you and grabbing your earlobe,” Hector Sr. told HuffPost. “So he came up to me and grabbed my ear … it was one of those moments that us parents live for.”

Hector Andres then grabbed three or four DVDs and ran to his room to watch them.

“It was a hit,” Hector Sr. said.

Javier, who dotes on his big brother, was especially touched by the moment. He decided to post a few pictures of the Zunigas’ sweet accomplishment to Twitter. The photos quickly went viral, receiving over 117,000 likes and 29,000 retweets.

Hector Sr. said his family is overwhelmed by the response, but he has a hunch as to why the post became as popular as it did:

“Every once in a while everything just seems to work,” Hector Sr. said. “And this time, it just did.”

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Family Creates Blockbuster At Home For Son With Autism After Store Closes

Hector Andres Zuniga, a 20-year-old man who has autism and is non-verbal, had been going to his local Blockbuster store in Sharyland, Texas since he was 13.

He made the trip to the store at least twice a week to pick up snacks and rent his favorite movies, which typically involve “Barney,” “Rugrats,” Elmo or “Blue’s Clues.”

Most of the staff at Blockbuster watched him grow up. His father, also named Hector, told HuffPost that whenever they passed the store in the car, his son would point to it and utter one the few words he says: “Barney.”

A few months ago, Hector Andres’ mother, Rosa, got some heartbreaking news.

A Blockbuster employee pulled her aside while she and Hector Andres were visiting and told her that the store would be closing. Blockbuster declared bankruptcy in 2010, and only a handful of stores remain open across the U.S.

Rosa immediately called her husband.

“[Hector Andres] is a happy-go-lucky kid,” Hector Sr. said. “He’s all heart, he’s very tender, but like anyone else, he has bad days. And we knew one of those bad days were around the corner when we found out that the Blockbuster was about to close.”

Since the store was such a huge part of Hector Andres’ routine, his parents would have to break the news to him very gently.

While on the phone with her husband, Rosa got an idea. Since the store would be selling all of its inventory before officially closing, why not buy some of those items and recreate Blockbuster at home for Hector Andres?

Hector Sr. loved the idea.

“The employees told us when they’d start selling their stock, and when they did, I was one of the first customers in the store,” he said

The Zunigas began to secretly buy and squirrel away all kinds of things from Blockbuster, including DVDs, signs and even a rack that employees helped Rosa set up and transport to her car. Hector Sr. said Blockbuster employees would also set aside items they knew Hector Andres would like for the Zunigas to buy when they came into the store.

“Those employees really came out to bat for my son,” Hector Sr. said. “They really paid attention and did a hell of a job.”

Then on April 23, closing day finally arrived.

The entire Zuniga family, including Hector Andres’ 19-year-old brother, Javier, went to the store. The family waited until later in the day, when most of the store’s inventory was cleared out, and there were empty walls and racks, before bringing Hector Andres there.

The Zunigas wanted him to fully understand that the store was closing. Hector Sr. said he also wanted his son to have closure.

“He made a beeline to the area where he usually rents movies,” Hector Sr. said. “And there was nothing there. The shelves that usually had his DVDs were already gone.”

Hector Andres got the message, loud and clear.

“He understood, I could see it in his eyes,” Hector Sr. said. “And he almost started having a meltdown.”

But Hector Sr. knew what to do. He grabbed his son’s hands, looked into his eyes and said, “This place is closing, but it’s OK. We have a surprise for you at home.”

Once home, the Zunigas gave Hector Andres a puzzle to play with while he processed what had just happened. While he was busy, Hector Sr. and Javier went into a spare room and set up their at-home Blockbuster store.

About an hour later, they walked Hector Andres to the room with his eyes covered and surprised him. 

“It’s hard for my son to express emotions,” Hector Sr. said. “But when he saw the room, his eyes were as big as saucers.”

Hector Andres looked around the room in disbelief, his family explaining the entire time that all of it was for him. Hector Sr. said his son even went up to a few DVDs and touched them “almost like he was checking to see if they were real.”

