Chief Justice Roberts Admits He Once Drove Over The Speed Limit

WASHINGTON ― The chief justice of the United States has broken the law.

John Roberts made the unexpected confession Wednesday as he and his Supreme Court colleagues considered a case that tests some of the circumstances the federal government may use to strip naturalized Americans of citizenship rights.

“Some time ago, outside the statute of limitations, I drove 60 miles an hour in a 55-mile-an-hour zone,” said Roberts, drawing laughter from those in the courtroom. But the chief didn’t crack a smile.

“I was not arrested,” he added. 

The justices were considering a criminal statute that penalizes anyone who “procures” U.S. citizenship in a way that is “contrary to law.” The government pressed the argument that any lie on an official form, no matter how small, is a violation that could trigger the loss of citizenship.

But Roberts and some of the other justices seemed troubled by the implications for a vast swath of Americans. Roberts pointed out that some questions on naturalization forms are written broadly, to catch any little misrepresentation or omission that an overzealous prosecutor may later deem “material false statements” that could mean you should no longer be an American.

One question on the naturalization form, for example, asks citizenship applicants to disclose any and all crimes, offenses or attempts to break the law for which they haven’t been arrested — ever.

Zeroing in on the word “offense,” which a legal dictionary says includes even “minor” violations of the law, Roberts suggested that the government could potentially go after those who fail to disclose minor slip-ups years earlier. 

“Now, you say that if I answer that question ‘no’ 20 years after I was naturalized as a citizen, you can knock on my door and say, ‘Guess what, you’re not an American citizen after all,’” Roberts said. “Is that right?”

When Robert Parker, the Trump administration lawyer who argued for the government, answered that authorities expect applicants for naturalization to disclose even trivial violations, Roberts wasn’t having it.

“Oh, come on,” Roberts retorted. “You’re saying that on this form, you expect everyone to list every time in which they drove over the speed limit, except when they were arrested?”

Justice Stephen Breyer, one of the court’s more liberal members, seemed just as bothered.

“It’s, to me, rather surprising that the government of the United States thinks that Congress is interpreting this statute and wanted it interpreted in a way that would throw into doubt the citizenship of vast percentages of all naturalized citizens,” Breyer said.

You’re arguing for the government of the United States — talking about what citizenship is and ought to mean.
Justice Anthony Kennedy

Justice Elena Kagan added a lighthearted twist to Parker’s argument.

“I am a little bit horrified to know that every time I lie about my weight, it has those kinds of consequences,” she said.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has written landmark opinions about how the law bestows dignity on all people, said the administration’s argument “is demeaning the priceless value of citizenship.”

“That’s not what our cases say. That’s not what citizenship means,” Kennedy said.

“You’re arguing for the government of the United States — talking about what citizenship is and ought to mean,” Kennedy told Parker later.

In the end, it was Roberts, the court’s leader, who saw the severity of the government’s position for what it is: as an opening for prosecutorial overreach.

“If you take the position that … not answering about the speeding ticket or the nickname is enough to subject that person to denaturalization,” Roberts said, “the government will have the opportunity to denaturalize anyone they want, because everybody is going to have a situation where they didn’t put in something like that ― or at least most people. And then the government can decide, ‘We are going to denaturalize you for other reasons than what might appear on your naturalization form, or we’re not.’

“And that to me … is troublesome to give that extraordinary power, which, essentially, is unlimited power, at least in most cases, to the government,” Roberts added.

The Supreme Court may well decide that only egregious, “material” lies count for the purposes of stripping someone’s citizenship — a requirement that could stand as a roadblock for tougher immigration measures in the Trump era.

The case, Maslenjak v. United States, is the last case the Supreme Court heard before the end of the current term. Between now and the end of June, the justices are expected to issue decisions on cases they’ve already considered.

– 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.

New Heineken Ad Shows Power Of Connecting Across Political Divides

Can people with drastically opposing political views still find common ground? 

That’s the question behind Heineken’s new advertisement, “Worlds Apart,” in which strangers participate in a social experiment, meeting to build some furniture and get to know each other. The hitch is: They don’t know that they have fundamentally opposing political views.

“I would describe my political views as the new right,” says one man, before he meets his partner in the experiment. “Feminism today is man-hating.”

“I say that I’m left,” says the woman who will later be paired with the man. “I would describe myself as a feminist, 100 percent.” 

The six participants ― a right-winger paired with a left-winger, a climate change denier with an environmentalist, and a transgender woman with a man who opposes transgender rights ― all start by working together to build chairs, a table and a bar (it is a beer ad after all).

They get to know intimate details about each other’s lives, with one participant sharing that he has experienced homelessness, for example. Partway through, the participants are asked to stand and watch a film ― and that’s when they hear each other’s initial political statements for the first time.

The trans woman watches as the person she’s just gotten to know says on screen: “Transgender ― it is very odd.” Her smile drops.

The participants are then given a choice: leave, or stay and chat over a Heineken (again, this is a beer ad). They all choose to stay and talk it out.

