Two senators are demanding that Amazon explain how it comes up with its well-known “Amazon Choice” label, a mark of distinction that earns certain products preferred placement with the retail platform.
In a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos, Sens. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut have asked the tech giant to explain how products get designated as Amazon’s Choice, voicing fears that consumers might be getting hoodwinked into buying products that are not worthwhile due to fake reviews.
“We are concerned the badge is assigned in an arbitrary manner, or worse, based on fraudulent product reviews. While we recognize that Amazon has taken actions in the past to combat fraudulent reviews, the problem persists, and Amazon may be exacerbating the problem by actively promoting products with fraudulent reviews,” the two senators, both Democrats, wrote.
A number of recent reports have said that Amazon is flooded with thousands of fake reviews and the Federal Trade Commission has been looking into the matter as well.
The letter makes a range of demands, including that Amazon reveal exactly how products get recommended for the program, whether an algorithm is informing the company’s decisions about the program, and whether actual humans review the products to make sure they are worthy of the special label.
The Seattle-based company, which debuted the Amazon Choice label in 2015, has until Sept. 16 to respond to lawmakers’ questions. The description on the site says, “Amazon’s Choice recommends highly rated, well-priced products available to ship immediately.”
As other news outlets have noted for years, it remains a mystery how a product earns the designation.
A spokesperson for Amazon gave Fox News the following statement via email on Tuesday:
“Amazon invests significant resources to protect the integrity of reviews in our store because we know customers value the insights and experiences shared by fellow shoppers. Even one inauthentic review is one too many. We have clear participation guidelines for both reviewers and selling partners and we suspend, ban and take legal action on those who violate our policies.“
The company uses a combination of teams of investigators and automated technology to prevent and detect inauthentic reviews, and to take action against the bad actors behind the abuse; the company estimates that 90 percent of inauthentic reviews are computer generated. The spokesperson continued: “We work hard to enrich the shopping experience for our customers and selling partners with authentic reviews written by real customers. Customers can help by reporting any requests they get to manipulate reviews to customer service.”
CLEAR LAKE, Iowa — Former Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado is in discussions about ending his presidential bid and entering the race for his state’s Republican-held Senate seat, potentially giving Democrats a strong candidate in a race they must win to have hopes of retaking the chamber in 2021, according to four Democrats familiar with his thinking.
Mr. Hickenlooper, who is mired at the bottom of public polling of the presidential race, hopped into Senator Michael Bennet’s car on Friday night in this Northern Iowa town to discuss his impending decision, said Democrats familiar with the discussion, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe confidential talks.
The two drove around Clear Lake for about 20 minutes ahead of the Wing Ding dinner, a Democratic fund-raiser that drew 21 presidential candidates. Aides and advisers to the two men, who have been both allies and rivals over their careers in Colorado politics, declined to reveal what was discussed.
Officials who have been in discussions with the Hickenlooper campaign said Tuesday that the former two-term governor is giving serious consideration to switching to the Senate race but stressed that a final decision has not yet been made. Short of a massive change in political momentum, Mr. Hickenlooper is certain to fail to qualify for the next round of presidential debates in September, an additional blow to a campaign struggling to attract attention and financial contributions.
A spokesman for Mr. Hickenlooper, Peter Cunningham, declined to comment on the former governor’s plans or what was discussed during his Friday night drive with Mr. Bennet, who is also running for president. A Bennet aide also declined to comment on their discussion.
Recent days have brought unsubtle messages that high-ranking Democratic officials in Colorado and Washington believe Mr. Hickenlooper is in the wrong race.
The Denver Post on Sunday published polling done on behalf of “a national Democratic group involved in Senate races” that showed Mr. Hickenlooper holding a 51-point lead over two other Democrats in the state’s 2020 Senate race.
On Monday, the 314 Action Fund, a super PAC that backs candidates who are scientists, announced a “Draft Hick for Senate” campaign along with a poll it commissioned showing Mr. Hickenlooper leading Senator Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican seeking re-election, by 13 percentage points in a head-to-head matchup.
[We asked Mr. Hickenlooper and other Democratic presidential hopefuls the same set of 18 questions.Watch them answer.]