After Hector Andres had fully taken in the surprise, he thanked his dad in his own way.

“His way of saying ‘I love you,’ is by going up to you and grabbing your earlobe,” Hector Sr. told HuffPost. “So he came up to me and grabbed my ear … it was one of those moments that us parents live for.”

Hector Andres then grabbed three or four DVDs and ran to his room to watch them.

“It was a hit,” Hector Sr. said.

Javier, who dotes on his big brother, was especially touched by the moment. He decided to post a few pictures of the Zunigas’ sweet accomplishment to Twitter. The photos quickly went viral, receiving over 117,000 likes and 29,000 retweets.

Hector Sr. said his family is overwhelmed by the response, but he has a hunch as to why the post became as popular as it did:

“Every once in a while everything just seems to work,” Hector Sr. said. “And this time, it just did.”

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Judge Blocks Donald Trump’s Executive Order On Sanctuary Cities

SAN FRANCISCO ― A federal judge blocked President Donald Trump’s executive order targeting so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions on Tuesday, just as the White House was looking for victories to celebrate from the president’s first 100 days in office.

Trump’s order was challenged by the city and county of San Francisco and the county of Santa Clara, California, two of the jurisdictions under presidential fire for limiting their cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Tuesday’s legal setback is yet another defeat for Trump, whose executive orders, particularly those related to immigration, have met resistance in the courts. U.S. District Judge William Orrick issued a nationwide preliminary injunction blocking the order’s enforcement, effectively preventing the administration from pulling federal funds from the sanctuary jurisdictions that sued and others that may likewise feel their federal funding is at risk if they don’t go along with Trump’s anti-immigrant policies.

“The Constitution vests the spending powers in Congress, not the President, so the Order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds,” wrote Orrick, who was nominated to the court by then-President Barack Obama. “Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the President disapproves,” Orrick added.

The judge held that the executive order, which Trump signed during his first week on the job, is likely unconstitutional because it is too vague and would likely deprive the localities of monies that are rightly theirs, which would violate the Fifth Amendment. The judge also said the order likely violates the 10th Amendment and the separation of powers.

Trump reacted to the news early Wednesday by bashing the court.

First the Ninth Circuit rules against the ban & now it hits again on sanctuary cities-both ridiculous rulings. See you in the Supreme Court!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 26, 2017

Out of our very big country, with many choices, does everyone notice that both the "ban" case and now the "sanctuary" case is brought in …

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 26, 2017

…the Ninth Circuit, which has a terrible record of being overturned (close to 80%). They used to call this "judge shopping!" Messy system.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 26, 2017

But it wasn’t the Ninth Circuit that ruled on the case in the first place ― a federal judge did. San Francisco, one of the plaintiffs in this case, happened to sue in its home district, where cases are assigned randomly to any of the several judges serving there.

Orrick issued the ruling less than two weeks after he heard arguments in the case. At the April 14 hearing, a Justice Department lawyer urged a more narrow interpretation of the president’s order, arguing that only a select few grants were at risk under the order and contending that very little funding for San Francisco and Santa Clara County programs would be affected.

The judge appeared skeptical of that argument at the hearing and explicitly took issue with it in his ruling, calling it “not legally plausible.” He cited comments by both Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions that directly contradicted the Justice Department’s argument in court. (Sessions last month vowed to “claw back” funds from sanctuary cities, while Trump has described using defunding as a “weapon” against cities that refuse to cooperate with policies targeting undocumented immigrants.)  

“If there was doubt about the scope of the Order, the President and Attorney General have erased it with their public comments,” Orrick wrote.

He also said that the Justice Department’s narrow reading of the order was in direct conflict with its actual text.

“The Government attempts to read out all of Section 9(a)’s unconstitutional directives to render it an ominous, misleading, and ultimately toothless threat,” Orrick wrote. “This interpretation is in conflict with the Order’s express language and is plainly not what the Order says. … A construction so narrow that it renders a legal action legally meaningless cannot possibly be reasonable and is clearly inconsistent with the Order’s broad intent.”  

