Posts tagged with "Funding"

Trump ‘cleans house’ at DHS; goes for harder line on immigration

April 9, 2019

President Donald Trump is clearing the decks at the Department of Homeland Securityexecuting a purge of the nation’s immigration and security leadership, The New York Times reported on April 8.

After extracting a resignation from DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on April 7, and immediately elevating White House Adviser Stephen Miller—known to be a hard-liner—to direct the nation’s immigration policy; the president now is signaling that he means to remove the next level of agency management.

Inside the Beltway, it is rumored that Nielsen got the boot because she resisted reinstating a policy that separated migrant parents from their children—infuriating the president at a time when he still is struggling to get funding for his southern wall and has not been able to stem the flow of South American immigration to the U.S. border.

Also expected to leave soon: L. Francis Cissna, the head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; Randolph D. Alles, the Secret Service director; and John Mitnik, the agency’s general counsel.

The White House confirmed the departure of Alles in a statement but made no immediate comment on the other pending moves, the news outlet said. The White House statement said that the president has selected James M. Murray, a career Secret Service official, to take over as director in May.

 Alles “has done a great job at the agency over the last two years and the president is thankful for his over 40 years of service to the country,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in the statement.

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Nielsen confirmed her resignation on Sunday and Ron D. Vitiello, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Services, was told on Friday to step aside. Trump said on April 5 that Vitiello would be replaced with someone who would move ICE in a “tougher” direction.

All were viewed as allies of John F. Kelly, the president’s former chief of staff and his President Trump.

Alles received instructions ten days ago to come up with an exit plan and was expected to leave on his own timeline, according to officials familiar with the internal discussions. The Times reported that the president had sought Alles’s resignation, in part because of the recent arrest of a Chinese woman who was carrying a malware-laced device on the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort property in Florida, exposing holes in the security of the private club.

Research contact: @nytimes

Ashton Kusher-backed Calm app is valued at $1B

February 7, 2019

Calm.com—the San Francisco-based startup that claims to have become the number-one app for sleep, meditation, and relaxation since it began doing business in 2017—has been valued at $1 billion in a funding round led by TPG Growth, the company announced on February 6.

According to Bloomberg, Calm raised $88 million in the round, which included existing investors Insight Venture Partners and Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures, as well as Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency.

The funding makes San Francisco-based Calm a major player in the wellness industry—or, as the company says, the World’s First Mental Health Unicorn. (It joins the ranks of 312 other U.S. startups that have been valued at $1 billion or more and are known as “unicorns.”)

The Calm website says that the app “helps users cope with some of the most important mental health issues of the modern age-including anxiety, stress, and insomnia.”  Among its popular features are:

  • The Daily Calm, a ten-minute meditation guided by the company’s Head of Mindfulness Tamara Levitt;
  • Sleep Stories, soothing bedtime tales for adults read by celebrities such as Matthew McConaughey, Stephen Fry, and Leona Lewis;
  • MasterClass: A series of audio classes taught by mindfulness experts; and
  • Music: Exclusive music to help users focus, relax, and sleep.

Companies such as mindfulness app Headspace and meditation wearable maker Muse have also raised money from VCs, although at lower valuations, Bloomberg reports.

“Our vision is to build one of the most valuable and meaningful brands of the 21st century,” co-founder and Co-Chief Executive Officer Michael Acton Smith said in a statement. His co-founder and co-CEO, Alex Tew, added that the company would prioritize spending on international growth and creating new content.

The app has been downloaded more than 40 million times, it said in a statement, and it has more than one million paying subscribers.

Research contact: @calm

‘Who’s gonna pay for the wall?’

December 13, 2018

The answer to the question above? Apparently, not Mexico—which was what President Donald Trump repeatedly promised during the 2016 campaign. And probably not Congress either.

During a surreal meeting in the Oval Office on December 11, The New York Times reports, President Donald Trump engaged in an argument in front of reporters with two Democratic leaders, Representative Nancy Pelosi (12th District, California) and Senator Chuck Schumer (New York), over the his own threats to shut down the government unless he gets $5 billion to build a border wall.

During what the news outlet characterized as “an extraordinary public airing of hostilities that underscored a new, more confrontational dynamic in Washington,” the president vowed to block full funding for the government if Democrats refused to allocate money for the wall on the southwestern border, saying he was “proud to shut down the government for border security.”