Colorado is key to Democratic hopes of retaking a Senate majority in the 2020 election. Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, has spent months trying to recruit Mr. Hickenlooper to enter the contest to face Mr. Gardner. Mr. Hickenlooper would join a Democratic primary that already has 11 declared candidates, including Mike Johnston, a former state senator who placed third in the 2018 Democratic primary for governor; Andrew Romanoff, a former Colorado House speaker; John Walsh, a former United States attorney for Colorado; and Dan Baer, a former Obama administration official.
Mr. Hickenlooper has pooh-poohed his interest in running for the Senate. In February he told reporters in Iowa that he is “not cut out to be a senator.”
Democrats must win a net of three Republican-held Senate seats and win the White House to take control of the Senate.
Mr. Hickenlooper in recent weeks has seen an exodus of senior campaign aides, who advised him in the spring to end his presidential bid if his fund-raising and polling status did not improve by the end of July. He qualified and participated in the first two televised debates in June and July, but his performances were not memorable and there has been little improvement in his fund-raising, according to people familiar with his campaign’s finances.
During the three-month fund-raising period that ended June 30, Mr. Hickenlooper raised $1.1 million and spent $1.7 million, an unsustainable pattern for a candidate who has not caught fire with voters. He had $800,000 in his campaign account at the end of June, according to his Federal Election Commission report.
Mr. Johnston and Mr. Baer each raised more campaign funds for their Senate campaigns in the second quarter than Mr. Hickenlooper did for his presidential bid.
Yet when he appeared before Democratic activists in Clear Lake Friday night, Mr. Hickenlooper appeared unbowed. Amid the sounds of people chattering and eating their baked beans and pulled pork, he said his case for the presidency relies on his stature as a chief executive untarred by Washington politics.
“My plan to beat Donald Trump is to start by looking at our history,” Mr. Hickenlooper said. “No sitting senator has ever beaten an incumbent president. Go backwards with Clinton to Reagan to Carter to Roosevelt to Woodrow Wilson, all former governors who defeated incumbent presidents. Just want to make that clear — governors are closer to the people.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Tuesday said he’ll ask President Trump to withdraw his request for $5 billion in border wall construction funds, and to instead use that money to battle gun violence and white-supremacist extremism following two deadly mass shootings this month.
Schumer’s office said he will formally petition the president to put the funding toward gun violence research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Homeland Security counterviolent extremism programs, FBI domestic-terrorism investigations and other programs.
“The dual scourges of gun violence and violent white supremacist extremism in this country are a national security threat, plain and simple, and it’s time the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress starting treating them as such,” Schumer said in a statement.
“Now Republicans and this administration need to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to addressing gun violence and stopping the rise of domestic terrorism, especially stemming from white supremacy,” the statement continued.
In February, Trump used a national emergency declaration to divert funding from the Pentagon for his long-promised border wall. He took that tack after Congressional Democrats refused to fund the project.
Schumer’s request came after CQ Roll Call reported that Senate Republicans were looking to divert about $5 billion from a domestic spending bill to fund the wall. The shootings in Texas and Ohio earlier this month have intensified the pressure on lawmakers to address gun violence and white nationalism,
The gunman in El Paso, Texas, who killed 22 people inside a Walmart targeted Hispanic immigrants.
Fox News’ Caroline McKee contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON — Elliott Broidy worked his way through school at a laundromat and later became wealthy as a venture capitalist and defense contractor. Along the way, he became a pillar in the Jewish community of Los Angeles and an influential Republican fund-raiser.
In the early days of the Trump administration, Mr. Broidy worked to influence America’s foreign relations. He is under federal investigation into possible violations of lobbying laws. And his arrangements with the government of the United Arab Emirates and a Malaysian financier are of particular interest to prosecutors.
Mr. Broidy’s associate was paid by the United Arab Emirates.
During the week of festivities around the inauguration, Mr. Broidy met an adviser to the United Arab Emirates, George Nader, whom he saw as an entry point to potentially lucrative business opportunities in the Middle East.
For the next several months, the two men worked closely while Mr. Nader was paid millions of dollars by the United Arab Emirates. During that time, Mr. Broidy started a campaign against Qatar, a small country in the Middle East with American military facilities that has long been considered a strategic ally of the United States.
