Letter from Rep Mike Kelly on Separation of Children from Parents at the Border

As a follow up to my call last week and an email on the same subject, Rep. Mike Kelly sent this email to me answering whether or not there is a law requiring the separation of children from asylum seeking families. See this post for my answer from his staff.

June 15, 2018

Dear Mr. Throckmorton,

Thank you for contacting me with your concerns regarding President Trump’s zero-tolerance policy for criminal illegal entry into the United States. I greatly appreciate that you have taken the time to contact me on this important issue.

In April of 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memorandum for all federal prosecutors with instructions to follow when prosecuting cases related to illegal immigration. Congress has already codified many of these actions, which have been sporadically applied over the years. This includes prioritizing cases involving the unlawful transportation or harboring of aliens, especially when the individual was illegally brought into the United States to facilitate future criminal activities. The memo also directs prosecutors to pursue cases involving entry into the country by individuals who have already been convicted for illegal entry in the past, especially when the defendant has a criminal history, gang affiliation, or other aggravating circumstances.

Since 1997, it has been U.S. policy to release undocumented immigrant children rather than hold them in federal custody while their cases are considered. Children are released first to their parents if possible, to other adult relatives if not, and to licensed programs if no relatives are available. This policy was confirmed in 2015 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which clarified the requirement for the federal government to quickly release undocumented children, regardless of whether they were apprehended at the border alone or with family members, and even if their parents are facing criminal proceedings. Under the Administration’s memorandum, immigrants who are prosecuted for crossing the border illegally will be able to apply for asylum, but may be detained while their cases are considered. If granted asylum, any conviction for illegally entering the country is vacated. Families who do not illegally enter the country and instead use the legal process of requesting asylum at ports of entry are kept together while their request is processed.

The United States has the world’s most generous immigration system – one which attracts individuals and families from around the globe seeking security and their own experiences of the American Dream. While we should continue to draw on this spirit of acceptance and understanding, this cannot come at the cost of violating the U.S. rule of law. Children should not be subject to detention in federal custody, but failure to prosecute crimes related to illegal entry only encourages further criminal activity, endangering the lives of immigrants and U.S. citizens alike.

A recent report by the Department of Homeland Security showed a 315% increase in illegal aliens fraudulently using children to pose as family units to gain entry into the country in the past two years. These individuals have attempted to take advantage of previous leniency to commit horrendous crimes like human trafficking. It is critical that the United States maintains the rule of law and discourages future criminal activity while maintaining our status as a welcoming nation for unjustly persecuted persons and those in countries of conflict. Rest assured, I will continue to monitor this situation and will keep your thoughts in mind should any relevant legislation come before me for a vote.

Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this important issue. Please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff if I can be of assistance in the future. It is an honor and a privilege to represent Western Pennsylvania in the United States Congress.

If you would like to hear more from me on this issue and others, please subscribe to my newsletter at www.kelly.house.gov.

Sincerely, 


Mike Kelly
Member of Congress

I continue to look into the specifics of this tragedy. A briefing by the Dept. of Homeland Security on Friday revealed that nearly 2,000 children had been removed from their parents, some of which were from asylum seeking parents.

I followed up with a specific question asking about a law (there isn’t one) and whether or not he might be mistaken about asylum seeking families being separated. According to news reports, such families are experiencing separation no matter where they present themselves. I intend to keep an open mind, however, because there are so many conflicting reports.

Rep. Mike Kelly’s Office: There is No Law that Requires Separation of Children from Asylum Seeking Families

UPDATE: On the 15th I received a letter from Mike Kelly’s office in response to an email I sent asking the same questions as in this post. See the letter here.

……………..

Today, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeated Donald Trump’s false claim that there is a law that requires children be removed from their asylum seeking parents at the U.S. border. Watch:

Because I couldn’t find a law nor has anyone supporting the policy cited a specific law, I called my representative Mike Kelly (R-PA). The fellow who answered the phone (I didn’t get his name) said he would help me find that law. As he searched for it, he engaged in a bit of discussion with me about people illegally crossing the border. However, my question was about those presenting for asylum with children together as a family.

