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The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump moves green cards, citizenship away from poor, low-skilled

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Tuesday! Our newsletter gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Co-creators are Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver (CLICK HERE to subscribe!). On Twitter, find us at @asimendinger and @alweaver22.

The Trump administration moved on Monday to build an administrative wall to limit migrants seeking to legally become citizens or permanent legal residents of the United States, carrying out the president’s vow to discourage poor and low-skilled immigrants who have used or might one day need federal benefits, such as food stamps or Medicaid.


Touting a new rule set to take effect in October, the administration redefined what it means to be a “public charge” to make it easier for the government to reject immigrants applying to become green card holders or citizens (The Hill).


And even before its release, anticipation that a new policy was coming has had the effect of discouraging immigrants in the United States from seeking benefits the law provides for fear of complicating their status or increasing risks of deportation. Critics of the policy say Trump’s immigration advisers sought both outcomes.


“The process to identify someone’s likelihood to use benefits is skewed to create denials,” the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, said in a Monday blog analysis critical of the changes, including the concept that officials can gaze into the future and know who is likely to tap federal or state benefits.


“Fewer legal immigrants will receive approvals. … Fewer legal immigrants will come legally to the United States. … U.S. citizens will be separated from their spouses and children,” Cato’s David Bier wrote.


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, issued the new criteria that will bend the process in favor of higher-skilled, high-income immigrants Trump favors. The White House has long sought openings to weed out immigrants perceived as dependent on U.S. taxpayer benefits (The Washington Post).


“I don’t want to have anyone coming in that’s on welfare,” the president told Breitbart News in a March interview. “We have a problem, because we have politicians that are not strong, or they have bad intentions, or they want to get votes, because they think if [immigrants] come in they’re going to vote Democrat, you know, for the most part,” Trump said. “I don’t like the idea of people coming in and going on welfare for 50 years, and that’s what they want to be able to do — and it’s no good.”


Monday’s policy changes, which Trump’s immigration advisers believe are supported by his base, are key in a reelection campaign that is returning to themes that worked for Trump in 2016 and draw contrasts with Democrats.


The president argues that 2020 Democrats who want his job favor “open borders,” and what he argues are handouts to undocumented immigrants paid for by hard-working American taxpayers. Trump points to California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) as an example. In July, the state became the first in the nation to offer health benefits to undocumented adult immigrants (NPR).


Ken Cuccinelli, the director of USCIS and a former Virginia attorney general, told reporters at the White House on Monday that the United States should favor immigrants “who can stand on their own two feet, who will not be reliant on the welfare system, especially in the age of the modern welfare state, which is so expansive and expensive” (The New York Times). 


House Democrats were aware that Trump’s new rule was being drafted and sought in June to block it legislatively. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) just returned from El Salvador and Guatemala with House lawmakers after a trip focused on immigration issues. Commenting after touring a migrant detention facility in Texas, Pelosi on Sunday said immigration reform legislation, which has zero political momentum in the GOP-controlled Senate, is Congress’s “moral responsibility” (The Associated Press).  


Time: Immigration advocates vow to fight Trump’s restrictions on green cards.


Politico: The Los-Angeles based pro-immigrant National Immigration Law Center says it will file suit. Santa Clara County in California is considering litigation.


POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: For more than three months, former Vice President Joe Biden has been the front-runner for the Democratic nomination in large part because primary voters believe he is the best equipped candidate to take on Trump. That argument is now coming under question after his weekend in Iowa was consumed by a pair of gaffes, potentially undercutting the central argument for his candidacy. 


As Amie Parnes writes, while campaigning in Iowa, Biden said he met with students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during his time as vice president despite leaving office more than a year before the shooting in Parkland, Fla. That blunder followed another two days earlier when Biden, 76, told an audience of Asian and Hispanic voters that “poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids.” 


In both instances, the former vice president quickly corrected himself, but the rash of gaffes have poked holes in Biden’s argument that he is the most electable candidate in the very crowded Democratic primary field. The gaffes are intensifying fears that Biden is too old for the job and creating new openings for other candidates including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).


“The substance of individual gaffes may be negligible but they’re a proxy for his political endurance, which some feel is waning, particularly as Warren is creeping up in the polls,” said Basil Smikle, a Democratic strategist and the former executive director of the New York State Democratic Party. 


