Source: ICE is targeting ‘sanctuary cities’ with raids

(CNN)Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been targeting so-called “sanctuary cities” with increased enforcement operations in an effort to pressure those jurisdictions to cooperate with federal immigration agents, a senior US immigration official with direct knowledge of ongoing ICE actions told CNN.

A sanctuary city is a broad term applied to states, cities and/or counties that have policies in place designed to limit cooperation or involvement in the enforcement of federal immigration operations. More than 100 US jurisdictions — among them New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — identify as such.
High-ranking ICE officials have discussed in internal meetings carrying out more raids on those locations, said the source.
    This week, a federal judge in Texas seems to have confirmed that tactic. US Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin revealed during an immigration hearing Monday that a mid-February raid in the Austin metro area was done in retaliation for a local sheriff’s recent decision to limit her department’s cooperation with ICE.
    “There’s been questions about whether Austin is being targeted. We had a briefing…. that we could expect a big operation, agents coming in from out of town. There was going to be a specific operation, and it was at least related to us in that meeting that it was a result of the sheriff’s new policy that this was going to happen,” Austin says in audio of the proceedings provided by the court.
    The judge’s comments came as he questioned an ICE agent about a recent unrelated arrest.
    Austin said that in a late January meeting, local ICE officials told him and another federal judge that an upcoming enforcement operation was being done in direct response to Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s adoption of a sanctuary policy in Travis County.
    Earlier this year, Hernandez announced that beginning in February, her department would no longer honor ICE detainers unless the individual was arrested for murder, sexual assault or human trafficking, or a warrant had been issued. A detainer is a 48-hour hold request placed on suspected undocumented immigrants in local jails until federal agents can come in and take over the case.

    A showdown in Travis County, Texas

    It is a significant shift in the county’s immigration enforcement policy that has put the newly elected Democratic sheriff at odds with pro-enforcement local and state officials, including the Texas Senate, which recently passed a bill that withholds state dollars from sanctuary cities and Gov. Greg Abbott, who cut $1.5 million in funding to the county.
    Days after Hernandez enacted the new measure, a series of immigration raids in Austin netted 51 arrests, fueling speculation that the city was being intentionally targeted. The judge’s comments in open court have further fanned those flames.
    “My understanding, what was told to us, is that one of the reasons that happened was because the meetings that had occurred between the (ICE) field office director and the sheriff didn’t go very well,” said Judge Austin during the hearing. CNN reached out to the judge, but he declined to comment further.
    Hernandez refused to comment because she was not present at the meeting between the judges and immigration agents.
    ICE categorically denied any suggestion that planned operations were specifically aimed at the sheriff’s county.
    “Rumors and reports that recent ICE operations are specifically targeting Travis County, Texas, apart from normal operations, are inaccurate,” read a statement from ICE, although it did go on to say that “more ICE operational activity is required to conduct at-large arrests in any law enforcement jurisdiction that fails to honor ICE immigration detainers.”
    This increase in “operational activity” in sanctuary cities is one of the ways ICE is turning up on the heat on local authorities and part of a broader strategy to coerce cooperation, according to the senior immigration official who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity.
    Officials in several sanctuary cities began complaining that they may be getting intentionally targeted after a series of raids around the country in February resulted in almost 700 arrests, but ICE described these operations as routine and said they were planned during the previous administration.
    The senior immigration official pointed out that the raids overwhelmingly took place in sanctuary jurisdictions.
    According to a representative from a pro-immigrant organization, during a recent meeting between ICE and some non-governmental organizations shortly after this operation took place, concerned pro-immigrant advocates were told by a high-ranking ICE official that if their agents were not going to be granted access to local jails, they had no choice but to carry out large-scale apprehensions in other public places or homes.
    She said the message was clear: cooperate or expect more raids. She was shocked to discover that for the first time, anti-illegal immigration, pro-enforcement groups, such as the Center for Immigration Studies, which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, also had been invited to participate.
    Regular meetings between ICE and solely pro-immigrant groups were established in 2003 by the Bush administration in order to get the community’s input on enforcement actions and other concerns.
    ICE would not comment about those invited to the meeting.

    Enforcement actions are not random, ICE says

    ICE has denied that any enforcement operations are meant as retribution against sanctuary jurisdictions, and reiterates that the raids are a continuation of the agency’s normal actions aimed at keeping the public safe.
    “ICE regularly conducts targeted enforcement operations across the country to enhance public safety and national security, and to ensure the integrity of our nation’s immigration system,” the agency said in response to these allegations. “Our enforcement actions are not random and target specific violators based on prior intelligence.”
    What appears to be happening, however, is that the Trump administration has begun ratcheting up pressure on sanctuary cities.