After searching and talking for about 10 minutes, Rep. Kelly’s staffer concluded that there is no law requiring the separation of children from their parents. He indicated that the practice fell within the jurisdiction of the border agencies and immigration officials and ultimately the Trump administration.

Thus, according to the office of my Trump supporting Republican representative, President Trump and Sarah Huckabee Sanders are deceiving the American people by saying there is a law which they are simply enforcing. 

How low can Sanders and company go? Today she invoked the Bible after Jeff Sessions also did to justify this awful policy. Watch the video above to the end.

In one way, I am glad that Kelly’s office acknowledged that there is no law requiring the Trump administration policy. However, on the other hand, it is discouraging to know that Rep. Kelly must silently know that the story being sold to the American people is false.

Yesterday, Liberty Counsel Celebrated Christian Freedom Day

Yesterday, like presidents before him, President Trump issued a proclamation commemorating Thomas Jefferson’s work in writing Virginia’s

Cover of Getting Jefferson Right, used by permission
Cover of Getting Jefferson Right, used by permission

Statute for Religious Freedom (full text here) which was adopted by the Virginia legislature on January 16, 1786. The law ended the establishment of the Anglican church in Virginia and recognized freedom of conscience in the state.
Jefferson meant for that freedom of conscience to extend beyond Christian denominations to all religions or none. However, ultra-conservative Liberty Counsel does not appear to recognize the breadth of Jefferson’s work. In their press release, the Statute on Religious Freedom is described as follows:

Religious Freedom Day is celebrated in America each year on January 16 to commemorate the 232nd anniversary of the passing of the 1786 passage of Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom that ended the state-established church in Virginia, finally protecting religious rights for all denominations. The Anglicans had fined, persecuted, jailed and murdered Christians who were not part of the state-established church. However, Jefferson, a lifelong fervent advocate for the rights of religious liberty and religious conscience, worked hard to protect and defend those Christians. (emphasis added)

Liberty Counsel’s presser refers to denominations of Christianity and to Jefferson’s work to defend Christians. In the past, Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver has questioned the status of Islam as a religious worthy of First Amendment protection. Staver is also of the David Barton school of thought regarding the First Amendment — that the purpose of it was to prevent a Christian denomination from being established. In other words, when the First Amendment says religion, it means Christianity.

What Did Jefferson Mean?

In fact, there was an effort in the Virginia legislature to limit the scope of Virginia’s statute to Christians during debate on the bill. Jefferson wrote about it in his autobiography:

The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason & right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally past; and a singular proposition proved that it’s protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read “departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion” the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it’s protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Islam], the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.

According to Jefferson, the effort did not succeed. He meant his religious freedom bill to cover all people, of all religious ideas or no religious ideas.

What Religious Freedom Really Means Now

Ultimately, religious freedom at this particular time for this particular group means the freedom to discriminate against people, usually GLBT people in providing public services. In general, I think those who provide services to the public should provide them to GLBT people, even if they personally disagree with some aspect of those they serve.
But that’s just me and my beliefs. I know others believe differently, and the beauty of this nation is that they are free to believe it. What we will find out over the next few years is if they are free to discriminate based on that belief.

Breaking: Pakistani Supreme Court Stays the Execution of Asia Bibi

FreeAsiaBibiPakistani journalists are tweeting that Asia Bibi’s execution has been stayed. See below:


Ajmal Jami is a correspondent for Dunyan News.
I will add details and additional confirmation as it becomes available. Here is another news report about the stay of execution. And this from Dawn News also confirms the news. It doesn’t appear that Bibi is completely out of the woods but she has a stay on her sentence as of now.


For background, see this link
.

