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Tag: editorial

Boulder Editorial: Justice Department Undermines Police Reforms in Numerous Cities

Photo by Steve Neavling.

Photo by Steve Neavling.

By Editorial Board
Boulder Daily Camera

More than a dozen cities, including Ferguson, Mo., have spent arduous months hammering out consent decrees with the U.S. Justice Department to institute much-needed police and judicial reforms aimed in large part at reducing enforcement disparities that unfairly target poor and minority communities. The cooperation of local police departments was key in reaching these agreements, which makes them partners in fixing what’s wrong.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions now proposes meddling with a cooperative formula that’s working. Last week, he ordered a review of Justice Department consent decrees and other interventions, threatening to reverse progress designed to halt the unequal application of justice around the country.

Sessions’ unfortunate decision could undermine a lot of hard work in the 25 cities whose police departments — including Ferguson’s — worked with the Obama administration’s Justice Department. In 14 cases, consent decrees were reached with federal judges serving as monitors.

These agreements are not anti-police; they are pro-Constitution. We suspect that Sessions is motivated in no small part by President Donald Trump’s drive to halt the questioning of police actions such as those in which officers are captured on video shooting or fatally restraining unarmed civilians. The White House has posted a pledge that this “will be a law and order administration,” committed to ending the “dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America.”

 To read more click here. 

Federal Incentives for Seizing Assets Encourages ‘Policing for Profit’

frozen-cash2By Editorial Board
Sentinel & Enterprise

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Rep. Tim Walberg of Michigan have introduced legislation to reform civil asset forfeiture, a practice by which law enforcement agencies seize the property and assets of individuals with minimal due process.

The practice has encouraged “policing for profit,” distorting the mission of police agencies toward revenue generation to the detriment of the property rights of Americans. Paul’s and Walberg’s bill should unite those concerned with upholding constitutional rights and justice more broadly.

The FAIR (Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration) Act, previously introduced by Paul in 2014, seeks to shore up the rights of Americans facing civil asset forfeiture proceedings and curb the perverse profit incentives that underline the practice.

“The federal government has made it far too easy for government agencies to take and profit from the property of those who have not been convicted of a crime,” said Paul. “The FAIR Act will protect Americans’ Fifth Amendment rights from being infringed upon by ensuring that government agencies no longer profit from taking the property of U.S. citizens without due process.”

Under current practices, federal agencies, often in partnership with state and local police departments, may seize a person’s cash, home or vehicle simply upon the suspicion that such assets were connected to criminal activity. One need not even be charged or convicted of a crime to have personal assets permanently seized.

All the government needs to do is meet the relatively low standard of a preponderance of the evidence to prevail in court — while innocent owners have the burden of trying to prove their innocence and bearing the costs of legally opposing government authorities.

This has created a situation where the federal government has seized billions of dollars in assets under questionable circumstances. According to the Institute for Justice, from 2001 to 2014, the forfeiture funds of the Department of Justice and Treasury Department took in nearly $29 billion. This provides financial incentive to both federal agencies and state and local partners, who get a cut of the money through “equitable sharing,” to increasingly focus on cases with revenue-generating potential.

To read more click here.  

Sun Sentinel: Trump Should Welcome FBI Investigation into Russian Interference

Donald TrumpBy Editorial Board
Sun Sentinel

If he’s got nothing to hide, President Trump should welcome the fact that the FBI is investigating possible links between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election.

Trump should be the first one saying “Bring it on” after FBI Director James Comey said Monday he’s been authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation because of the extreme public interest in the case.

Ever since Trump was inaugurated on Jan. 20, there have been questions and rumors about links between members of Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. The public deserves answers, and the president should also want to finally clear the air on an issue that has dogged his campaign for months. There has been enough speculation, and Trump should be pushing for facts and information to be made public.

Instead, what we got from Trump on Monday were early morning tweets slamming the idea that there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. The tweets came before Comey appeared in front of a House panel and confirmed for the first time the FBI is investigating possible Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.

“. . . there is no evidence Potus colluded with Russia,” Trump tweeted at 6:35 Monday morning. “This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it!”

Trump tried to put the attention on leaked classified information, rather than the information itself.

“The real story the Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information,” Trump tweeted at 7:02 a.m. “Must find leaker NOW.”

About two hours later, Trump asked in a tweet, “What about all of the contact with the Clinton campaign and the Russians?”

Trump’s propensity for deflection won’t be successful now. The world knows the FBI is investigating, and facts are needed — not tweets, and not speculation.

To read more click here. 

LA Times: Arresting Immigrants at Hospitals, Schools, Courthouses Is Counterproductive

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

By Editorial Board
Los Angeles Times

A woman in El Paso showed up at a courthouse last month seeking protection from an abusive spouse. Instead, she was arrested by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and slated for deportation. In a Pasadena courthouse, a defendant was snatched from his attorney’s side and whisked away for deportation.

President Trump’s supporters may cheer on the ICE agents in these cases — after all, he won the White House in part by promising to crack down on illegal immigration. But as the government itself has recognized, it is both heartless and counterproductive to arrest people on immigration violations as they engage with the fundamentals of civic life: taking children to school (remember: children here illegally are entitled to attend public schools under the Supreme Court’s 1982 Plyler v. Doe ruling) or going to church or seeking treatment at a hospital. Under the Obama administration, ICE adopted a formal policy of avoiding arrests in such “sensitive locations.”