    List of counties that declined detainers

    On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security published its first weekly report naming jurisdictions that refuse to hold and release immigrants who could be subject to deportation. Along with the nationwide list of places that have regularly failed to honor hold requests for individuals charged or convicted of a crime between January 28 and February 3, DHS also highlights the 10 counties that had the most declined detainers.
    Sheriff Hernandez’s Travis County in Texas is listed near the top. Based on the report, her jurisdiction had declined 128 ICE detainers and released dozens of inmates in that time period, a statistic that has intensified condemnations from her critics for her change in policy.
    The sheriff countered the report by saying that it covers the period just before her policy went into effect on Feb. 1, and that since then the number of declined detainer requests has gone down.
    President Donald Trump has argued that sanctuary cities endanger public safety and national security by harboring criminals and failing to turn over suspected and convicted criminals to federal authorities, thus the need for coordination with local authorities and enhanced enforcement operations.
    Throughout the campaign and since taking office, he has made cracking down on illegal immigration and sanctuary cities a top priority.
    Officials in most of these sanctuary cities have responded, however, by remaining steadfast in their commitment to sanctuary policies. But while some cities, including Los Angeles and New York, have recently adopted additional measures to protect their undocumented immigrant population, every indication is that they should brace themselves for more raids.

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    March 24, 2017

    Officer killed in London attack was father, 15-year veteran

    (CNN)Keith Palmer left for work on Wednesday expecting to return home.

    The assailant was shot dead near London’s Houses of Parliament after the chaotic rampage. The man drove a car through crowds of people, injuring dozens before crashing into a fence outside the Parliament building.
    Witnesses said he got out of his car brandishing a knife that he used to fatally stab Palmer.
      A member of the parliamentary and diplomatic protection command, Palmer was not carrying a gun, Metropolitan Police Acting Deputy Commissioner Mark Rowley said in an evening news conference.
      “He was someone who left for work today expecting to return home at the end of his shift and he had every right to expect that to happen,” Rowley said.
      Bystanders rushed to Palmer’s aid as he lay bleeding on the cobblestone street, including Conservative Member of Parliament Tobias Ellwood. But there was nothing they could do.
      “Keith Palmer was killed while bravely doing his duty, protecting our city and the heart of our democracy from those who want to destroy our way of life,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan said.
      “He personifies the brave men and women of our police and emergency services who work around the clock to keep us safe – tonight all Londoners are grateful to them.”
      Palmer was a 48-year-old married father with 15 years of service, Rowley said.
      At Scotland Yard, headquarters of London’s police service, flags were flying at half-staff on Wednesday evening, in honor of Palmer and the other victims.
      His death drew tributes from MPs including Conservative James Cleverly, who said he served with Palmer in the Royal Artillery before he became a “copper.”
      “A lovely man, a friend. I’m heartbroken,” Cleverly said on Twitter.
      The remaining victims have not been identified, other than that they were “members of the public” according to Rowley.

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      March 23, 2017

      Trump warns GOP: Don’t break your health care promises

      Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump, in an attempt to sell the GOP Republican health care plan, warned Republicans about breaking all those promises to repeal Obamacare they’ve made over the years.

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      March 22, 2017

      Anthony Bourdain wakes up to a London in shock after Brexit vote

      (CNN)The London (and England) show is another example of my crew and I heading out to do one thing and, due to a sudden change in circumstances, finding ourselves doing something else entirely.

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      March 21, 2017

      Anita Cobby murder: ‘Everyone in the car that dreadful night had a passport to doom’

      Thirty years after the trial of five men for the shocking attack on a Sydney nurse, then public defender Bill Hosking reflects on his part in it

      The tragedy that would shock the whole of Australia began just before 10pm on 2 February 1986. A registered nurse, 26-year-old Anita Cobby, had been having dinner with friends after finishing her shift at Sydney hospital on Macquarie Street, next to state Parliament House in the city.

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      March 20, 2017

      Chuck Berry didn’t just cross barriers — he obliterated them

      (CNN)Whatever else that can be said about Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene” when it shot out of America’s radios like a Redstone rocket in the bright late summer of 1955, one hard, true thing remains clear after those 62 years: Nothing like it ever existed before.

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      March 19, 2017

      Pill presses for counterfeit drugs seized in record numbers

      (CNN)Machines used to make counterfeit pills are reaching the US border in record numbers.