Prayers for Asia Bibi; Appeal Set for July 22

FreeAsiaBibiAccording to this Christian Today report, Christian housewife and mother Asia Bibi has one more chance for freedom. See also this report from the British-Pakistani Christian Association which provided the basis for the CT report.
Even if she is released, there are reports of a $5000 bounty for her life.
I recall many efforts to secure her freedom, from a British legislator to the mayor of Paris to the Pope.
Islamabad, Pakistan is nine hours ahead of us so it will be Wednesday very soon. Join me in praying for Bibi’s release and safety.

Bryan Fischer Minimizes Slavery to Attack Gays

no Confederate flagOf late, lots of conservatives are voicing opposition to the Confederate flag. However, at least one can’t get his mind off gays long enough to join in.
Demoted AFA spokesperson Bryan Fischer minimizes slavery and the symbolism of the Confederate flag to attack gays.  In an op-ed on something called “Cowgernation,” Fischer rants:
 

But if we are going to remove symbols of oppression from our culture, why stop with the Confederate flag? By any objective measure, the rainbow flag of the Gay Reich should be next.

Comparing American slavery to some bakers who were fined for not baking a cake, Fischer accuses gay lobbyists of being slave owners:

The slaveholding South has risen again, after a fashion, only this time all the plantations are owned and operated by the Human Rights Campaign. In today’s world, even if its critics are right, the Confederacy ain’t got nothing on the haters in the homosexual movement.

One may agree with the bakers and still cringe when someone compares American slavery with doing business now.
More disturbing is the fact that Fischer can’t bring himself to condemn the Confederacy (“even if its critics are right,” he says, implying they aren’t).
 

Briefs and Updates: Uganda, Scott Lively, Mars Hill Church, IOTC and Steven Sotloff

I am not surprised that Uganda’s Parliament will again debate an Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The world famous bill passed Parliament late last year and was signed by President Museveni earlier this year only to be thrown out by a Ugandan court due to a procedural problem during passage.
[youtube]http://youtu.be/F5Jll-VG0JA[/youtube]
Scott Lively says he’ll drop out of the MA governor’s race if his tea party opponent wins the GOP nomination. Reaction from the rest of MA? Crickets.
In light of Mark Driscoll’s 6 week break, September’s Mars Hill Church vision breakfast has been cancelled.
Instead of executive elder Dave Bruskas, Josh McPherson of Grace City Church in Wenatchee, WA will preach this Sunday at Mars Hill Church – Bellevue.
I note the following tweet and am working to confirm:


 
MD Del. Herb McMillan wants to make it very clear that he does not endorse Michael Peroutka for Anne Arundel County Council. If only GOP Attorney General candidate Jeffrey Pritzker would be as vocal. In light of Peroutka’s statement impying that Pritzker agreed with his views, I wrote Pritzker a couple of days ago for a clarification. So far no answer.
Join me in prayer for the family of Steven Sotloff.

Institute on the Constitution Pretends to Have an American Club at Calvin College

The Institute on the Constitution is a pro-Confederacy, Christian reconstructionist organization based in Pasadena, MD. Recently, they have promoted clubs in high schools and colleges called American Clubs. IOTC makes the ACs sound like an all-American enterprise but the presentations promote the merger of Christian reconstructionist religious views and civil government. Peroutka teaches that any law not in line with the Bible is not a real law. IOTC also promotes nullification which proposes that states and local jurisdictions can ignore federal laws if officials in the local jurisdictions believe the law to be unconstitutional. They are certainly entitled to their views and apparently these clubs have equal access, but parents should be aware of what the IOTC is bringing to school.
I don’t know how these clubs are being received in schools. There is one in Spanish River High School in FL. And Peroutka recently put pictures on his Facebook page of what he said was a high school in Hudsonville, MI. Other pictures of the same school room had a caption placing the school in nearby Grand Rapids.  While in Michigan, he also visited Calvin College and according to his Facebook page said an American Club had been established. However, according to Calvin College representatives, there is no approved American Club on campus. A group of students heard a talk but there is no officially recognized club at Calvin College.
That fact hasn’t stopped IOTC from using the picture of the Calvin College students as a promotional picture on their website for the American Clubs. See below:

