President Obama is asking Congress for fast-track authority and additional funding to speed the deportation of migrant children fleeing violence and poverty in Central America. The White House says Obama will submit an emergency request to waive anti-trafficking rules that prevent children from being immediately deported. If approved, the government could avoid regulations mandating the children’s transfer to the care of the Department of Health and Human Services, which is tasked with acting in the children’s “best interests,” not forcing automatic deportation. The waiver would apply to children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, the home countries for most of the 52,000 unaccompanied children seized on the border since October. Obama will also ask lawmakers for at least $2 billion to pay for more immigration judges and faster deportations. Speaking to ABC News, President Obama made an appeal to the parents of unaccompanied children.
President Obama: “Our message absolutely is don’t send your children unaccompanied on trains or through a bunch of smugglers. We don’t even know how many of these kids don’t make it and may have been waylaid into sex trafficking or killed because they fell off a train. We have no way of tracking that. So, that is our direct message to the families in Central America: Do not send your children to the borders. If they do make it, they’ll get sent back. More importantly, they may not make it.”
Obama is expected to formally seek the fast-track deportation authority in a letter to Congress today. According to the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, 58 percent of unaccompanied children detained by the United States could be entitled to refugee protections under international law.
The Sunni militant group leading a rebellion against the Iraqi government has declared a Muslim caliphate in the parts of Syria and Iraq under its control. In a statement, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, known as ISIS or ISIL, said it will now be known as the “Islamic State.” The group also called on Islamist factions worldwide to pledge allegience, a potential challenge to its former ally, al-Qaeda. Iraqi lawmakers are holding a key session on Tuesday to begin selecting a new government. This comes as the Iraqi army has launched a new offensive to retake the northern city of Tikrit. Speaking in Geneva, a spokesperson for the United Nations refugee agency said aid officials have been unable to reach tens of thousands of displaced Iraqis.
Christiane Berthiaume: “There are hundreds of roadblocks which not only prevent us from joining people who need help to bring them assistance, but which also prevent people from getting out in order to join a distribution point. There is no freedom of movement. We can’t join them, and neither can they join us.”
The State Department abandoned a probe of the private military firm Blackwater in Iraq after a company official threatened to kill the government’s chief investigator. The New York Times reports investigators began looking into Blackwater’s Iraq operations just weeks before company operatives shot dead 17 Iraqi civilians in the 2007 massacre at Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. The investigators found widespread misconduct and warned of an “environment full of liability and negligence.” But according to government documents, the previously undisclosed investigation was quashed after Blackwater’s project manager in Iraq, Daniel Carroll, issued a threat “that he could kill” the chief investigator, Jean Richter, and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq.” The U.S. Embassy in Iraq ended up siding with Blackwater, ordering Richter and a colleague to leave the country and calling them “unsustainably disruptive” and “unnecessarily hostile” to “contract personnel.” The New York Times says the investigators’ unheeded warnings “make clear that the [State] Department was alerted to serious problems involving Blackwater and its government overseers before Nisour Square.” The trial of four Blackwater operatives accused in the massacre began this month after years of delay.
Israeli warplanes have killed one Palestinian and injured three in strikes on the Gaza Strip. Palestinian militants in Gaza have launched rockets on southern Israel over the past day amidst escalating tensions over an Israeli crackdown following the apparent kidnapping of three teenagers from a West Bank settlement.
The Obama administration has signaled its intent to eventually sign an international convention banning the use, stockpiling, production or transfer of antipersonnel land mines. The White House initially announced in 2009 it would continue U.S. policy of rejecting the treaty, but then walked back its stance by saying the treaty was under review. Five years later, the administration now says it intends to eventually sign the treaty, but not in the near future. In a statement Friday, the administration said it will immediately stop adding to its stockpile of nine million landmines and take further steps that would eventually allow for ratification. In a statement, Human Rights Watch welcomed the new stance but added: “It makes no sense for the U.S. to acknowledge the weapons should be banned because of the humanitarian harm they cause while retaining the option to use them for years to come.”
The Obama administration has tapped a former Procter & Gamble executive to head the embattled Department of Veterans Affairs. Bob McDonald would replace Eric Shinseki, who was forced to resign earlier this month following outrage over the cover-up of lengthy delays at VA facilities.
The city of Chicago has announced the firing of more than 1,200 teachers and support staff at public schools. It is the fourth time in the last five years that Chicago has fired more than 1,000 people. In a statement, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis accused Mayor Rahm Emanuel of waging a “war on educators.”
Indigenous groups have led a gathering of hundreds of people in the western Canadian province of Alberta for the annual “Tar Sands Healing Walk.” Participants staged a march and healing ceremony this weekend to mark the damage of tar sands oil mining on the land and on local communities. The indigenous-led ceremony was in its fifth and final year.
Civil rights activists who traveled to Missisippi to register African-American voters half a century ago reunited to mark the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer. In June 1964, some 1,000 out-of-state volunteers risked their lives as part of the massive voter registration campaign. Late last week, veteran activists including Julian Bond, Marian Wright Edelman and Bob Moses gathered at Tougaloo College to celebrate the milestone and mark the continuation of the civil rights struggle. As part of the celebration, a group of student activists joined with workers from a Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, who say they are facing threats and intimidation in their attempt to unionize. The actor and activist Danny Glover addressed the crowd at the rally.
Danny Glover: “So these students, we veterans of the civil rights movement, we are here right now to demand that we want justice right now. Not tomorrow, right now. The concentration of wealth in this country among the most powerful people in this country is just as bad as it was in 1846! 1846! 1846 was in the beginning stages of the Industrial Revolution, before the abolition of slavery. So we’ve got to challenge that, and we can only challenge by organizing. We’re going to create another Nissan, a Nissan that respects us as human beings, that respects our human rights! Workers’ rights are civil rights!”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had also seen the connection between workers rights and civil rights. He was in Memphis, Tennessee, to support striking sanitation workers when he was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
The Justice Department has dropped its criminal prosecution of Palestinian professor and activist Sami Al-Arian. Al-Arian was first accused of ties to the group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, but a Florida jury failed to return a single guilty verdict on any of the 17 charges against him. After prosecutors refiled charges, Al-Arian chose jail time and then deportation rather than face a second trial and a lengthier sentence. Defense lawyers argued prosecutors then violated his plea deal by subsequently charging him for refusing to testify in cases that had nothing to do with his. On Friday, prosecutors said they would drop the contempt case “in light of the passage of time without resolution,” and in order to begin deportation proceedings. In a statement, the Al-Arian family said: “We hope today’s events bring to a conclusion the government’s pursuit of Dr. Al-Arian and that he can finally be able to resume his life with his family in freedom.”
New York City has finalized a $40 million settlement with the Central Park Five, who were wrongfully convicted of raping a female jogger in Central Park 25 years ago. The five black and Latino men were convicted as teenagers. Media coverage at the time portrayed them as guilty and used racially coded terms to describe them. But their convictions were vacated in 2002 when the real rapist came forward and confessed, after the five had already served jail terms of up to 13 years. On Friday, three of the five appeared at City Hall to thank their supporters. Defense attorney Michael Warren said the five’s ordeal has left them with injuries that will last a lifetime.
Michael Warren: “In spite of the fact that they are here and in spite of the fact that they have fought for all these years, in spite of the fact that you may see smiles on their face, there are scars inside which will last forever as a result of them having their youth stolen from them and, even more importantly, having their youth stolen from them and being put into prisons facing the type of charges that they were faced with.”
LGBT pride parades were held across the United States and around world on Sunday. In New York City, participants marked the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, which helped launch the modern LGBT movement.