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

In a Thursday tweet, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said that DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen privately told lawmakers that family separations at the border may continue.

Schiff’s statement comes a day after President Donald Trump signed an executive order stopping his administration’s policy of family separations, instead opting to have the children detained with their parents as the parents await criminal prosecution.

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First lady Melania Trump made an unannounced visit to the US-Mexico border in McAllen, Texas on Thursday, a day after her husband signed an executive order to alter his family separation policy, reportedly at least in part due to her prompting.

At an immigration detention center for minors, Trump made brief comments about her goals for the trip.

“I’m here to learn about your facility which I know you house children on a long-term basis,” she said. “And I would also like to ask you how I can help these children to reunite with their families as quickly as possible.”

She thanked the workers for their compassion, and said that she was looking forward to seeing the children.

She first asked how many children were in the shelter and how often they were allowed to speak to their families. She was told that there were 55 children there, and that they are allowed to speak on the phone with their families twice a week.

She also asked what the children’s physical and mental states generally are when they arrive. A clinician told her that they often enter very distraught, but calm down when they adjust to their surroundings.

When she asked how long the children stay without their parents, she was told 42-45 days. “That’s great,” she said.

She wanted to clarify that children that arrive truly unaccompanied are between 12 and 17 and that they know where they are. “They’re not young young?” she asked.

After the roundtable, she went on a tour of the facility with the workers.

Soon after, President Donald Trump commented on her trip at his Cabinet meeting. “My wife, first lady, is down now at the border because it really bothered her to be looking at this and seeing it, as it bothered me, as it bothered everybody at this table,” he said.

Melania Trump’s spokeswoman sent a statement upon her arrival.

“First lady Melania Trump has arrived in Texas to take part in briefings and tours at a nonprofit social services center for children who have entered the United States illegally and a customs and border patrol processing center,” she said. “Her goals are to thank law enforcement and social services providers for their hard work, lend support and hear more on how the administration can build upon the already existing efforts to reunite children with their families.”

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Patrons at a Mexican restaurant in D.C. recognized Trump aide Stephen Miller and took him to task on Sunday for his hand in the administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, according to a Wednesday New York Post report.

One kept his message simple, yelling “fascist!”

Another invoked sarcasm: “Hey look guys, whoever thought we’d be in a restaurant with a real-life fascist begging [for] money for new cages?”

Miller reportedly did not respond but moved away from the hecklers inside the restaurant.

The altercation occurred two days before Miller’s coworker, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, was confronted by protesters at another D.C. Mexican joint, though she left the restaurant after enduring about 10 minutes of cries of “shame!” and “have you listened to it? Do you hear the babies crying?”  

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Many big data and tech firms have quietly cashed in on contracts with ICE, even as some of them publicly condemn the agency’s practices, including the border family separations, according to a Wednesday NBC News report.

These companies reportedly include Palantir, Microsoft, Thomson Reuters, Helwett Packard Enterprise and Motorola Solutions.

Palantir has a $39 million contract with ICE started in 2015 that entitles ICE to use its database that reportedly tracks immigrants’ records.

Microsoft’s contract gives ICE access to its extensive facial recognition technology, though the company distanced itself from the Trump administration’s family separations.

“As a company, Microsoft is dismayed by the forcible separation of children from their families at the border,” Microsoft said in a statement per NBC. “Family unification has been a fundamental tenet of American policy and law since the end of World War II.”

Thomson Reuters Special Services reportedly has a $6.8 million contract with ICE to supply “data to ICE in support of its work on active criminal investigations with the explicit purpose to focus resources on priority cases involving threats to public safety and/or national security,” per a Thomson Reuters spokesperson to NBC.

Since 2015, Hewlett Packard Enterprise has maintained a $75 million contract with Border Patrol (the umbrella above ICE) for management of BP’s network operations.

Per NBC, Motorola has a $13.3 million contract with ICE for a mysterious “tactical communications program.”

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Sen. Claire McCaskill’s (D-MO) private plane problems continue as a conservative watchdog group requests a Senate Ethics Committee probe into the income she has reported from her husband’s private plane, according to a Thursday Politico report.

The Republican watchdog, Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), is claiming that McCaskill reported between $0 and $201 of income from her husband’s plane, which her office previously said was chartered for outside use.

FACT claims that the plane has traveled 40,000 miles in the last year, which would equate to “more than $200 in income for the aircraft owner,” which McCaskill did not report. Per Politico, McCaskill shot back that the disclosure forms are asking for total net profits not gross revenues, and since the plane long operated at a loss, it has not made enough money to surpass that deficit.

Republicans are trying to use the plane debacle to wound McCaskill in her reelection campaign against GOP challenger Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley.