“I’ve been brought up in a way where everything is black and white ― but life isn’t black and white,” concedes the man who initially said transgender people were “not right.”

The ad, part of a new Heineken campaign in the U.K., ends with a call to action: “Open your world.”

The experiment was real and not staged, Heineken PR reps told HuffPost.

Watch the ad below:

The ad’s message of finding common ground through conversation is more than just a nice idea ― it’s backed up by a well-researched concept called contact theory, which posits that contact with groups from different backgrounds can increase tolerance.

With this ad, Heineken joins a growing list of companies using hot-button political topics to sell their products ― some with mixed results. During the Super Bowl, for instance, Budweiser ran an ad on immigration that led some anti-immigrant viewers to call for a boycott. More recently, a Pepsi ad sparked outrage for co-opting images from recent protests to sell its soda.

So far, most reactions to Heineken’s ad on Twitter have been positive.

This is awesome! Well done @Heineken! https://t.co/F7mQ5lsYHZ

— Eric Rosswood (@LGBT_Activist) April 26, 2017

Grab a cold beer and talk about controversial topics. Seriously. https://t.co/cS7N3wBnEz

— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) April 26, 2017

The best ad I've seen this week. I don't drink beer but I'd serve #Heineken after this. Thank you!https://t.co/UfYYeoLxHQ

— ROCHELLE RILEY ✈️ (@rochelleriley) April 26, 2017

Drink Heineken, not Pepsi. https://t.co/U6ASn8OnWy

— Franklin Leonard (@franklinleonard) April 26, 2017

Some people, however, expressed doubts that they could stay and chat with someone with such opposing views.

This ad from @Heineken https://t.co/An4mwwws9F mean, man. Could you have stayed in the room?

— Stevie (@ATTW1_music) April 26, 2017

H/T Upworthy

– 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.

Troll This Politician And He Just Might Call Your Grandma — Literally

When Pennsylvania House Rep. Brian Sims (D-PA) woke up Wednesday morning, he followed his usual morning routine: checking the news, and then deleting the hate speech left on his Facebook by trolls overnight.

An openly gay politician, Sims is used to having to go through these motions. However, this morning one comment stuck out to him: it read “n****r faggot.”

When Sims checked the poster’s Facebook page, he didn’t find much info or a clear-cut motive for the troll’s actions. 

“What caught me about it was there wasn’t a reference to something I said or something I’d done or some policy,” Sims told HuffPost. “And when I looked at his page there was very little there ― but he’d posted a telephone number a number of times.”

So Sims decided to call the number at 6:15 a.m. ― and the person on the receiving end turned out to be none other than the troll’s grandmother. 

”I explained to her exactly who I as and what he had done,” Sims told HuffPost. “Like any grandma she was very embarrassed at having this kind of convo and very ashamed at the actions of her grandson. The conversation ended with me telling her that I wanted to hear from him.”

Sims did in fact ending up talking to the poster after the conversation with his grandmother. He said that he rather not discuss the specifics of their conversation but noted that it “didn’t resolve anything.”

“It is the ultimate calling card of a coward to ― under the guise of night and behind a keyboard ― use the kind of language that in person would cause most decent people to respond in anger and frustration,” Sims continued. “The reason people do things like this is they don’t have the courage, the education or gumption to do this kind of thing in person.”

Let this be a lesson to trolls everywhere: be careful what you’re posting ― it might just result in an early morning call to your grandmother!

– 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.

18 Adorable Mother’s Day Gifts For Moms Who Love To Travel

Know a mom who’s always on the move? Luckily, there are plenty of Mother’s Day options to satisfy her wanderlust. 

From practical options like luggage tags and travel journals to accessories like jewelry, the gifts below are for moms who always have their next destination in mind. 

Here are 18 Mother’s Day gifts for moms who love to travel:

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

– 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.

13 Times Latinos Refused To Stay Silent During Trump’s First 100 Days

President Donald Trump’s first 100 days have been an emotional and political rollercoaster for many, and Latinos did not sit idly by. 

Just days after taking office, Trump signed an executive order to begin construction on a U.S.-Mexico border wall and threatened to defund cities that refused to collaborate with federal immigration authorities. The administration’s immigration crackdown led to the deportation of at least one DACA recipient and one mother with no criminal record, among others. And at least one domestic violence victim was reportedly detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement while seeking court protection. 

Through it all, Latinos have refused to stay silent ― from America Ferrera’s rousing speech at the Women’s March to the undocumented Latina who took a viral tax form selfie and then asked Trump for his. 

Here are 13 times Latinos spoke up in solidarity with immigrants and their community: 

– 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.

Fox News Anchor: Employees Of Color Are Not Treated In ‘Fair And Balanced’ Way

Fox News veteran Kelly Wright, the only black man with an anchor position at the network, on Wednesday emotionally described being demeaned, marginalized, and prevented from advancing in his career due to racial bias.

“This hurts,” Wright said at the beginning of his remarks at a press conference, telling attendees that he’d prefer to be behind the anchor desk. 

