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Trump’s border policy is broken, and no one has fixed it

First lady Melania Trump departs Andrews Air

First lady Melania Trump departs Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Thursday wearing a jacket emblazoned with the words "I really don't care, do u?" after her visit to a shelter housing youn migrants on the U.S.-Mexico border. Credit: AFP/Getty Images / Mandel Ngan

Scattered kids and chaos

A theme Donald Trump wanted to push Thursday was reorganization — a plan to reshuffle government bureaucracies.

The theme that dominated the day was disorganization. Chaos and confusion reigned over the executive order slapped together the day before that’s supposed to unwind the disastrous scheme of separating detained migrant parents from their children.

There were no clear answers on how and when more than 2,500 children taken away in the past few weeks would be brought back. Responsibility is splintered among multiple agencies. The kids are scattered in shelters in at least 13 states, The Washington Post reports, and the crisis could take months to untangle.

A Customs and Border Protection official told the Post that the Border Patrol will no longer refer migrant parents who enter illegally with children to federal courthouses for criminal charges. But a Justice Department spokeswoman said the prosecutions would continue.

The Pentagon disclosed it was exploring whether it could house up to 20,000 immigrant minors on U.S. military bases starting in July.

Trump blamed “extremist, open-border Democrats” for the strategy he adopted and then abandoned. “They don’t care about the children,” he said.

For more, see Newsday’s story by Laura Hernandez Figueroa.

Melania’s off message

First lady Melania Trump, who is said to have lobbied her husband to end the family separations, made a surprise trip to Texas to speak to children and officials at a shelter for migrant children.

But the show of compassion by the ex-fashion model was overshadowed by a baffling wardrobe choice as she boarded the plane to go there — a $39 Zara jacket emblazoned on the back with the phrase: “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?”

Her spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham, said there was no “hidden message” — “It’s a jacket.” Melania didn’t wear it in Texas, but on the return trip, she put it on again before getting off the plane in humid 80-plus-degree weather.

The president contradicted Grisham in a tweet and said there was a message — about “the Fake News Media.”

Still climbing that hill

House Republicans put off a vote on an immigration bill until next week. A hard-right version was defeated, and leaders haven’t been able to round up enough votes for a more moderate plan, reports Newsday’s Tom Brune.

Trump complicated matters with a tweet Thursday morning asking, “What’s the purpose of the House doing good immigration bills” when Democrats will filibuster them in the Senate, where Republicans have 51 votes, but need 60 to overcome the minority party’s opposition.

Janison: Shuffling the deck

The highlight of Trump’s government reorganization plan, which would require congressional approval, is to merge the departments of Education and Labor.

The Education Department has long been a target of conservatives and is a less-than-cherished institution around the nation, given years of Common Core controversy and the fact that public schools are local institutions.

Perhaps Secretary Betsy DeVos’ shortcomings would matter less if it’s no longer a standalone department. The merger with Labor could symbolize to some the handover of education to industry. To others, it could mean a reduced emphasis on labor regulations.

See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.

Trade war getting hotter

More countries targeted by Trump’s tariffs are hitting back. The European Union is set Friday to slap tariffs on $3.4 billion in American products, from whiskey and motorcycles to peanuts and cranberries. India and Turkey have already targeted U.S. products ranging from rice to autos to sunscreen.

The biggest battle may be yet to come. In two weeks, the United States is to start taxing $34 billion in Chinese goods. Beijing has vowed to immediately retaliate with its own tariffs on soybeans and farm products — a shot at President Donald Trump’s supporters in America’s heartland, The Associated Press reports.

The laugh track in his head

Sometimes Trump hears laughter that no one else does. He tweeted that House Republicans he met with enjoyed his tap-dance on the political grave of Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), a Trump critic who lost his primary. “They applauded and laughed loudly,” Trump tweeted.

Others who were in the room said members were not amused. It was a “dazzling display of pettiness and insecurity,” said Rep. Justin Amash (R- Mich.) “Categorically false,” said Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.)

More commonly, Trump talks of other countries chortling at the U.S. for any number of reasons he blames on his predecessors. “The whole world is laughing at the United States, and they have been for years,” he said Thursday, speaking of immigration laws.

What else is happening

  • Looks like Corey Lewandowski’s “womp womp” mockery of a migrant girl with Down syndrome taken from her mother is going to cost him. A leading Washington speakers bureau dropped the former Trump campaign manager, CNN reports.
  • Four major airlines — American, United, Southwest and Frontier — said they will no longer fly migrant kids away from families because it’s contrary to their values. A flight attendant told the Houston Chronicle that ICE agents lied to a colleague and said the kids on a flight were from a soccer team.
  • Federal officials still haven’t explained what happened to a sobbing 2-year-old Honduran girl whose photo became emblematic of the plight of migrant kids separated from parents, BuzzFeed reports.
  • Trump boasted twice Wednesday about having “liberated towns” on Long Island from MS-13 and “taken them out by the thousands.” No ICE stats are available on removals, and local gang prevention groups credit recent arrests to factors including ramped-up local law enforcement and a boost in state funding for anti-gang programs, Figueroa reports.
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions, following the example of other top administration officials, is trying to recast his role in the family-separation policy. A week after citing the Bible to justify it, Sessions told the Christian Broadcasting Network: “We never really intended to do that.”
  • Trump has revoked an order issued by President Barack Obama in 2010 after a massive oil spill to protect U.S. oceans and the Great Lakes, replacing it with a new approach that emphasizes use of the waters to promote economic growth.

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