The New York Times: Joe Biden knows he says the wrong thing.


Politico: Can Kamala Harris catch Biden and Warren in Iowa?


Josh Kraushaar: Warren would have to defy history to prevail over Biden. 


Gerald F. Seib, The Wall Street Journal: Trump’s primary advantage: No real competition.


The Washington Post: Bernie Sanders is making health care his defining issue. Will it work?





> Trump troubles: The president is showing a major vulnerability with one key group of the electorate less than 15 months out from election day: suburban voters.


As Niall Stanage says in his latest “Memo,” a new analysis by NBC News showed that Trump has been underwater with suburban voters in five out of six NBC News-Wall Street Journal polls conducted this year. That finding comports with other surveys that show Trump performing poorly with some of the key voting blocs that populate the nation’s suburbs, headlined by his troubles with white women and white college graduates.   


Those dynamics make Trump’s path to reelection a steep one, experts say.  


“We are a long way off from November 2020, but my general sense is that it is going to be very tough for him to reverse the Democratic trends in the suburbs,” said Terry Madonna, a professor of public affairs and a polling expert at Franklin & Marshall College in the electorally crucial state of Pennsylvania.


> Gabbard off the trail: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) announced Monday that she will take a two-week hiatus from her presidential campaign to report for active duty and take part in a two-week joint training exercise in Indonesia.


“We’ll be doing a training exercise with the Indonesian military, focused on a few different things like counterterrorism, humanitarian aid and disaster response and joining my brothers and sisters from the Hawaii National Guard in doing so,” Gabbard told CBS News.


A three-term House member, Gabbard served two tours in the Middle East with the Hawaii Army National Guard, including a deployment to Iraq in 2004 and 2005. 


Gabbard has made her service in uniform a central part of her campaign, along with her anti-war stance. She made waves during the July presidential debates when she confronted Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) for actions undertaken during her tenure as California attorney general.


While nine candidates have qualified for the debate stage by reaching both the polling and donor thresholds, Gabbard is one of two — along with former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro — to meet just the donor prerequisite for the debate. Castro needs one more poll to meet the polling threshold, while Gabbard needs three more.  


The New York Times: After El Paso shooting, will voters revisit Beto O’Rourke?


The Houston Chronicle editorial board, urging a Senate run by O’Rourke against incumbent John Cornyn (R): “Beto come home. Texas needs you.”


The Wall Street Journal: Democrats launch Texas offensive with redistricting in mind.


The Hill: Report says eight states to use paperless voting in 2020 despite security concerns.


WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: The Trump administration moved Monday to finalize changes in regulations that will weaken how it applies the 45-year-old Endangered Species Act, which is credited with saving animals and plants from what scientists said would have been extinction.


According to The Associated Press:


“Under the enforcement changes, officials for the first time will be able to publicly attach a cost to saving an animal or plant. Blanket protections for creatures newly listed as threatened will be removed. Among several other changes, the action could allow the government to disregard the possible impact of climate change, which conservation groups call a major and growing threat to wildlife.”


Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and other top administration officials pushed back on criticism that the new regulations, which are administered by multiple agencies, will harm wildlife, insisting that the changes improve efficiency. 


“The best way to uphold the Endangered Species Act is to do everything we can to ensure it remains effective in achieving its ultimate goal — recovery of our rarest species,” Bernhardt said in a statement. “An effectively administered Act ensures more resources can go where they will do the most good: on-the-ground conservation.”   


Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross contended that the move “fit squarely” in the president’s call for “easing the regulatory burden” on Americans while not sacrificing efforts to protect endangered species.


Under the enforcement changes, officials for the first time will be able to publicly attach a cost to saving an animal or plant. Blanket protections for creatures newly listed as threatened will be removed. Among several other changes, the action could allow the government to disregard the possible impact of climate change, which conservation groups call a major and growing threat to wildlife.


The 1973 law has been credited with saving various animals that were under environmental threat, including the bald eagle, grizzly bear and the American alligator (The New York Times). 





> SecDef abroad: Defense Secretary Mike Esper stressed the importance of U.S. alliances during his inaugural foreign trip as the Pentagon’s chief, a message undercut by Trump, who disparaged U.S. allies during Esper’s trip. 