The Justice Department also argued at the April 14 hearing that the order constituted a “perfectly permissible use of the bully pulpit” and served the purpose of promoting immigration enforcement as a presidential priority.

But in his ruling, Orrick wrote that because executive orders carry the force of law, it’s not reasonable to interpret them simply as rhetorical devices. 

“The President certainly has the right to use the bully pulpit to encourage his policies,” the judge wrote. “But Section 9(a) is not simply rhetorical.”

In several parts of his ruling, Orrick relied on none other than Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion in the 2012 Affordable Care Act case, which took aim at Congress and the Obama administration for placing a “gun to the head” of states that rely on Medicaid funding for survival.

“The threat is unconstitutionally coercive,” Orrick said of Trump’s order, which he likened to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

San Francisco and Santa Clara County, meanwhile, had demonstrated that they were “likely to face immediate irreparable harm” if the order weren’t blocked, Orrick said, and that they are likely to succeed in challenging the order as unconstitutional if the litigation proceeds.  

“The Order’s uncertainty interferes with the Counties’ ability to budget, plan for the future, and properly serve their residents,” he wrote. “Without clarification regarding the Order’s scope or legality, the Counties will be obligated to take steps to mitigate the risk of losing millions of dollars in federal funding, which will include placing funds in reserve and making cuts to services. These mitigating steps will cause the Counties irreparable harm.”

The Trump administration has yet to clarify what exactly it considers to be a “sanctuary city,” creating considerable confusion for local officials trying to determine whether their funding could be at risk. A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday that it still hasn’t finalized a definition and will not cut any grants until it does.

Orrick left open the possibility that Sessions or DHS Secretary John Kelly could issue further guidelines as to how exactly the federal government defines a “sanctuary” jurisdiction. He also didn’t bar the Trump administration from seeking compliance with a provision of federal law that directs cities to report the status of certain undocumented immigrants.

The term “sanctuary city” is used to cover a wide array of policies, but is most often applied to jurisdictions that do not honor all ICE “detainers” ― that is, requests from the federal government that local law enforcement hold individuals with problematic legal status whom police would otherwise release. The jurisdictions that decline detainers have a variety of reasons: They say it’s bad for public safety for people to equate the police with ICE, expensive to hold individuals for extra time on the federal government’s behalf, and even unconstitutional to do so.

The Trump administration has tried to legally justify its threats by citing a part of the U.S. code that requires jurisdictions to share information with federal law enforcement ― which nearly all of them do to some degree. Mayors and law enforcement leaders who met with Sessions on Tuesday said the impression they got from him was that the federal government will define the term “sanctuary city” more narrowly to cover jurisdictions that don’t share such information.

“Based on what we’ve heard, I don’t know of any cities that are out of compliance with that at the moment,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said, according to Politico.

After the ruling, a Justice Department spokesman said that because the judge’s order does not impact that portion of the U.S. code requiring cities to share information, the Trump administration will continue to “follow the law with respect to regulation of sanctuary jurisdictions.”

“Accordingly, the Department will continue to enforce existing grant conditions and will continue to enforce 8 U.S.C. 1373,” said spokesman Ian Prior. “Further, the order does not purport to enjoin the Department’s independent legal authority to enforce the requirements of federal law applicable to communities that violate federal immigration law or federal grant conditions.”

Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez told HuffPost that the judge’s ruling shows that policies like her county’s aren’t breaking the law ― they’re protecting it.

“We were following the law,” Chavez said. “The president was trying to get us to violate the Constitution and violate people’s constitutional rights, and we said no to that. So what I think it tells everybody across the country, every jurisdiction, is when you’re fighting for the Constitution and you’re preserving the rights of people who live, work, play in your jurisdiction, we’ve got to do this collectively, we’ve got to do it boldly, and we’ve got to do it with one voice.”

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera also praised the ruling in a press conference Tuesday afternoon. He noted that Trump’s public comments on the issue ultimately hurt his administration’s legal case, and he suggested the administration move on rather than attempt to re-write the executive order.