With access to the president and top aides, Mr. Broidy promoted Qatar’s regional rivals, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two countries from which he was seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts for his private security and intelligence firm, Circinus. Federal prosecutors are investigating these financial connections.
Donations to think tanks and a nonprofit helped drive the anti-Qatar effort.
As part of the anti-Qatar campaign, Mr. Broidy donated $240,000 to a nonprofit media outlet, American Media Institute. That organization produced articles critical of Qatar and pieces favorable to Mr. Broidy’s clients and prospective clients.
Mr. Broidy also donated money to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Hudson Institute, two Washington think tanks, for conferences with speakers critical of Qatar. Mr. Broidy said the donations were from his own money. But in some of his communications with Mr. Nader, Mr. Broidy described the Emiratis and the Saudis as the clients of the advocacy campaign.
Mr. Broidy was an avid player of Washington’s influence game.
In 2009, Mr. Broidy was shunned by Republicans after he admitted paying off New York State officials to win an investment from the state pension fund. But Mr. Broidy regained his status when he became a major fund-raiser for Mr. Trump’s campaign and his inauguration, securing him a second chance at being a Republican power broker.
From this perch, Mr. Broidy offered inauguration tickets to officials from Angola, the Republic of Congo and Romania — three countries he courted for contracts that could have been worth as much as $266 million.
Mr. Broidy’s checkered past and access to Mr. Trump were not unique.
Mr. Broidy became the deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee. He resigned last year after it was revealed that he had agreed to pay $1.6 million in hush money to a former Playboy model with whom he had an affair. Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, advised Mr. Broidy on the arrangement.
Other administrations have closely examined the backgrounds of influential supporters, though that is a lower priority in this administration.
For example, Paul Manafort, the former chairman of Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, earned millions working for foreign dictators and business leaders. Mr. Manafort is now serving time for financial crimes.
The chairman of Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee and close friend, Thomas J. Barrack Jr., is under investigation for possible lobbying violations.
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China has rejected requests for two U.S. Navywarships to visit Hong Kong as massive, weekslong pro-democracy protests continue to roil the former British colony, a U.S. defense official told Fox News.
The USS Green Bay and USS Lake Erie were scheduled for port visits in Hong Kong this Saturday and in September, respectively, but the Chinese government has denied the requests, U.S. Pacific Fleet deputy spokesman Cmdr. Nate Christensen said Tuesday.
“The U.S. Navy has a long track record of successful port visits to Hong Kong, and we expect them to continue,” Christensen said. “We refer you to the Chinese government for further information about why they denied the request.”
The USS Green Bay, seen here, had been scheduled for a port visit on Saturday. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Spc. 3rd Class Kevin V. Cunningham, File)
Protests have taken place in the Hong Kong region for more than two months now, as tens of thousands demand that Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam step down and that the government pull legislation that would allow it to extradite criminal suspects to mainland China. The fear is that on the mainland, those suspects would face unfair trials and torture.
Protesters are also calling for an independent probe into the alleged abuse of power by the police.
Protesters shut down Hong Kong International Airport for the second day in a row on Tuesday. All flights were canceled Monday as protesters occupied the main terminal, and flights were again canceled Tuesday.
The airport is one of the world’s busiest, and the closure is said to have a major impact on the tourism industry there.
On Tuesday, President Trump tweeted about the protests in Hong Kong.
“Many are blaming me, and the United States, for the problems going on in Hong Kong. I can’t imagine why?” he wrote.
The president later tweeted, “Our Intelligence has informed us that the Chinese Government is moving troops to the Border with Hong Kong. Everyone should be calm and safe,” referring to the clashes of police and pro-democracy protesters.
MILWAUKEE — An energized crowd of 500 packed into a mixed-use space here on a summer Sunday afternoon to hear a rousing stump speech from Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, who was making the final stop in a 12-day campaign blitz in a state that won’t hold its primary until April.
“A Democratic victory flows through cities like this,” Mr. Booker said afterward, noting that if voter turnout in Milwaukee, a heavily Democratic city where 40 percent of residents are black, had been as high in 2016 as it was for former President Barack Obama’s two elections, Wisconsin would have remained blue.
