Immigration crackdown revs up

A Department of Homeland Security official said the department doesn’t want to cause “a sense of panic” in communities of immigrants without documentation.

“This is not intended to produce mass roundups, mass deportations,” the official told reporters in a conference call.

But new rules announced by the department Tuesday to fulfill President Donald Trump’s pledge mean a huge jump in the numbers who will fall into categories deemed a priority for removal. Look for the anxiety to grow as Immigration and Customs Enforcement seeks to hire 10,000 new agents to kick the plan into high gear.

Before, serious crimes were an enforcement priority. Under the DHS plan, ICE can target people for any offense or even on suspicion of committing a crime. Crossing the border illegally is also a serious enough crime.

“Those people who are in this country and pose a threat to our public safety or have committed a crime will be the first to go, and we will be aggressively making sure that that occurs,” said White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

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Spared, for now, are 750,000 immigrants who arrived as children and were given protection by former President Barack Obama, so long as they stay out of trouble.

Fear grips LI’s undocumented

The categories of those called a priority for deportation are now so broad that “everyone is scared because no one knows who could be targeted,” said a Long Island immigrant advocate.

“The situation is this: People are in a panic,” Luz Torres, director of the Centro Cultural Hispano de Oyster Bay, told Newsday’s Víctor Manuel Ramos.

But until ICE overcomes legal, logistical and funding issues, the rules “are much more sizzle than steak,” said Eric M. Freedman, a constitutional law scholar at Hofstra University.

Barrett Psareas, a supporter of strict immigration enforcement who is vice president of the Nassau County Civic Association in Cedarhurst, hailed the moves.

“I like the fact that the laws are being enforced, finally,” Psareas said. “It’s definitely promising for the future of not only security, but also of legal immigration.”

CPAC is back

For the first time as president, Trump appears this week before the Conservative Political Action Conference -- and it happens in the immediate aftermath of the flash-in-the-pan Milo Yiannopoulos scandal.

Trump addresses anti-Semitism

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After facing criticism for not speaking out clearly, Trump voiced condemnation Tuesday of hate acts aimed at Jews, Newsday’s Emily Ngo reports.

His statement came after a wave of bomb threats against Jewish community centers around the nation, and the vandalism of headstones at a Jewish cemetery near St. Louis.

“The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” Trump said.

The president spoke after a visit to the National Museum of African American History, saying the tour served as a reminder of “why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms.”

Swedes’ laughter fades

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Two days after Trump called attention to something that just happened in Sweden, but didn’t, something did. Several dozen rioters in a predominantly immigrant Stockholm suburb, reacting to the arrest of a drug suspect, threw rocks at police, set cars on fire and looted shops.

As of Tuesday evening, Trump had not indulged his past penchant of claiming credit on Twitter for having called it, sort of. His son Donald Jr. picked up the ball, tweeting “Nothing to see here ...” with a link to a story by CNN. (In this case, not on the Trumps’ “fake news” list.)

Transgender rights rollback

The Trump administration plans to roll back protections for transgender students, including federal guidance that required public schools to let students use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identities, The Washington Post reports.

Spicer said it’s Trump’s longtime view “that this is not something that the federal government should be involved in; this is a states’ rights issue.”

McMaster of his universe?

The new national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, will have “100 percent” discretion to choose his own staff, Spicer said, trying to put to rest stories that such control was an issue in discussions with other candidates for the post.

But what if McMaster isn’t keen about Trump’s controversial appointment of political strategist Steve Bannon as a full participant on the National Security Council? “The president would take that under high — you know, serious — consideration,” Spicer said.

Twitter snark of the day

President Donald Trump, who used "so-called" to describe a sitting federal judge, now applies the same snark-phrase to those in middle America who show up at Congressional town hall meetings to blast GOP policies. On Tuesday night his tweet went: "The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!"

Trump appeared to be reacting to televised gatherings, including one in which veteran Sen. Charles Grassley faced what the Des Moines Register called "a raucous, sweaty tumult of cheering and jeering, interruptions and shouted questions." Hot topics included health care repeal, guns, immigration and schools. 

What else is happening

  • U.S. military 'advisers' are now fighting alongside Iraqi forces near the front lines against the Islamic State group in the battle to retake Mosul, a sign of Trump’s willingness to grant more latitude to American commanders, the Los Angeles Times reports.
  • EPA chief Scott Pruitt talked about changing priorities at an introductory meeting with staff. 
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote a Washington Post op-ed calling upon Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from overseeing the FBI’s investigation of ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
  • Schumer, in a Seaford news conference, said Long Island homeowners would be hit by “tax jeopardy” if federal tax deductions for mortgage interest are reduced or eliminated as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has proposed, Newsday’s Maura McDermott reports.
  • Trump didn’t need the Senate to confirm McMaster’s appointment to the national security post, but McMaster will need Senate approval to remain in the active-duty military as a three-star general, Politico reports.
  • Though his academic credentials are thin, Sebastian Gorka, a former Breitbart News editor and self-styled expert on Islamic terrorism, is now a top White House voice on the issue, and the subject of an in-depth Washington Post profile.
  • Trump has not returned to New York City since he was inaugurated, but anti-Trump protesters are itching to hit the streets near Trump Tower when he does, The New York Times reports.
  • NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio lashed out at ICE's arrest of a Salvadoran in Queens.