“Words matter and what the president said in public as a candidate and after he was sworn in certainly impacted how the court viewed this case,” Herrera said. “That inconsistency hurt the presentation of the government’s case, so I think it’s best that they move on from that and just focus on the law.”

Read Orrick’s ruling below:

This story has been updated throughout. Mollie Reilly reported from San Francisco; Elise Foley reported from Washington; Cristian Farias reported from New York.

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Judge Blocks Donald Trump’s Executive Order On Sanctuary Cities

SAN FRANCISCO ― A federal judge blocked President Donald Trump’s executive order targeting so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions on Tuesday, just as the White House was looking for victories to celebrate from the president’s first 100 days in office.

Trump’s order was challenged by the city and county of San Francisco and the county of Santa Clara, California, two of the jurisdictions under presidential fire for limiting their cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Tuesday’s legal setback is yet another defeat for Trump, whose executive orders, particularly those related to immigration, have met resistance in the courts. U.S. District Judge William Orrick issued a nationwide preliminary injunction blocking the order’s enforcement, effectively preventing the administration from pulling federal funds from the sanctuary jurisdictions that sued and others that may likewise feel their federal funding is at risk if they don’t go along with Trump’s anti-immigrant policies.

“The Constitution vests the spending powers in Congress, not the President, so the Order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds,” wrote Orrick, who was nominated to the court by then-President Barack Obama. “Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the President disapproves,” Orrick added.

The judge held that the executive order, which Trump signed during his first week on the job, is likely unconstitutional because it is too vague and would likely deprive the localities of monies that are rightly theirs, which would violate the Fifth Amendment. The judge also said the order likely violates the 10th Amendment and the separation of powers.

Trump reacted to the news early Wednesday by bashing the court.

First the Ninth Circuit rules against the ban & now it hits again on sanctuary cities-both ridiculous rulings. See you in the Supreme Court!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 26, 2017

Out of our very big country, with many choices, does everyone notice that both the "ban" case and now the "sanctuary" case is brought in …

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 26, 2017

…the Ninth Circuit, which has a terrible record of being overturned (close to 80%). They used to call this "judge shopping!" Messy system.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 26, 2017

But it wasn’t the Ninth Circuit that ruled on the case in the first place ― a federal judge did. San Francisco, one of the plaintiffs in this case, happened to sue in its home district, where cases are assigned randomly to any of the several judges serving there.

Orrick issued the ruling less than two weeks after he heard arguments in the case. At the April 14 hearing, a Justice Department lawyer urged a more narrow interpretation of the president’s order, arguing that only a select few grants were at risk under the order and contending that very little funding for San Francisco and Santa Clara County programs would be affected.

The judge appeared skeptical of that argument at the hearing and explicitly took issue with it in his ruling, calling it “not legally plausible.” He cited comments by both Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions that directly contradicted the Justice Department’s argument in court. (Sessions last month vowed to “claw back” funds from sanctuary cities, while Trump has described using defunding as a “weapon” against cities that refuse to cooperate with policies targeting undocumented immigrants.)  

“If there was doubt about the scope of the Order, the President and Attorney General have erased it with their public comments,” Orrick wrote.

He also said that the Justice Department’s narrow reading of the order was in direct conflict with its actual text.

“The Government attempts to read out all of Section 9(a)’s unconstitutional directives to render it an ominous, misleading, and ultimately toothless threat,” Orrick wrote. “This interpretation is in conflict with the Order’s express language and is plainly not what the Order says. … A construction so narrow that it renders a legal action legally meaningless cannot possibly be reasonable and is clearly inconsistent with the Order’s broad intent.”  

The Justice Department also argued at the April 14 hearing that the order constituted a “perfectly permissible use of the bully pulpit” and served the purpose of promoting immigration enforcement as a presidential priority.

But in his ruling, Orrick wrote that because executive orders carry the force of law, it’s not reasonable to interpret them simply as rhetorical devices. 

“The President certainly has the right to use the bully pulpit to encourage his policies,” the judge wrote. “But Section 9(a) is not simply rhetorical.”