Trump complained that South Korea should pay a bigger share of the cost of housing U.S. troops overseas, and then reportedly mocked allies South Korea, Japan and the European Union, even mimicking Japanese and Korean accents before praising North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un (The Hill). 


Elsewhere in the administration …  First lady Melania Trump announced Monday that that White House is gearing up for the Christmas season, and her team is calling on volunteers to lend a hand. A press release by the White House encouraged individuals who are “interested in volunteering to decorate the White House or serve as a greeter during the Holiday Open Houses” to reach out to the White House (The Hill). 

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: and We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


Trump’s backfiring trade policy, by Uri Dadush and Laurence Kotlikoff, opinion contributors, The Hill. 


Progressives’ shaming of Trump supporters won’t work, by Kathleen Parker, columnist The Washington Post. 


Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. EDT features David Pakman, host, The David Pakman Show, talking about the presidential race; journalist Gordon Chang, on the trade war with China; and College Plus CEO Terren Klein, who unpacks a weekly survey of college students regarding the 2020 election. Find Hill.TV programming at or on YouTube at 10 a.m.


The House and Senate continue to meet in pro forma sessions but are not scheduled to return for votes until Sept. 9. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Democratic colleagues will hold a press event at 11:30 a.m. to call for Senate action on the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which the House passed in March. The bill would prohibit a firearm transfer between private parties unless a licensed gun dealer, manufacturer or importer first takes possession of the firearm to conduct a background check. C-SPAN covers the remarks.


The president, who is on a working vacation in New Jersey, travels to Monaca, Pa., to speak at 2:10 p.m. about energy and manufacturing at the Shell Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex in the western part of the state where voters are important to his campaign for reelection. Trump will promote turning natural gas into plastics (The Associated Press).


Economic indicators: The Bureau of Labor Statistics will release reports on the U.S. consumer price index for July and real earnings last month, both at 8:30 a.m.


The Working Families Party begins a series of live question-and-answer sessions that continues through August with 2020 presidential candidates, beginning at 6 p.m. ET with Warren. Information is HERE.


Hong Kong: *** BREAKING this morning ***  Protesters today clogged the airport in Hong Kong for a second day after it reopened (The Associated Press) and the airport authority suspended all check-in services for departing flights, news outlets reported. Heated arguments broke out between passengers and demonstrators (The Washington Post). On Monday, authorities canceled more than 200 flights at one of Asia’s major travel hubs because of the ongoing dissent, pegged to political demands, including calls for Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to step down. The increasingly violent protests have plunged the former British colony into its most serious crisis in decades, presenting Chinese leader Xi Jinping with a significant challenge (Reuters) … Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned China on Monday not to overreact against the protestors, who he said are defending their “autonomy and freedom … The world is watching,” he tweeted … The United Nations also urged Hong Kong to use restraint and to investigate the use of excessive force (Reuters).


Afghanistan: The United States and the Taliban wrapped up their eighth round of peace talks on Monday, with no deal announced (The Associated Press).


Economy: If there’s an early warning indicator to study from past U.S. recessions, it might be the inverted yield curve. Here’s why economists are paying attention now (The Wall Street Journal).   … Several indicators suggest the chances of a recession in the next year are rising, in no small part because of Trump’s trade policy (The Hill).


Russia: Five scientists were killed this month and others injured in a suspected nuclear missile accident in Russia, officials said, but Moscow says it will continue developing new weapons (Reuters). Radiation levels in the Russian city of Severodvinsk rose by up to 16 times on Aug. 8 after an accident that authorities said involved a rocket test on a sea platform, Russia’s state weather agency said on Tuesday. Greenpeace has said radiation levels rose by 20 times (Reuters).





And finally … Be sure to take 10 minutes today to read a fascinating story about identical twin girls born in China, one stolen for adoption and eventually raised in Texas and the other raised by her birth parents in Hunan Province. The twins, Esther and Shuangjie, now teenagers, and their families met for the first time in February in China, thanks to efforts spanning eight years by Barbara Demick, a national correspondent with the Los Angeles Times.




Tags Bernie Sanders Elizabeth Warren Gavin Newsom Joe Biden John Cornyn Kim Jong Un Melania Trump Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Steny Hoyer Tulsi Gabbard
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