The latest on the Trump administration and the border
Demonstrators blocked traffic in Midtown Manhattan today during a protest calling for the elimination of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
The demonstrators briefly shut down traffic at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue during the "Abolish ICE" protest. Holding signs that read "Abolish ICE" and "Close the camps," protesters also demanded the closure of detention facilities holding migrant children and families.
At least 48 people were arrested during the protest, an inspector with New York Police Department's Strategic Response Group told CNN.
Texas Democratic Rep. Veronica Escobar blasted a new rule by the Trump administration that would dramatically limit the ability of Central American migrants to claim asylum if they enter the United States by land through Mexico.
She went on to say President Trump is "trying to make immigrants fearful of being in this country, asylum-seekers fearful of seeking asylum."
“It's clear what he's trying to do. His anti-immigrant agenda is really reaching dangerous levels," Escobar told CNN outside the House Judiciary Committee today. "He's fueling xenophobia, fueling racism, trying to make immigrants fearful of being in this country, asylum-seekers fearful of seeking asylum. We are just in a really bad place in our country. Regardless of how anyone feels about immigrants or migrants, we should all believe in the laws that protect someone's fundamental right to claim asylum, and we need to stand up for what our country was founded on.”
Asked about President Trump's comments earlier in the day which included him accusing her of "speaking about how wonderful al Qaeda is," Rep. Ilhan Omar refused to comment, saying she "will not dignify it with an answer."
"I know that every single Muslim who has lived in this country and across the world has heard that comment. So I will not dignify it with an answer because I know that every single Islamophobe, every single person who is hateful, who is driven by an ideology of othering, as this President is, rejoices in us responding to that and us defending ourselves," she said.
"It is beyond time to ask muslims to condemn terrorists," Omar added.
On Monday, Trump said he is angry "when I hear people speaking about how wonderful al Qaeda is." He emphasized: "That was Omar. How great al Qaeda is." And he said, "She said you can hold their chest out, you can — 'When I think of America, huh. When I think of al Qaeda, I can hold my chest out.'"
Omar referred to Trump's comments as a "ridiculous statement."
Facts First: Omar has not praised al Qaeda or said she can hold her "chest out" when thinking of al Qaeda. Trump was inaccurately describing remarks she made in 2013 about how one of her college professors acted when he discussed al Qaeda.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, said she was not surprised by President Trump's racist attacks.
"I am not surprised when the President says that four sitting members of congress should 'go back to their own country' when he has authorized raids without warrants on thousands of families across this country. I am not surprised that he used the rhetoric that he does when he violates international human rights and takes thousands of children away from their families," she said at a news conference today.
Ocasio-Cortez vowed to stay focused despite the President's recent attacks.
"We'll stay focused on our agenda and we won't get caught slipping. Because all of this is a distraction. It is a distraction from what is most important and from our core values as American citizens," she said.
Ocasio-Cortez argued the president was attacking the four congresswomen because he can't defend his own policies.
"Weak minds and leaders challenge loyalty to our country in order to avoid challenging and debating the policy," she said at the press conference.
"He can’t look a child in the face and he can’t look at all Americans and justify why this country is throwing them in cages," she said. "So instead he tells us that I should go back to the great borough of the Bronx and make it better. And that’s what I’m here to do."
She also told a story about her dad bringing her to the Capitol reflecting pool as a child and telling her the nation's capital belongs to everyone.
"I want to tell children across this country is that no matter what the president says, this country belongs to you," Ocasio-Cortez said. "And it belongs to everyone and today that notion, that very notion was challenged."
Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib described President Trump's recent tweets and remarks about her and her colleagues as "a continuation of his racist and xenophobic playbook."
She said she won't allow the President's comments to distract her from her work.
"We can't allow hateful actions by the president to distract us from the critical work to hold this administration accountable to the inhumane conditions at the border that is separating children from their loved ones and caging them up and illegal horrific conditions," she said.
After the Democratic congresswomen he attacked repeatedly raised the issue of migrant detention centers at the news conference, Trump tweeted and repeated his claim that the previous administration is responsible for the facilities.
Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar accused President Trump of "launching a blatantly racist attack on four duly elected members" of the US House of Representatives, pointing out that they are all women of color.
"This is the agenda of white nationalists. Whether it is happening in chat rooms, or it is happening on national TV, and now it's reached the White House garden," Omar said.
She concluded her remarks by calling for Trump's impeachment.
"I have not made impeachment central to my election or my tenure. But since the day that I've gotten elected, I've said to people, it is not — if he will be impeached, but when. So it is time for us to stop allowing this President to make a mockery out of our Constitution. It is time for us to impeach this President."
President Trump is tweeting as the four Democratic congresswomen he attacked are holding a news conference.
Trump said Democrats have been “forced to embrace them,” presumably because of his attacks.
Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley called President Trump's racist attacks a "disruptive distraction" and urged people not to "take the bait."
"He does not embody the grace, the empathy, the compassion, the integrity that that office requires and that the American people deserve," the Massachusetts lawmaker said speaking at a news conference this afternoon. "That being said, I encourage the American people and all of us in this room and beyond to not take the bait. This is a disruptive distraction from the issues of care, concern, and consequence to the American people."
Pressley defiantly said, “We will not be silenced. She also took aim at the President calling him “the occupant of the White House” and saying, “I will always, refer to him as the occupant as he is only occupying space.”
She was joined by Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
The four congresswomen were at the center of Trump's tweets. On Sunday, the President used racist language to attack progressive Democratic congresswomen, falsely implying they weren't natural-born American citizens.
Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Pressley are natural-born US citizens, while Omar was born in Somalia and immigrated to the US when she was young. Omar became a citizen in 2000 when she was 17 years old, according to the New York Times.