In several parts of his ruling, Orrick relied on none other than Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion in the 2012 Affordable Care Act case, which took aim at Congress and the Obama administration for placing a “gun to the head” of states that rely on Medicaid funding for survival.

“The threat is unconstitutionally coercive,” Orrick said of Trump’s order, which he likened to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

San Francisco and Santa Clara County, meanwhile, had demonstrated that they were “likely to face immediate irreparable harm” if the order weren’t blocked, Orrick said, and that they are likely to succeed in challenging the order as unconstitutional if the litigation proceeds.  

“The Order’s uncertainty interferes with the Counties’ ability to budget, plan for the future, and properly serve their residents,” he wrote. “Without clarification regarding the Order’s scope or legality, the Counties will be obligated to take steps to mitigate the risk of losing millions of dollars in federal funding, which will include placing funds in reserve and making cuts to services. These mitigating steps will cause the Counties irreparable harm.”

The Trump administration has yet to clarify what exactly it considers to be a “sanctuary city,” creating considerable confusion for local officials trying to determine whether their funding could be at risk. A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday that it still hasn’t finalized a definition and will not cut any grants until it does.

Orrick left open the possibility that Sessions or DHS Secretary John Kelly could issue further guidelines as to how exactly the federal government defines a “sanctuary” jurisdiction. He also didn’t bar the Trump administration from seeking compliance with a provision of federal law that directs cities to report the status of certain undocumented immigrants.

The term “sanctuary city” is used to cover a wide array of policies, but is most often applied to jurisdictions that do not honor all ICE “detainers” ― that is, requests from the federal government that local law enforcement hold individuals with problematic legal status whom police would otherwise release. The jurisdictions that decline detainers have a variety of reasons: They say it’s bad for public safety for people to equate the police with ICE, expensive to hold individuals for extra time on the federal government’s behalf, and even unconstitutional to do so.

The Trump administration has tried to legally justify its threats by citing a part of the U.S. code that requires jurisdictions to share information with federal law enforcement ― which nearly all of them do to some degree. Mayors and law enforcement leaders who met with Sessions on Tuesday said the impression they got from him was that the federal government will define the term “sanctuary city” more narrowly to cover jurisdictions that don’t share such information.

“Based on what we’ve heard, I don’t know of any cities that are out of compliance with that at the moment,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said, according to Politico.

After the ruling, a Justice Department spokesman said that because the judge’s order does not impact that portion of the U.S. code requiring cities to share information, the Trump administration will continue to “follow the law with respect to regulation of sanctuary jurisdictions.”

“Accordingly, the Department will continue to enforce existing grant conditions and will continue to enforce 8 U.S.C. 1373,” said spokesman Ian Prior. “Further, the order does not purport to enjoin the Department’s independent legal authority to enforce the requirements of federal law applicable to communities that violate federal immigration law or federal grant conditions.”

Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez told HuffPost that the judge’s ruling shows that policies like her county’s aren’t breaking the law ― they’re protecting it.

“We were following the law,” Chavez said. “The president was trying to get us to violate the Constitution and violate people’s constitutional rights, and we said no to that. So what I think it tells everybody across the country, every jurisdiction, is when you’re fighting for the Constitution and you’re preserving the rights of people who live, work, play in your jurisdiction, we’ve got to do this collectively, we’ve got to do it boldly, and we’ve got to do it with one voice.”

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera also praised the ruling in a press conference Tuesday afternoon. He noted that Trump’s public comments on the issue ultimately hurt his administration’s legal case, and he suggested the administration move on rather than attempt to re-write the executive order.

“Words matter and what the president said in public as a candidate and after he was sworn in certainly impacted how the court viewed this case,” Herrera said. “That inconsistency hurt the presentation of the government’s case, so I think it’s best that they move on from that and just focus on the law.”

Read Orrick’s ruling below:

This story has been updated throughout. Mollie Reilly reported from San Francisco; Elise Foley reported from Washington; Cristian Farias reported from New York.

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Rashida Jones Thinks Women Can Decide For Themselves If Porn Is Empowering

Some people think porn can be empowering for women; others think it can be degrading. Rashida Jones thinks we should let women decide for themselves. 

