Kate Riga

Kate Riga is a news writer for Talking Points Memo based in New York City. Before joining TPM, Kate was the political reporter for The Southampton Press. She is a graduate of Georgetown University and a native of Philadelphia.

Articles by Kate

Former President Barack Obama weighed in on the family separation crisis Wednesday, calling on Americans to “find a way to welcome the refugee and the immigrant.”

In a lengthy Facebook post, he took a thinly-veiled shot at President Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy that has left bereft and panicked children in facilities away from their parents at the border.

“And to watch those families broken apart in real time puts to us a very simple question: are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms, or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together? Do we look away, or do we choose to see something of ourselves and our children?” he wrote.

He reminded Americans that nearly everyone in this country comes from somewhere else, and that those who were born into citizenship here should recognize how fortunate they are.

“Whether our families crossed the Atlantic, the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we’re only here because this country welcomed them in…” he said.

He ends his message with a call to action, pushing Congress to take legislative action and all Americans to vote.

“But we have to do more than say ‘this isn’t who we are.’ We have to prove it – through our policies, our laws, our actions, and our votes,” he concluded.

Former first lady Michelle Obama weighed in Monday, retweeting her Republican counterpart Laura Bush’s opinion piece in the Washington Post calling for an end to the border separations. She captioned the tweet: “Sometimes truth transcends party.”

Read Obama’s full post here:

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President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he would soon sign an executive order on his own border separation policy that would allow families to stay together.

“I’ll be signing something in a little while that’s going to do that. I’ll be doing something that’s somewhat preemptive and ultimately will be matched by legislation, I’m sure,” he said.

An unnamed source told the New York Times that the executive order would “seek to get around an existing 1997 consent decree, known as the Flores settlement, that prohibits the federal government from keeping children in immigration detention — even if they are with their parents — for more than 20 days.”

Trump said that ultimately, he’d like to emerge from this issue with comprehensive immigration reform.

He went on to bash Democrats, labeling them as weak on immigration. “They don’t care about lack of security,” he said. “They would like to have open borders where anybody in the world can just flow in, including from the Middle East, from anybody, anywhere, they can just flow into our country.”

Despite the criticism, he lobbed the immigration hot potato into the minority party’s collective lap, saying that “we need the Democrats’ support, because we need their votes. It’s simple.”

The practice of separating families at the border stems directly from the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy and Trump could roll it back himself, without legislative support, if he chose.

Trump then distilled his personal dilemma about the border separations, predictably rooted in public perception rather than the suffering of the children involved.

“If you’re weak, if you’re weak, which some people would like you to be, if you’re really, really pathetically weak, the country is going to be overrun with millions of people,” he said. “And if you’re strong, then you don’t have any heart.”

He comforted his Republican peers by telling them that “they shouldn’t feel guilty” since immigration has been a difficult issue for “many, many years.”


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Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), a congressman who recently lost the Republican primary for his reelection bid to a far-right challenger, earned an entire Trump digression Tuesday evening, as the President veered off his immigration script to slam the lawmaker in a room of his peers.

According to a Tuesday Washington Post report, Trump called Sanford a “nasty guy” and made fun of him for losing his race before a stone-cold audience, smattered with booing.

For Sanford, the display was a perfect summation of his problems with Trump.

“I would say the comment goes to the core of why I have at times agreed with policies of the administration but at the same time found the President’s personal style so caustic and counterproductive,” Sanford told The Washington Post. “The tragedy of the Trump presidency is that he thinks it’s about him. The President has taken those earnest beliefs by so many people across the country and has unfortunately fallen prey to thinking it’s about him.”

He reportedly added that he was gratified that his colleagues booed the President for the “biased, demeaning and pejorative comment.”

“You have really big issues happening, and in that context, the President felt it was necessary to take time to say something pejorative about some member of Congress,” he told the Post. “You have that environment, with so many important policies to be discussed, and the president takes time to do that. It is symptomatic [of] how far this administration has drifted from important ideas and policy that really impact people’s lives.”

When asked why Trump has sustained such a vitriolic grudge against him, Sanford expressed his bemusement. “I have no clue,” he said and started laughing.

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Tuesday that he will launch a multi-agency lawsuit against the Trump administration for its separations of families at the border, citing the infringement of the constitutional rights of the children and families.

“The Trump Administration’s policy to tear apart families is a moral failing and a human tragedy,” he said. “We will not tolerate the constitutional rights of children and their parents being violated by our federal government. New York will act and file suit to end this callous and deliberate attack on immigrant communities, and end this heartless policy once and for all.”

Cuomo likely has multiple motivations for the legal action, as he is currently fighting off primary challenger and actress Cynthia Nixon from the left and wants to boost his liberal credentials.

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On Tuesday evening, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen was driven out of a Mexican restaurant a few blocks from the White House when a dozen protesters arrived shouting “shame!” and “if kids don’t eat in peace, you don’t eat in peace!” according to a Wednesday Washington Post report.

She reportedly sat with her head down, listening to the chanting for about 10 minutes and making a phone call before paying her bill and leaving.

According to video footage posted to Facebook, one protester approached the table to address her.

“Secretary Nielsen!” he said. “How dare you spend your evening here eating dinner as you’re complicit in the separation and deportation of over 10,000 children separated from their parents? How can you enjoy a Mexican dinner as you’re deporting and imprisoning tens of thousands of people who come here seeking asylum in the United States? We call on you to end family separation and abolish ICE!”

Other protesters joined the chorus, yelling “in a Mexican restaurant, of all places!” and “have you listened to it? Do you hear the babies crying?” in reference to the viral audio leaked from a detention center.