Seeking fresh energy for a presidential campaign that has lagged in the polls despite well-received performances in the debates, Mr. Booker was the latest candidate to detour from the conventional quartet of early-voting states to hold rallies in Detroit, Philadelphia and now Milwaukee, three cities where outsize turnout will be key to Democrats winning back Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin next November.
Mr. Booker’s plea to voters here was both personal and immediate, a primary pitch that he is the best candidate to re-energize the fractured Obama coalition and restore the black vote in key states Hillary Clinton lost by focusing on big cities that saw a drop in turnout. He argues that the path to defeating President Trump must involve black voters in these cities, and that Democrats cannot simply focus on disaffected white voters elsewhere.
“I’m the only candidate in this race who lives in a low-income, black and brown community,” Mr. Booker told the crowd here, a response he regularly gives when asked what sets him apart in the vast field of two dozen candidates.
On Gun Control, 2020 Democrats Agree: No Reason to Hold Back
Aug 12, 2019
“I see our country right now with so many places like Newark, like Milwaukee, like Chicago, like Baltimore,” he said. “There is something going on in our country right now where we are failing to have the necessary courageous empathy, where we see each other.”
The repeated and direct attention to swing-state cities at this early stage in the primary reflects a growing urgency to address the failures of the 2016 Democratic campaign, as well as the belief that Mr. Trump could win again if the party focuses on appealing to white, blue-collar swing voters in the Rust Belt, and makes less frequent overtures to core constituencies like people of color and young people.
“Three years ago, we didn’t show up to vote,” said Mandela Barnes, the lieutenant governor of Wisconsin and a Milwaukee native, as he introduced Mr. Booker on Sunday. “And it’s not that Donald Trump was some super-popular candidate. He got 6,000 fewer votes than Mitt Romney. We just have to show up.”
Mr. Booker makes the pitch that he is the best candidate to re-energize the fractured Obama coalition of voters.CreditLauren Justice for The New York Times
A national effort already underway
Evidence of the growing and focused effort on increasing turnout in cities like Milwaukee is abundant.
Priorities USA, a major Democratic super PAC, has launched an aggressive digital ad campaign in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida, attacking the economic policies of the Trump administration. The group plans to spend $250,000 to $400,000 per week by late August.
The group is also spending $4 million to mobilize voters for the 2019 off-year elections. Though the group hasn’t detailed how that money will be distributed, many cities, including Philadelphia, are holding mayoral elections this year.
And for the past eight weeks, the Democratic National Committee has been training a group of college juniors, mostly from communities of color, to eventually work on the 2020 campaign, work-shopping best practices for door-knocking, phone-banking and recruiting.
In Michigan, the program, known as Organizing Corps 2020, had 45 organizers on the ground in the Detroit area this summer. They focused on proactive outreach, informing residents of recent changes to voting procedures, like the start of same-day voter registration and expanded access to absentee voting.
Here in Wisconsin, Jadah Cunningham, a rising senior at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, was one of 30 Organizing Corps members who canvassed every ward in Milwaukee, knocking on more than 20,000 doors, with a mandate to “bridge-build” while learning the ropes of the grunt work of field organizing.
“I think that that’s part of why Organizing Corps in Milwaukee exists in the first place,” Ms. Cunningham said. “The margins that we can win or lose by in 2020 are field margins, or margins that we, the 30 of us this summer, could potentially make up.”
Though the 2020 election may still feel far off, the goal of the Organizing Corps is to build an early bench of young people of color who are prepared to work in their own communities as organizers and field staff.
Central to the training effort this summer was combating voter suppression in cities. In his stump speech, Mr. Booker frequently references the 2018 governor’s race in Georgia, where Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee, was narrowly defeated amid accusations of voter suppression, particularly in black communities.
Though Mr. Booker boasted during the July debate that he was the only candidate talking about the suppression of black voters, the broader Democratic coalition is currently fighting to expand the electorate on both legal and organizing grounds.
The Priorities USA Foundation, a nonprofit group that is separate from the super PAC, is currently involved in voting rights litigation in Iowa, Missouri, New Hampshire and Florida.
The D.N.C. has already created a voter suppression hotline and an online resource guide, and the Organizing Corps has been reaching out in communities that were inundated with misinformation during the last presidential campaign.