Now compare this picture with the Facebook picture of the Calvin College group. They are the same.
In a way, it is fitting that IOTC is pretending that the Calvin group is a club. IOTC pretends to be a pro-American group when in fact Peroutka is a former board member of the League of the South, a group that advocates for the South to secede from the nation and set up a white Southern homeland. Senior instructor David Whitney at IOTC is the chaplain of the VA/MD branch of IOTC. Peroutka called the Confederate army the real American army in a op-ed on the IOTC website. Articles on the IOTC website justify discrimination and Southern slavery and attack Lincoln. As with the picture, there is a lot of pretending going on.
 
 

Who Will Replace Fred Phelps?

Hopefully, he won’t be replaced but there are those who come close.
By now, most people know that the pastor of Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps, died earlier this month (March 19). Phelps was the personification of hatred toward gay people along with the church which was mostly his family members. I am sure others have speculated about who could replace Phelps so this might not break much new ground. However, I thought of this list while reading about Martin Ssempa’s march to celebrate the passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda.
Most people, me included, do not want to see a replacement for Phelps. It is tragic to be known for one’s hatred and such a stance is surely a misrepresentation of Christianity. But there are those who seem to want the position. I’ll start with the reason this post even came to mind.
Martin Ssempa: Today, Ssempa is leading a march in Uganda to celebrate the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill late last year.  A person who would celebrate a law that makes life in prison a possibility for simple affection between two consenting adults has to be on the short list for a Phelps replacement. Once known primarily for his work in Uganda against HIV/AIDS, now he is known world wide as one of the most vocal and absurd anti-gay crusaders. His pornography shows in Kampala and hateful rhetoric rival Phelps for showmanship and degradation. Ssempa seems to revel in his status as an anti-gay icon in Uganda and in the United States. In fact, he is on the list while bill sponsor David Bahati is not, because Ssempa has cultivated his image in the U.S.
Paul Cameron: Paul Cameron has been discredited widely but still finds his way to the media, recently telling a talk show host that he would be open to the death penalty for sexually active gays. In the past, he has suggested that the Nazis methods of handling gays might also have merit. Cameron has for years called for criminalization of homosexuality and has produced mountains of junk studies to attempt to vindicate his views.
Scott Lively: Many might place Lively at the top of the list because he is widely believed to be the force behind the Uganda bill and the tightening of laws in the Soviet bloc nations. He favors laws which limit free speech on homosexuality but doesn’t favor the death penalty as did Ssempa before the law was amended. He says he favors rehabilitation and has often cited NARTH as a favored organization. Where he rivals Phelps is with his historical fiction book, The Pink Swastika, which essentially lays blame for the Holocaust on homosexuality.
James David Manning: Like many people who yell fire in a crowded room, this New York City preacher posted provocative rhetoric and then said he didn’t mean anything hateful. Manning posted “Jesus would stone homos” on his church sign and then said later he is not a hater. We’ll have to see if he escalates his rhetoric once the attention dies down.
Christian Reconstructionists: Many adherents of Christian reconstructionism (like this supporter of Ron Paul)  think gays along with disobedient children and adulterers should be stoned.  I am not sure any one of these fellows is going to rise up to the status of Phelps but their belief in their view of Mosaic law could be a foundation for such a move.
Some might object to my omission of Bryan Fischer. Fischer gets a dishonorable mention because he parrots some of Lively’s and Cameron’s views but doesn’t seem to want to kill gays. Criminalize same-sex relationships yes, but not kill them.
I hope it is clear that the focus here is not disagreement over biblical interpretation or moral objection to same-sex behavior, but rather the obsessive effort to demonize an entire group of people. Certainly, Ssempa, Cameron, Lively and Manning have demonstrated the latter. We don’t yet know the full consequences of their work.
Update on Ssempa’s march: At least three dudes showed up.