He repeatedly told Pelosi that he “only need[ed] ten Democratic votes in the House” to pass the funding for the wall. In turn, she replied that he didn’t have the votes—and would not have them in the future.

According to the Times report, the two Democratic leaders took issue with the president’s position and his false assertions about the wall—which he claimed was already under construction—in front of a phalanx of news cameras, imploring him repeatedly to continue the tense conversation without reporters present.

However, the news outlet said, “Trump insisted on a conspicuous clash that undercut Republican congressional leaders and his own staff working to avoid a shutdown at all costs, or at least to ensure that Democrats would shoulder the blame for such a result.”

“If we don’t have border security, we’ll shut down the government — this country needs border security,” Mr. Trump declared as the diatribe unfolded, and Schumer reminded the president repeatedly that he had called several times for a shutdown, appearing to goad him into taking responsibility.

 “You want to know something?” an infuriated Trump  finally said. “I’ll tell you what: I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck.”

“I will take the mantle,” Mr. Trump went on. “I will be the one to shut it down — I’m not going to blame you for it.”

Ultimately, the discussion again raised doubts about whether Trump and the Congress could reach agreement by a December 21 deadline to keep much of the government open, appearing to harden diametrically opposed positions on the wall.

Research contact: @nytimes

Shell game: Administration redirects funds to Mexico to conduct U.S. deportations

September 14, 2018

Build the wall! Build the wall!  That was the rallying cry from Trump’s base throughout his presidential campaign. After which the candidate would lead the chant, “Who’s gonna pay for it? Mexico.”

The times have changed—and the tables have turned. Now, as part of the administration’s campaign to stop illegal immigration, the United States plans instead to pay Mexico.

In a recent notice sent to Congress, the administration said it intended to take $20 million in foreign assistance funds and use it to help Mexico pay plane and bus fare to deport as many as 17,000 people who are in that country illegally, The New York Times reported on September 12.

According to the news outlet, the funding will help the POTUS to increase deportations of Central Americans, many of whom pass through Mexico to get to the American border.

In addition, in an effort to hype the plan to his nationwide base, the president has said that “any unauthorized immigrant in Mexico who is a known or suspected terrorist” will also be deported under the program, according to the notification, although such people are few in number.

Katie Waldman, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security, told the Times that the program was intended to help relieve immigration flows at the United States border with Mexico.

“We are working closely with our Mexican counterparts to confront rising border apprehension numbers—specifically, a 38% increase in families this month alone—directly and to ensure that those with legitimate claims have access to appropriate protections,” Waldman said.

A spokesperson for the Mexican Embassy did not immediately respond to the news outlet’s request for comment.

Following the disclosure on September 13 that FEMA funds needed for hurricane recovery had been redirected to ICE for expansion of its detention center program, the plan to redirect foreign assistance funds becomes another example of the ways in which the administration is diverting money to serve its own priorities.

The administration has yet to spend nearly $3 billion in foreign aid, according to the Times—money allocated last year by Congress with broad bipartisan support. Hundreds of millions of dollars meant to help stabilize Syria and support Palestinian schools and hospitals already has been redirected.

The money will be transferred from the State Department to the Department of Homeland Security, and then sent to Mexico.

“Congress intended for this money to lift up communities dealing with crime, corruption and so many other challenges, not to expand this administration’s deportation crusade,” Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Times. “I want answers about why the State Department thinks it can ignore Congress and dump more cash into deportation efforts. Until then, I’ll do whatever I can to stop this.”

Under the program, Mexico would be responsible for detaining and providing judicial review of immigrants before deporting them. The sometimes cumbersome and lengthy legal process in the United States to deport asylum seekers has long frustrated President  Trump, who has often said the laws must be changed to speed deportations. Getting Mexico to do deportations instead would bypass that process.

 “We shouldn’t be paying another country to do our dirty work; we should actually be fixing our immigration system and helping these countries get back on solid footing,” said Ali Noorani, the executive director of the National Immigration Forum. “It smacks of desperation.”

Meanwhile, population levels at federally contracted shelters for migrant children have quietly shot up more than fivefold since last summer, according to data obtained by The New York Times, reaching a total of 12,800 this month. There were 2,400 such children in custody in May 2017.

Research contact: @GardinerHarris