Here in Milwaukee, that means focusing heavily on areas like the 53206 ZIP code, in which 95 percent of residents are black and the majority of men have been incarcerated.
“In the rest of the country, there’s a Democratic primary going on,” said Ben Wikler, the chairman of the state Democratic Party. “In Wisconsin, we’re already starting the general election.”
The state party in Michigan has created a dedicated, full-time position of voting rights director whose sole job will be taking a proactive approach to protecting voting rights in the state, such as tracking any purges of voter rolls.
Ask any expert whether Democrats can rely solely on these cities, however, and the answer is often a resounding “no.”
Priorities USA gamed out two general-election scenarios last month. In one, if the overall turnout from people of color drops two percentage points from current national poll numbers, the Democratic nominee will most likely lose the election. In the other, if support for the Democrat among white working-class voters drops one percentage point below current polling averages, the Democrat will also probably lose.
“It really is trying to find the sweet spot,” said Patrick Murray, the director of polling at Monmouth University. “The debate so far has been really focused on winning back that white, blue-collar, working-class vote. But it’s right to get your urban vote excited about you as well.”
Mr. Booker argues that the path to defeating President Trump isn’t uniquely defined by a laser-focus on disaffected white voters, but also black voters in cities like Detroit.CreditMaddie McGarvey for The New York Times
An increasingly common campaign swing
Many of the Democratic candidates are making similar deviations from the state fairs, county dinners and fish fries of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — the four states that are first to vote.
Senator Bernie Sanders dipped into a coffee shop meet-and-greet in Milwaukee, and Senator Elizabeth Warren campaigned there after unveiling her immigration platform. Senator Kamala Harris has made multiple trips to Detroit. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. anchored his campaign in Philadelphia.
And national Democrats continue to telegraph the importance of these cities with major events: The July debates were held in Detroit; next summer’s convention will be in Milwaukee.
At the Booker rally, voters were relieved to see the growing attention paid to these cities amid a primary in which the four early-voting states always carry outsize import.
In Milwaukee, “it’s the same problem with what’s going on in the U.S.A. right now,” said Steve Morehead, 42, a lifelong resident. He said he believed cities like his hometown were being left behind.
Mr. Booker was the first candidate Mr. Morehead had seen in person this cycle, but he said he hadn’t yet decided whom to support.
Set against the national debate over gun control following the mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Mr. Booker spoke at length about the scourge of gun violence and its outsize impact on places like Milwaukee, drawing on similar themes as he did in a speech last week in Charleston, S.C.
“We pledge to be a nation of liberty and justice for all, but where is the justice when children are being killed every single day in our nation by gun violence?” he said.
He held his event in Sherman Park, the northern Milwaukee neighborhood where three years ago, a police officer shot and killed Sylville K. Smith, a young black man. The killing set off three days of unrest, with multiple arrests and injuries.
As he closed, Mr. Booker returned to his lofty and familiar themes of unity. The political and racial divisions stoked by the Trump administration, and often by the president himself, have left the country in need of more than just new leadership, Mr. Booker said. It needs to heal.
“I’m with you on beating him,” Mr. Booker told the crowd here. “But dear God, can’t we have bigger ambitions than that?”
Dozens of immigrant workers have been released a day after being detained in the largest immigration raid in a decade in the United States. AP
Aaron Hall, an immigration attorney in Aurora, Colorado, is still trying to figure out what exactly to tell his clients about a new Trump administration policy that allows federal immigration agents to quickly deport undocumented immigrants they encounter anywhere in the U.S.
For the past 15 years, the fast-track deportation process, known as expedited removal, has been used mostly by Border Patrol agents near the border. But now, for the first time, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents can unilaterally question, arrest, detain and deport undocumented immigrants who have been here for less than two years that they encounter anywhere in the country.
Does that mean immigrants should carry all their papers proving their legal status every time they leave the house? Should undocumented immigrants carry paperwork showing they’ve been in the country longer than two years? Should all Hispanics approached by ICE remain silent and demand to speak with an attorney?
“It’s really tricky,” Hall said. The only certainty is that “people who have legal immigration status, or have pending applications, or even U.S. citizens, will be put into expedited removal proceedings, and some will be deported before they’re able to make their case.”