A statement released to the Washington Post by a DHS spokesman after the interrupted meal painted a very different scene.

“While having a work dinner tonight, the Secretary and her staff heard from a small group of protesters who share her concern with our current immigration laws that have created a crisis on our southern border,” it said. “The Secretary encourages all — including this group — who want to see an immigration system that works, that contributes to our economy, that protects our security, and that reflects our values to reach out to Members of Congress and seek their support to close the terrible immigration loopholes that have made our system a mess. The Secretary has been working with Members of Congress for months in search of a solution and she will continue to do so this week.”

The protest was organized by the Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America.

“While Secretary Nielsen’s dinner may have been ruined, it is nothing compared to the horrors she has inflicted on innocent families,” the organization said in a statement.

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As staffers drain from the White House and the bulk of President Donald Trump’s most trusted advisers depart, Trump is growing increasingly lonely and mistrustful of those remaining, according to a Tuesday New York Times report.

“The Bushies in the White House are out to get me,” Trump reportedly said about staff holdovers from the Bush administration.

He is also so devoid of human contact that he’s eager to spar with reporters even as he slanders the profession daily, according to the Times.

The tides do not seem to be changing, either, as rumors fly about a chunk of significant White House officials who are eyeing the exits. Per the New York Times, that list includes Chief of Staff John Kelly, White House Counsel Don McGahn, Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah and Social Media Director Dan Scavino.

Scavino in particular would reportedly be a big loss to the President, as he is one of the last campaign holdovers who has stayed with Trump since the beginning and is vested with the responsibility of running Trump’s treasured Twitter feed—when Trump isn’t using it, of course.

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In a rare move, President Donald Trump praised his secretary of homeland security Tuesday, saying that she did a “fabulous job” at a Monday press conference about the administration’s policy of separating families at the border.

Recent reports have catalogued Trump’s rage with Nielsen, who he considers to be too soft on immigration, and a feckless Bush administration holdover. He has been unhappy with her nearly since the beginning of her tenure when he flagellated her at a Cabinet meeting in an episode some attendees called “the most uncomfortable scene they have witnessed in their professional lives.”

In addition, her horse is tethered to Chief of Staff John Kelly’s wagon, as Kelly pushed hard for her nomination and considers her a “surrogate daughter.” Trump is perennially displeased with Kelly, who has taken to spending his days at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building gym rather than trying to rein in the human tornado of Trump.

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Pope Francis criticized President Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy, calling the border separations “immoral” and “contrary to our Catholic values,” according to a Wednesday Reuters report.

“It’s not easy, but populism is not the solution,” he said of immigration. He added that he sided with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops about Trump’s policy, a leading body of church leaders which sent out a missive condemning the zero-tolerance practice for putting battered women at risk and rending families asunder.

Pope Francis had the same message for Trumpian sentiment washing over Europe and ushering in an era of nationalism and isolationism. He told Reuters that populists were “creating psychosis” on the topic of immigration and that much of Europe is in “a great demographic winter” desperately in need of more immigrants. Without them, the continent “will become empty,” he added.

“I believe that you cannot reject people who arrive,” he told Reuters. “Some governments are working on it, and people have to be settled in the best possible way, but creating psychosis is not the cure. Populism does not resolve things. What resolves things is acceptance, study, prudence.”

Pope Francis took issue with other Trump administration moves as well. He told Reuters that he was saddened by Trump’s move to restrict Americans’ access to Cuba, saying that former President Barack Obama’s opening of the island “was a good step forward.” He also said that Trump’s pulling out of the Paris Agreement caused him “a bit of pain” because “the future of humanity is at stake.”

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President Donald Trump targeted one of his favorite enemies during a Tuesday immigration talk, accusing the “fake news media” of helping smugglers and traffickers at the border by not speaking about the asylum process enough.

“Keep in mind, those who apply for asylum legally at ports of entry are not prosecuted,” he said. “The fake news media back there doesn’t talk about that. They are fake. They are helping, they are helping these smugglers and these traffickers like nobody would believe.”

He linked that to people coming into the country illegally and “endangering our children,” citing MS13 at the perpetrator of this violence.

Watch below:

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In his classic stream-of-consciousness style, President Donald Trump took aim at immigration judges, saying “I don’t want judges, I want border security.”

“I don’t want people coming in,” he said, referring to immigrants. “If a person comes in and puts one foot in our ground, it is essentially ‘welcome to America, welcome to our country,’ and you never get them out.

“Because they take their name, they bring the name down, they file it, they let the person go, they say ‘show back up to court in one year from now,'” he continued. “One year. But here’s the thing, that in itself is ridiculous. Three percent come back.”

According to a 2016 report from the Syracuse University Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a collection of nonpartisan reports on federal spending and enforcement actions, in 2015, 86 percent of undocumented immigrants who were released from detention and given a later court date showed up.

Trump also attacked the entire process by which we choose immigration judges, calling the nomination and vetting process “graft.”

“Who are these people?” he said, of immigration judges. “When we vet the single federal judge, it goes through a bid process, everybody that’s ever met her or him, they come, they complain, they don’t complain, they say he’s brilliant, she is brilliant, he’s not smart enough to be a judge, now we are hiring thousands and thousands — what country does this?”

He added that people “line up” to become immigration judges, calling the process “horrible.”

Immigration judges are selected by the Executive Office for Immigration Review, part of the Department of Justice.

Trump also asserted that some immigration lawyers are “bad people” for coaching asylum applicants about what to say during their hearings.

Watch below:

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