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The nation in brief

by Compiled by Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports | August 28, 2019 at 3:35 a.m. | Updated August 28, 2019 at 3:35 a.m.

Agency shifts $271M to border efforts

WASHINGTON -- The Department of Homeland Security is moving $271 million from other agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Coast Guard to pay for immigration detention beds and support its policy of forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico.

Homeland Security officials said in a statement Tuesday that they would transfer $155 million for temporary hearing spaces along the U.S.-Mexico border to help hear asylum cases faster. They also will transfer $116 million to pay for Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention bed space, though Congress specifically did not authorize additional funding for the agency.

The move is drawing objections from Democratic lawmakers in the House.

U.S. Rep. Lucille Royball-Allard, D-Calif., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee's Homeland Security subcommittee, said in a statement that the change would support "inhumane" programs and take away necessary funding for other agencies. She also said the Homeland Security Department "has ignored the negotiated agreement with Congress by vastly exceeding the amount appropriated for immigration enforcement and removal operations."

Bid afoot to put firearms law on hold

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma Second Amendment Association is challenging efforts that would put on hold a new permitless-carry law until voters weigh in on the issue.

The law, passed earlier this year, will allow Oklahoma residents to openly carry guns without background checks or training. The new law takes effect Nov. 1, but efforts are underway for a statewide referendum on the measure.

The Oklahoman reported that the association filed a legal challenge Monday to the wording of the referendum petition, calling it inaccurate and misleading. Don Spencer, president of the Second Amendment Association, called the statewide vote a waste of time.

"Citizens of the state of Oklahoma have been waiting on this for over 112 years, and it's time for them to get their rights back," he said.

But the measure's backers, who have until 5 p.m. Thursday to collect nearly 60,000 signatures to get the measure on the 2020 ballot, dismissed those claims. State Rep. Jason Lowe, a Democrat, said Oklahomans think the new law is dangerous.

"I say to the naysayers, I say to the individuals who cite the Second Amendment, who indicate they believe in the Constitution, what's more enshrined in the Constitution than the right to vote?" he said.

School-choice group targets lawmaker

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A group that helped advance Tennessee's newly enacted school-voucher law is now targeting a Republican lawmaker who voted against the contentious plan.

The American Federation for Children, a school-choice advocacy group once led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, released an online ad earlier this month criticizing state Rep. Mark Cochran for voting no on a plan to expand education savings accounts in Tennessee.

Cochran is up for re-election for a second two-year term in 2020.

Tennessee's voucher program diverts tax dollars to private education and allows participating families to receive debit cards of up to $7,300 in state education money each year. However, critics say the program doesn't help current failing schools and takes away money from public education.

The American Federation for Children's ad includes a screen shot of a tweet sent by President Donald Trump endorsing Tennessee's voucher plan while accusing Cochran of turning "his back on President Trump" by voting no.

2 fakers ordered to copy vets' obituaries

A Montana judge has sentenced two men who lied about their military service to get resources and preferential treatment from a veterans court to copy over in longhand 40 obituaries of soldiers from Montana if they expect to be paroled.

Ryan Patrick Morris, 28, and Troy Allan Nelson, 33, apologized before being sentenced for separate crimes by Cascade County District Judge Greg Pinski.

Morris received 10 years in prison for violating probation after a felony burglary and falsely claimed that he was injured by a roadside bomb during one of seven combat tours. Nelson was sentenced to five years for drug possession and enrolled in a veterans court before it was discovered that he isn't a veteran at all.

Morris must serve seven years and Nelson must do three They are eligible for parole part of the way through if they meet certain conditions, county attorney Joshua Racki said.

To qualify, both must hand-write the names of all 6,756 Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the obituaries of the 40 Montana soldiers in that group.

And, while on probation, they must wear placards on Memorial Day and Veterans Day outside the Montana Veterans Memorial with a sign that reads: "I am a liar. I am not a veteran. I stole valor. I have dishonored all veterans."

A Section on 08/28/2019

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