After 9/11, the U.S. enforced stricter control on immigration. This enforcement led to the birth of Homeland Security and ICE, but what is ICE exactly? We explain. Just the FAQs, USA TODAY
The nationwide expansion of expedited removal, which took effect July 23, may be one of the most consequential changes to immigration enforcement under Donald Trump’s presidency.
To combat illegal immigration, the White House has focused mostly on the southern border, deploying National Guard and active-duty military troops to stem what they describe as a national security crisis. But expanding expedited removal moves immigration enforcement far from the border and into every community in the U.S.
That dramatic expansion, which has been considered since the early days of the Trump administration, has opened a wide range of questions about the way federal immigration agents will use their new powers, how to limit cases of racial profiling and how many legal residents and U.S. citizens will be caught up in the process.
“It means that the only limit on (the administration’s) ability to deport brown-skinned people is going to be the number of detention beds they have,” said Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, legal director of the immigrant advocacy program at the Legal Aid Justice Center based in Charlottesville, Virginia.
ICE, which is primarily responsible for arresting undocumented immigrants in the interior of the country, said its agents do not, and will not, conduct “random or indiscriminate” raids as it expands its use of expedited removal. Instead, the agency said, it will continue using “targeted enforcement operations” to identify and arrest specific undocumented immigrants. ICE vowed to use the new powers responsibly.
“ICE’s routine targeted enforcement model remains the same,” spokesman Richard Rocha said. The only change is “how ICE is able to remove aliens.”
Expedited removal was created by Congress in 1996. It allows federal immigration agents to bypass the regular deportation system, which includes court hearings, appeals and a final deportation order signed by a judge. The immigration agent needs only approval from a supervisor in the field, and the decision cannot be appealed in any court.
The main exception provided in the law is for undocumented immigrants who request asylum. Once the undocumented immigrant claims a fear of returning to his or her home country, the immigrant agent is supposed to pause the deportation process until an asylum officer can hear the person’s claim.
At first, the program was used sparingly. President Bill Clinton allowed it to be used only against people who entered U.S. ports of entry without a visa or valid travel documents.
In 2004, President George W. Bush expanded its use to include people caught within 100 miles of the nation’s land border with Canada and Mexico and people who had illegally entered the country within the previous two weeks. President Barack Obama maintained that structure.
From the first days of Trump’s presidency, the administration saw expedited removal as a way to get around the historic backlog in immigration court and more quickly deport more undocumented immigrants.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan made it official when his agency published a rule expanding expedited removal to the fullest extent allowable under law. Federal immigration agents can use expedited removal against people caught anywhere in the country who arrived within the previous two years.
McAleenan said the expansion is “one more tool” his agents could use to confront the “security and humanitarian crisis on the Southwest border.”
Immigration attorneys, and even some government reports, raise serious questions about granting ICE agents powers to unilaterally deport people from the country.
One major concern is that people legally residing in the U.S. – citizens, permanent residents or visa holders – will be erroneously scooped up by federal agents.
That’s what happened in June when Francisco Erwin Galicia, 17, who was born in Dallas, was arrested by Border Patrol agents. Even though his attorney said Galicia was carrying his Texas state ID and a wallet-sized copy of his birth certificate, the government held him for 26 days. It wasn’t until The Dallas Morning News ran a story about his case that Galicia was released.
Such cases have been on the rise since Trump took office.
“With this expansion of authority, we can expect that that would grow exponentially,” said Royce Murray, managing director of programs at the council. “And it’s unclear what if any checks and balances there will be to make sure we are not putting U.S. citizens and others at real risk.”
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a body created by Congress, has studied expedited removal for more than a decade. In its first study published in 2005, it found that an “alarming” number of Border Patrol agents violated the rules of implementing expedited removal.
In some cases, agents didn’t ask if people feared returning to their home country, a legally required step. In other cases, commission observers heard undocumented immigrants request asylum, but Border Patrol agents wrote down that they had not.
In all, 15% of the undocumented immigrants who requested asylum were deported before getting an asylum hearing, the report found. The commission reviewed the program again in 2016, and even though it was given far less access to expedited removal interviews, it concluded that problems remained rampant.