      US Customs and Border Protection is seizing pill presses at a rate 19 times higher than in 2011. That’s the year the synthetic drug fentanyl exploded in the US drug market, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
      While the Justice Department’s Drug Enforcement Administration deals with a national problem of synthetic fentanyl overdoses, these machines are playing a critical role in getting deadly counterfeit drugs onto American streets.
        “To the naked eye, you can’t tell the difference,” said John Martin, special agent in charge of the DEA’s San Francisco division. “If you have counterfeit pills, you can’t make them without pill presses.”
        Counterfeit pills marketed as oxycodone or Xanax but made with fentanyl can be deadly. Fentanyl is 25 to 50 times stronger than heroin and up to 100 times more potent than morphine.
        The painkiller was once found only in pharmacies but is now manufactured in China in synthetic form and widely available on the American black market.
        Pill presses — which can easily be bought online — allow someone to take powder and press it into a pill that looks legitimate. “People have died from ingesting what they think is a legitimate painkiller, (but really) it’s a counterfeit pill that contains fentanyl,” Martin said.
        Across the country, authorities have seen this play out.
        The death of pop icon Prince may turn out to be one of the most famous cases of counterfeit pills. Police reportedly found mislabeled pills laced with fentanyl in his home, and the drug was found in his system.
        And with the machines easily available, the demand high and the setup easier than ever, it means the potential profits are huge.
        Forty-three percent of America’s goods from outside the country arrive at the Port of Long Beach, California, according to US Customs and Border Protection. Authorities hold questionable pill press machines while they investigate whether they are coming into the country legally.
        Most come from China. That’s where much of the illegal fentanyl is manufactured, as well. Clandestine Chinese labs manufacture a synthetic version of fentanyl that iseasily bought on the dark Web. Mexican drug cartels later began to buy it and resell it across the border.
        Pill press machines themselves are not illegal, as long as they are properly registered with the DEA before they are shipped. But many of them are not.
        These devices vary in size from giant industrial electric ones, bigger than refrigerators, to plastic tabletop machines. Some can generate 170,000 pills per minute. CNN got exclusive access to the warehouse where they are kept.
        “With all the overdoses we’re seeing, the increase in overdoses in the last couple years, I think these types of interceptions are extremely important,” said Cheryl Davies, assistant port director at Los Angeles International Airport. “They have a lot of impact on our communities.”
        Finding the pill presses is difficult. Every 7.8 seconds, a new container is processed at the port. By checking manifests for key words and electronically scanning suspicious containers, customs agents have been able to find and seize dozens of illegally imported presses. Since 2013, there have been more than 80 seized.
        When they find one that is not properly registered, they alert law enforcement.
        In 2015, Customs alerted the DEA about one such pill press that arrived from China. The DEA got a warrant to place a GPS tracker inside the shipment and traced it to Gary Resnik, a 32-year-old man. When they searched Resnik’s home, agents found six pill presses and nearly 30 pounds of acetyl-fentanyl. The DEA alleges that Resnik and three other menwere importing the synthetic opiate, making their own pills and selling them in bulk. Authorities later charged Resnik and others with federal narcotics and money laundering in the Los Angeles area.
        Martin explained that pill presses have made it easier for drug dealers to make millions of dollars out of their homes, without being affiliated with any kind of big drug cartel.
        It’s cheap and easy to order wholesale fentanyl powder and a pill press online. For $5,000 to $6,000, Martin said, someone could potentially make $10 million worth of fake pills.

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        March 18, 2017

        Nikki Haley on North Korea talks: US has ‘been there, done that’

        Washington (CNN)UN Ambassador Nikki Haley offered a glimpse of the administration’s policy on North Korea as tensions mount in the region and the isolated nation continues to develop its nuclear weapons program.

        Haley’s comments in a Thursday interview on CNN’s Erin Burnett “OutFront” came as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made his first trip on the job to Asia, where he derided the US approach to the country during the past two decades and pledged a new path. In the CNN interview, Haley also said the US plans to recalibrate on the issue.
        “We don’t want to get back into the six-party talks,” Haley said, referring to the previous negotiating structure. “We’re not willing to do that. Been there, done that.”
          She said she is not speaking with North Korea’s envoy to the UN, and instead plans to call on China and Russia to get North Korea to reverse course on its efforts to increase its nuclear capabilities and develop intercontinental ballistic missiles.
          “We need other countries, specifically China and Russia, to step up and show us that they are as concerned with North Korea as we are,” Haley said.
          Asked if a preemptive strike would be on the table should China and Russia not put pressure on North Korea, Haley said she wouldn’t speak in hypotheticals but also said all options were open.

          About her boss

          The UN ambassador also said President Donald Trump was not lying on purpose when he said former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the campaign, even though members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have said there is no evidence for his claims.
          “He would never knowingly lie,” Haley said.
          As for whether she had Trump’s ear, Haley said she talks to him and his daughter, Ivanka Trump, adding that the President has allowed her freedom to speak her mind.
          “He allows me to do my job. He doesn’t tell me what to say,” Haley said.
          She also said that Trump had never told her how to approach Russia and that he was aware of what she said — which includes a great deal of criticism, especially regarding Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
          During the campaign, the South Carolina governor criticized Trump on multiple occasions. Since joining the administration, though, Haley has defended Trump on a host of issues.
          She denied that his legally embattled executive order restricting travel from several Muslim-majority nations was a “Muslim ban,” and defended his use of Twitter.
          “I think he’s fine if he’s on Twitter,” Haley said. “You’re not going to stop him from tweeting any more than you’re going to stop me from tweeting.”

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          March 17, 2017

          Five Republican-nominated judges signal support for travel ban

          (CNN)Five Republican-appointed judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals signaled their support for the legal underpinnings of President Donald Trump’s travel ban late Wednesday in an unusual and unsolicited filing.

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          March 16, 2017

          Deadly cobra on the loose in central Florida

          (CNN)The search continues for a deadly cobra that escaped from an enclosure at the home of its owner in Ocala, said the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

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          March 15, 2017