Courthouses, however, were wrongly excluded from the list of sensitive locations. On Thursday, the chief justice of the California Supreme Court, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, asked the government to keep ICE agents away from courthouses, which, she said, “should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws.” The ACLU, noting countless cases around the country in which ICE has interrogated and arrested people as they sought to pay for traffic citations, appear for court hearings as witnesses, get married or obtain restraining orders in domestic violence cases, said the practice “obstructs the ability of immigrants to access the courts” and “endangers public safety.”

To read more click here. 

Des Moines Register: ATF Tobacco Investigation Schemes Is ‘Highly Questionable’

atf badgeBy Editorial Board
The Des Moines Register

It’s getting harder and harder to tell the good guys from the bad guys.

First there was the scandal involving federal agents who helped route guns to Mexican drug cartels. Then it was revealed that law enforcement officials nationwide have routinely abused forfeiture laws to seize the property of law-abiding citizens.

Now there are signs that agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives used highly questionable — arguably illegal – cigarette sales in order to fund a secret bank account used to pay informants.

And we’re not talking about a handful of rogue agents raising a few thousand dollars. The evidence points to tens of millions of dollars being raised by law enforcement officials through the same schemes used by the criminals they were supposed to be apprehending.

The operation, detailed in a recent report from the New York Times, wasn’t authorized by the Justice Department, the agency under which the ATF operates, and that appears to have been by design. It gave agents access to a bank account that, because it was off the books, wasn’t subject to the usual level of oversight.

The scheme itself was built on a complex series of transactions, some of which involved the sale and shipment of water and snacks disguised as cigarettes.

To read more click here. 

Washington Post: Senate Should Confirm Trump’s Nominee for No. 2 Spot at DOJ

rod_rosenstein_us_attorneyBy Editorial Board
Washington Post

Though President Donald Trump’s opening weeks have been chaotic and dispiriting, the nation’s new chief executive has still managed to make a few good choices. One of his best was nominating Rod Rosenstein to be the No. 2 at the Justice Department. The sooner the Senate confirms him, the sooner the administration will have another adult in its top ranks. So it’s unfortunate that Mr. Rosenstein faced demands from Democrats at his Tuesday confirmation hearing that no one in his position should accede to.

As deputy attorney general, Mr. Rosenstein would oversee the daily operations of a vast, 115,000-person bureaucracy responsible for enforcing laws on everything from hate crimes to antitrust. After nearly three decades in the Justice Department, serving under presidents of both parties, “Rod Rosenstein has demonstrated throughout his long career the highest standards of professionalism,” Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The senator praised Mr. Rosenstein’s “nonpartisan” approach and noted his wide support among Democratic officials in Maryland, where Mr. Rosenstein serves as U.S. attorney and has had notable success prosecuting gang crime and political corruption.

Instead of that record, Mr. Rosenstein’s hearing was dominated by the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week from issues involving Russia and the 2016 presidential election. With Mr. Sessions sidelined, Justice Department decisions regarding any investigation into Russia’s meddling and contacts between Mr. Trump’s circle and Russian officials would fall to Mr. Rosenstein.

He assured senators that “political affiliation is irrelevant to my work” and promised to “support any properly predicated investigation related to interference by the Russians or by anybody else in American elections.”

To read more click here. 

Albuquerque Journal: Trump’s Change on Immigration Is Encouraging Sign

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

By Editorial Board
Albuquerque Journal

President Donald Trump’s emerging immigration policies received some much-needed clarity – and realism – last week, and though far from definitive, the outline he provided in his address to Congress and during a private meeting with television news anchors is a path the nation has needed for far too long.

And it certainly is more helpful than some of his campaign rhetoric on the issue.

While his critics have harped continually on alleged “mass deportation” plans – which Trump has denied – the word out of Washington last week was about potential compromises that would be a reasonable blueprint for immigration reform that his predecessor avoided even when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress.

And while many in the news media have been borderline hysterical in reporting deportations under Trump, it is far below the more than 2.5 million deportations under President Obama.

Trump’s apparent outline for an overhaul of a broken system is based on several reasonable principles, starting with border security. That, by the way, was key in the Senate “Gang of Eight” compromise floated in the Senate a few years ago.

It also focuses, appropriately, on deporting illegal immigrants with criminal records – especially those who already have outstanding deportation orders – and the end of the catch-and-release system where those apprehended were simply told to show up for a deportation hearing that many then skipped.

For those reasons, Trump is proposing more Border Patrol agents.

To read more click here. 

Chicago Tribune: Trump Works Both Sides of Fence on Immigration Issues

Border fence along Mexico and the U.S.

Border fence along Mexico and the U.S.

By Editorial Board
Chicago Tribune

On immigration, there are two Donald Trumps.

The first Trump is a strident nationalist hell-bent on deporting all unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S., about 11 million people. Just last week, the Trump administration ordered ramped-up deportations.

The second Trump, a lifelong resident of cosmopolitan New York, hints that he just might know better. He occasionally gives a passing nod to the thought that these are human beings we’re talking about.

It was that second Trump who showed up at a meeting Tuesday with TV news anchors. The president actually said, contrary to his usual demonizing rhetoric, that he would like to find a way to give legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants who have not committed serious crimes. “The time is right for an immigration bill as long as there is compromise on both sides,” Trump reportedly said.

If Trump was listening to his better angels, it’s nice to know he has better angels.

Click here to read more.