There are also questions about whether the use of expedited removal in places away from the border are legal. Congress allowed that to happen, but because the Trump administration is the first to try it out, the legality of the process has never been tested.
The Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan group that conducts research for members of Congress, found that courts have generally allowed people to be deported through expedited removal near the border. But courts raised questions about eliminating due process rights for immigrants the longer they’ve been in the country and the farther they are captured from the border.
That’s why the nationwide use of expedited removal “remains an unresolved question,” the service concluded in a report in 2018.
U.S. law makes clear that people who are deported through expedited removal cannot challenge their deportation. Even challenging their initial arrest on constitutional grounds may be impossible, as evidenced by a case filed last year.
In February 2017, ICE agents arrested nine undocumented immigrants in two separate locations in Northern Virginia, even though they were searching for different people. A group of the immigrants sued, claiming they were racially profiled and wrongly detained in violation of their Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. A federal judge allowed the case to proceed, ruling that the undocumented immigrants raised “clear violations of a known constitutional right.”
In April, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit – one nominated by Trump, all three nominated by Republican presidents – struck down the lawsuit, ruling that Congress had not created any mechanism for ICE agents to be sued in federal court, meaning the case couldn’t proceed.
Sandoval-Moshenberg, who represents the undocumented immigrants and appealed the court of appeals decision, said the ruling shows how helpless immigrants will be as ICE agents use their expanded powers.
“It’s a shocking ruling,” he said. “It drastically expands the number of people who will never even go before a judge, so they have no one.”
In a statement, ICE said it does not usually approach people on the street and question them about their immigration status. But the statement points out that Congress gave ICE agents the power to do just that, quoting a section of U.S. law that allows agents to interrogate any “person believed to be an alien as to his or her right to be or remain in the United States.”
The American Civil Liberties Union and the American Immigration Council filed a lawsuit challenging the nationwide expansion of expedited removal last week.
Immigrants remain in a state of apprehension, knowing that any encounter with ICE may lead to their quick removal from the country. Megan Lantz, a lawyer who represents immigrants who work in meatpacking plants and farms around Ames, Iowa, simply hopes she’ll be able to talk to immigrants before they’re on a plane back home.
“Immigration officers have total authority here,” she said. “So there’s no chance for me as a lawyer to fight for that person. That is really concerning.”
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The NFL and Jay-Z’s entertainment and sports representation company are teaming up for events and social activism.
The league not only will use Jay-Z’s Roc Nation to consult on its entertainment presentations, including the Super Bowl halftime show, but will work with the rapper and entrepreneur’s company to “strengthen community through music and the NFL’s Inspire Change initiative.”
Inspire Change was created by the league after an agreement with a coalition of players who demonstrated during the national anthem to protest social and racial injustice in this country. Those demonstrations were sparked by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.
NFL owners agreed to contribute up to $89 million over six years toward causes players were supporting. Commissioner Roger Goodell sees the partnership with Roc Nation as a significant step in several directions.
“Roc Nation is one of the most globally influential and impactful organizations in entertainment,” Goodell said. “The NFL and Roc Nation share a vision of inspiring meaningful social change across our country. We are thrilled to partner with Roc Nation and look forward to making a difference in our communities together.”
While the entertainment portion of the deal is important — Roc Nation’s stable includes Rihanna, Mariah Carey, Shakira and, of course, Jay-Z — much emphasis from both the league and the representation group is being placed on the social relations aspect of the agreement. For Inspire Change to succeed, it must have strong roots within the communities that are most affected by the issues the players want addressed: criminal justice reform; relationships with police; economic growth opportunities; and educational progress.
“With its global reach, the National Football League has the platform and opportunity to inspire change across the country,” said Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter. “Roc Nation has shown that entertainment and enacting change are not mutually exclusive ideas — instead, we unify them. This partnership is an opportunity to strengthen the fabric of communities across America.”
Jay-Z has been a strong supporter of Kaepernick, who has not played in the NFL the past two seasons and is not with a team now. He has turned down invitations to perform at the Super Bowl, as has Rihanna.
But now there is a working agreement between the league and Roc Nation, which also represents such NFL stars as Todd Gurley, Saquon Barkley and Ndamukong Suh. How that plays out on both the entertainment and social initiatives fronts figures to be newsworthy.