“Hawley and his friends are desperate to distract from the fact that he supports ripping health care protections away from 2.5 million Missourians and refuses to stand up for Missouri farmers in the President’s trade war,” a McCaskill spokesperson said.

McCaskill’s plane came back into public consciousness when she used it as an additional method of transportation on her RV campaign tour.

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EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has spent a whopping $4.6 million on personal security measures, about $1.1 million of which he spent in the single month elapsed since his last security disclosure, according to a Wednesday Intercept report.

The records, obtained by the Intercept under a Freedom of Information Act request, detail April purchases like $2,749.62 on “tactical pants” and “tactical polos.” This is part of the $24,115 the agency has spent for various items of body armor.

The EPA also spent $150,900 on leasing vehicles, including a $10,200 one-year lease on a Chevy Suburban that’s equipped with bullet-resistant seats.

Over a dozen federal investigations have been opened into Pruitt’s many alleged ethical misdeeds.

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As House Republicans wrestled Wednesday over what to do about their various immigration bills, frustration boiled over when House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) confronted each other furiously on the House floor, per a Thursday Politico report.

The two were reportedly gesticulating wildly at each other as Meadows cried, “I don’t care anymore,” saying “I’m done” to other people present. According to Politico, at the time, Meadows was involved in talks about the conservative and moderate immigration bills, both of which require his support.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) reportedly joined the fray, prompting Meadows to exclaim (politely) “I’ll sign the dang discharge petition. I don’t care anymore.”

Curbelo led the moderate Republican effort to, among other things, finally bring a floor vote on DACA.

According to Politico, it is unclear exactly what Meadows’ anger stemmed from, but the general consensus is that Meadows felt jerked around by GOP leadership, who felt jerked around by Meadows and his powerful caucus.

Meadows spoke to reporters after the altercation. “Oh, no. I was passionate. I was not yelling,” he said. “I think at this particular point, the compromise bill is not ready for prime time. There are things that are supposed to be in the compromise bill that are not in the compromise bill that we had all agreed to.” He declined to expand further.

As Politico points out, Meadows and his caucus wield enormous power among House Republicans and could easily kill any immigration bill package that comes to the floor. How the bills fare Thursday will be a direct reflection on the power of President Donald Trump to unite his fractured party.

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Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s love life is becoming a real thorn in Republican leadership’s side. He has thrown himself into a quiet Louisiana House race to support a fringe Republican challenger against the GOP establishment-approved incumbent—because his girlfriend told him to.

According to a Wednesday Politico report, Giuliani’s new girlfriend, Jennifer LeBlanc, is working on the campaign of Josh Guillory, an outside-shot challenger to 3rd District Rep. Clay Higgins, a staunch Trump acolyte who gained infamy from his viral and often offensive YouTube videos.

Giuliani’s support for the underdog has reportedly thoroughly irritated House leadership and the Louisiana GOP, all of whom expected Higgins to sail in a district that gives Trump a 64 percent approval rating.

“We have a National Enquirer-type situation going on down in Louisiana’s 3rd Congressional District,” state Attorney General Jeff Landry told Politico. He added that Giuliani’s involvement is “ridiculous.”

Party leaders are reportedly worried that Giuliani’s support could be read as indirectly giving Trump’s blessing to a candidate eschewed by the big names—House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) are already actively fundraising for Higgins. Per Politico, Scalise has called in the big guns, trying to establish Vice President Mike Pence as a Higgins supporter.

“I’m unfazed,” Higgins said in a statement to Politico. “My focus is on serving and continuing to deliver wins for Louisiana and America. I stand with President Trump and will continue to help him advance the conservative agenda in Congress.”

He added: “I’m not concerned with who Rudy Giuliani is dating.”

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First lady Melania Trump was instrumental in getting her husband to decide to sign an executive order and roll back his border separation policy, according to a Wednesday Washington Post report.

According to an unnamed White House official, the first lady has “become even more vocal about her thoughts and opinions on the topic” since last weekend, when her spokesperson sent out a statement calling on both parties to solve the crisis.

An official added that “from the start Mrs. Trump has been encouraging the President to do all he can to keep families together.”

The Slovenian-born first lady’s own immigration lawyer, Michael Wildes, has also weighed in on the policy. “It reminds us of past mistakes. It’s a big disappointment,” he said. He reportedly added that the border separations remind him of Japanese internment and Nazi detention camps.

Wildes took broader aim at the Trump administration’s immigration rhetoric, telling the Washington Post that the terms “anchor babies” and “chain migration” are an attempt “to try to change the narrative” and taint the “beautiful notion of family reunification” and the truth that immigrants “build up our economy and pay it forward to the next generation.”

Many of Melania Trump’s first lady peers have already spoken out against the “zero-tolerance” immigration policy.

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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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