The actress and director of 2015 porn documentary “Hot Girls Wanted” recently sat down with Refinery29 to discuss her new Netflix docu-series “Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On,” which explores the intersection of porn, intimacy, and technology. Jones, along with co-directors Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus, discussed what they learned about porn while creating the film and subsequent series, and how it’s shaped their perception of the industry. 

When R29’s Madeline Buxton asked the three directors their thoughts on porn as a tool of empowerment for women, Jones responded that it’s “dangerous” to say any one thing is the key to empowerment for all women. 

“It’s so personal, and I think it’s dangerous to declare anything as the road to female empowerment, period,” Jones said. “Some girls are really self-possessed, and they know what they’re doing, and they love sex, and they’ve always wanted to do it, and they’re camming and they have control over what they’re doing. And then some girls are just not built for it. But I think there’s a pressure to feel like you should be empowered by it. And not everybody is. It’s different for everyone.” 

The six-episode series takes a look at a few parts of the porn industry including the challenges female producers face, life as a “cam girl” (women who perform sexual acts on a live camera from a remote area), and one episode even details the life of a 40-year-old who ghosts young women on dating apps. 

Jones said that she hopes women feel more open to discussing sex and intimacy after watching the series. 

“The whole series is a pause so that you can just look at your relationship with sex and technology and ask yourself some questions that might come up for you during the series,” she said. “For women, in particular, there’s a lot of things about empowerment, and asking yourself: What makes you comfortable? What makes you feel power?”

Unfortunately, “Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On” has received some series backlash since it premiered on Netflix on April 21. 

Some Twitter users are alleging that the creators used footage of sex workers without their permission or knowledge; in turn outing sex workers featured in the series to their family and employers. 

The reviews on Netflix also highlight the same disturbing allegations.

“The people involved in making this didn’t get permission to potentially out many sex workers to their friends and family and claimed fair use in order to not have to pay them,” one Netflix review reads, with another adding: “Outing a sex worker could really put them in danger.” 

Another reviewer wrote that the docu-series was “extremely exploitative” because it features “footage of women without their consent” and “also shows [the women’s] real names and Facebook accounts.”

The Huffington Post reached out to Rashida Jones for comment but did not hear back by the time of publication. 

Head over to Refinery29 to read Jones’ full interview about “Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On” or watch the trailer for the new series below. 

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

This Is What Your Teeth Can Reveal About Your Overall Health

The dentist may not be your favorite appointment, but it’s a necessity. 

Good oral hygiene saves you from more than just tooth decay, cavities and bad breath. It is critically important because it can help prevent certain medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.

And here’s something else: The state of your teeth, mouth and gums can clue your dentist into other medical issues you may need to address. By examining your mouth, your dentist can identify eating disorders, sleeping problems, anxiety, stress and more.

Below are some of the things dentists can see about your overall wellness just by looking your mouth: 

1. Anxiety or poor sleep.  

Your teeth could be a clue to any distress you might be feeling. Stress, anxiety or a sleep disorder can cause teeth grinding. Bruxism, the medical term for teeth grinding, is significantly more frequent in people with obstructive sleep apnea, according to research.

“The surfaces of the teeth become flat and the teeth get worn down,” Charles Rankin, DDS and professor at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, told HuffPost, noting that a healthy tooth reaches a certain height and has an uneven, bumpy crown. “Grinding your teeth [at night] makes that height go down.” 

The most important thing you can do if you grind your teeth, advises Rankin, is to talk to your dentist about getting a night guard to prevent it from happening.

“Then the patient really needs to get into an exercise program or have stress counseling,” Rankin said.

2. Eating disorders.

Certain types of disordered eating, such as anorexia or bulimia, can be apparent to a dentist. Research shows that gastric acid from purging, which is associated with the conditions, can erode both tooth enamel and dentine, the softer layer just underneath the enamel. The erosion is usually found on the backside of the teeth, Rankin said.