But Wright was speaking out, he said, because Fox News leadership had “lost their way” and “failed to be fair and balanced to all of our employees regardless of race, gender, faith, creed, or color.” The network’s leaders, he said, “seemed to simply overlook the value of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.”

Wright is the most high-profile employee of color to join a growing group of current and former Fox News staffers alleging racial discrimination inside the company. On Tuesday, 11 current and former employees filed a class action suit against the network, parent company 21st Century Fox, Fox News general counsel Dianne Brandi, and former Fox News comptroller Judith Slater.

The class action suit follows a separate lawsuit against the network from two current and former employees, who in March alleged that they’d experienced “top-down racial harassment from Slater when she ran the payroll department. (Days before the March lawsuit was filed, Fox News announced that Slater had been fired and called her alleged behavior “abhorrent.”) Wigdor LLC is representing the plaintiffs in both of those cases. Adasa Blanco, another former Fox News employee, filed a separate suit Tuesday against the aforementioned defendants and an additional Fox News employee, Susan Lovallo.

The network has lately been rocked by widespread sexual harassment claims and lawsuits, prompting the departures of Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes in July and top-rated host Bill O’Reilly last week. Both men have denied the allegations.

On Monday, former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros ― who already sued over sexual harassment in August and is currently in arbitration ― alleged in a new suit that the network retaliated against her through illegal electronic surveillance and computer hacking.

The flurry of new allegations this week only raise more questions about whether the Murdoch family-led 21st Century Fox, which promised to clean up the network’s culture after the Ailes mess, is actually doing so. Complicating matters, 21st Century Fox is under pressure to convince British regulators it is a “fit and proper” company in order to complete its $14 billion takeover of Sky, a major satellite TV network.

A Fox News spokesperson said on Tuesday that the network would “vigorously defend” itself against the latest allegations.

“Fox News and Dianne Brandi vehemently deny the race discrimination claims in both lawsuits,” the spokesperson said. “They are copycat complaints of the original one filed last month.”

On Wednesday, 11 of the 13 employees of color represented by Wigdor, most of whom work or worked behind the scenes at Fox News, appeared before reporters and camera crews. Attorney Douglas Wigdor said additional Fox News employees had contacted his firm in the past 24 hours.

“Our clients are here because they have to be here,” Wigdor said. “Our clients are here to make sure that their sons and daughters don’t have to go through what they did. Our clients are here to give a voice to those who suffer in silence. And our clients are here to hold Fox News and its executives accountable for their actions.” 

In addition, Wigdor said that “if they don’t get their act in gear, 21st Century Fox ought to appropriately rename itself 18th Century Fox.”

Wigdor read a list of instances of “abhorrent racist behavior” allegedly committed by Slater ― behavior that his clients say was condoned by Fox News executives despite years of complaints.

According to Wigdor, Slater allegedly made black employees pronounce words for her, such as “mother,” father,” and “ask.” She allegedly suggested that black people were excessively violent, questioned whether black employees’ children had the same father, discussed the genitalia of Chinese men, called day laborers “cheap Mexicans,” and mocked a cancer survivor, among other claims of mistreatment.

Catherine Foti, an attorney representing Slater, said in a statement Tuesday that the lawsuits are “meritless and frivolous” and that all claims of racial discrimination against Ms. Slater are completely false.”

In a statement following Wednesday’s press conference, Foti took issue with Wigdor’s “incendiary language” and said the attorney “raising the shameful period of Jim Crow and plantations is outrageous and draws a comparison that demeans the atrocities committed during those times.”

Wright, an on-air talent, said the discrimination he faced was “more subtle,” yet still “demeaning.”

For instance, Wright alleged that O’Reilly rejected his proposal to discuss racial reconciliation on-air amid rising national tensions, instead suggesting Wright offer to sing the national anthem at a Fox News town hall. According to the suit, Wright, an Emmy Award-winning broadcaster, was “effectively sidelined and asked to perform the role of a ‘Jim Crow’ ― the racist caricature of a black entertainer.”

In addition, Wright alleged that O’Reilly declined to air his more uplifting stories on the African-American community because they portrayed black people in “too positive” a light.

Wright said he’d pleaded with Fox News executives over the past decade to allow journalists like himself to “show the accomplishments, contributions and brilliance within America’s communities, particularly communities of color.”

The intention, he said, wasn’t to overlook “the negative situations that do exist within black or Latino communities, but also to show the positive and inspiring people within those communities who proactively strive to right the wrongs and pave the way out of downtrodden and impoverished conditions through education, through faith, through fortitude and forgiveness.”

Wright said he’s heard all the arguments against working at Fox News, but countered that he has “the right to work there or anywhere in this country, not because of the color of my skin, but certainly because of the content of my character.”

This story has been updated to include a statement from Foti.

– 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.

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.”  

– 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.

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.

type=type=RelatedArticlesblockTitle=Related Coverage + articlesList=5728847ae4b016f378937469,578a3b5be4b0867123e17eb0,58b80b67e4b02a4e8dda8729,57ee5a38e4b0c2407cdd4d38

– 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.