But while enamel erosion can prompt dentists to inquire about eating disorders, it is not always the culprit. Enamel erosion can be genetic or congenital, Panos Papapanou, DDS and professor of dental medicine at Columbia University told HuffPost. Even acid reflux could be the cause.

3. Poor diet. 

Coffee, tea, sauces like marinara, energy drinks and dark berries leave their mark. So does chocolate, candy and dark soda. How you may ask? Stains. 

“But there are things you can do,” Rankin said. “Drink coffee and soda through a straw ― so it stays away from the tooth. Rinsing and brushing right after you eat helps immensely.” 

And we all know that sugar can cause cavities. But according to Rankin, if patients actually brushed and flossed every time they ate candy, the risk of a dental issue would be much smaller. 

4. Alcohol abuse.

Alcohol abuse can cause good oral hygiene habits to fall by the wayside and dentists can smell alcohol on a patient’s breath, according to Rankin. 

A 2015 study in the Journal of Periodontology also found some insight into the drinking and oral health connection. Brazilian researchers discovered that gum disease, or periodontitis, increased with drinking frequency. The study also showed that overall poor oral hygiene is a common trait among people who excessively drink. The researchers also found that study participants without gum disease had higher levels of plaque than non-drinkers, possibly due to the way alcohol slows down the production of saliva and dries out the mouth. 

5. Heart disease or diabetes. 

“Among people that are unaware of whether they have diabetes or not, poor gum status has been shown to be associated with diabetes,” Papapanou said. “This is a pretty critical situation in which a dentist can help to identify undiagnosed diabetes.”

The relationship between periodontitis and diabetes is not yet totally understood, however researchers know it is a two-way street: Diabetes increases the risk of gum disease, and gum inflammation negatively impacts the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, according to a study published in Diabetologia. And it could be inflammation of the gum that is causing the association between gum disease, diabetes and periodontitis, according to the American Academy of Periodontology. 

Furthermore, people with diabetes are three times more likely to experience this most severe type of gum disease. So, if you have diabetes or cardiovascular disease, stay on top of your oral health through regular cleanings, brushing and flossing. It’s possible that bacteria can get under inflamed gums and aggravate these diseases further, Rankin noted. 

Just as with keeping any area of your body healthy, it’s best to keep tabs on what might not feel right and to stay curious about what is happening in the mouth. That includes looking for “pain, swelling, bleeding gums, broken or loose teeth, enamel erosion,” Rankin explained.

“If the dentist goes in there and sees this, he or she has to question [the patient],” he said. “But the patient is really the first line of defense.”

Take care of your smile ― and the rest of you.

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Why Zoe Saldana Is Cool Buying Her Sons’ Clothes In The Girls’ Section

When shopping for clothes for her three sons, Zoe Saldana cares more about whether her kids like the clothes than the section in which she finds them.

In an interview with Refinery29, the “Guardians of the Galaxy” actress explained how she picks out toys and clothes for Zen, her youngest son whom she welcomed earlier this year, and 2-year-old twins, Bowie and Cy. For her, it’s all about what her kids like, whether it’s a color, design or another detail of the clothing.

“We choose it because they need pants, they need shirts, and things like that,” she said. “But if they have a preference of a color or a shape or a person or an animal or a story, we will never choose things for them because of their gender.”

Saldana then told Refinery29 that her twins have actually been mistaken for girls because she and her husband, artist Marco Perego, dress them “quite colorfully.”

Saldana expressed the same sentiments in an interview with People earlier this month. She said Cy and Bowie have particularly been into picking out their shoes. Their preference? “Different pairs of glittery, bright pink trainers.”

“We get them their masculine ones. They don’t like those,” she said. “They want the glitter, the glitter bright pink ones, and we’re like, so be it.”

The mom of three also said she never avoids the girls’ section when shopping for her kids, who like wearing leggings and lots of color. Saldana simply wants to make sure her sons enjoy picking out their clothes. 

“So we find ourselves always sliding into the girls’ section, and we have fun.”

The HuffPost Parents newsletter, So You Want To Raise A Feminist, offers the latest stories and news in progressive parenting. 

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