President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday claiming to end the separation of children from their parents at the border, by jailing them together while their legal cases wind through the courts. The order does not say where the families will be detained or whether children will continue to be separated from their parents until the facilities are ready.
President Donald Trump: “We want security for our country. The Republicans want security and insist on security for our country. And we will have that. At the same time, we have compassion. We want to keep families together. It’s very important. I’ll be signing something in a little while that’s going to do that.”
Critics warn the order will lead to the indefinite detention of entire families. And the Trump administration has so far not outlined any plans for reuniting children already separated from their families. At least 2,300 children have been separated since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy in April, with The Intercept reporting the number jailed since last October could be as high as 3,700.
On Capitol Hill, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said he’ll allow debate today on a pair of sweeping anti-immigrant bills that would severely restrict the number of visas granted to immigrants, while providing an additional $25 billion to further militarize the U.S.-Mexico border. The bills appear to be dead on arrival after North Carolina Republican Mark Meadows got into a heated confrontation with Paul Ryan over the measures—which many conservatives say don’t go far enough.
In New York City, children who were separated from their families were brought to a Manhattan foster care organization in the dead of night early Wednesday morning. Video broadcast by the local news channel Spectrum News NY1 shows five girls being ushered into a foster care facility in East Harlem run by Cayuga Centers just before 1 a.m. An hour later, several girls were filmed leaving the facility with their heads covered as they were ushered into a car. The video prompted outrage from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who questioned how the federal government could be holding separated children without telling city officials.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: “Our message to the federal government is simple: Stop this right now. Stop this broken, inhumane policy right now. And come clean with the truth. Who are these children? How many are they? Where are they? What is happening here? How is it possible that none of us knew there were 239 kids right here in our own city? How is the federal government holding back that information from the people of this city?”
Meanwhile, a new investigation by Reveal shows taxpayers have paid more than $1.5 billion in the last four years to companies operating immigrant youth detention centers that faced accusations of serious lapses in care. In many of the cases, the government kept placing children with the companies even after serious allegations had been made. Reveal also reports that some children held at Shiloh Treatment Center near Houston, Texas, were restrained and injected with powerful anti-psychotic drugs against their will, making them dizzy, listless, obese and even incapacitated.
American Airlines and United Airlines have asked the Trump administration to stop transporting immigrant children who have been separated from their families aboard their companies’ planes. American Airlines said in a statement, “We have no desire to be associated with separating families, or worse, to profit from it.” And United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz said, “Our company’s shared purpose is to connect people and unite the world. This policy and its impact on thousands of children is in deep conflict with that mission and we want no part of it.”
Meanwhile, resistance to Trump’s immigration policies continues to swell ahead of a planned national mobilization on June 30. In Portland, Oregon, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement—ICE—shut down its operations Wednesday amid a 24-hour occupation of the area outside ICE’s offices that began on Father’s Day.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed Wednesday that the United States is working tirelessly to support refugees around the world, even as the Trump administration drew international condemnation for its policy of family separation and its treatment of asylum seekers. In a statement marking World Refugee Day, Pompeo praised the “strength and courage” of millions of refugees, adding, “We will continue to help the world’s most vulnerable refugees, reflecting the deeply held values of the American people.” Pompeo’s comment came as Refugees International graded the Trump administration’s treatment of refugees with an “F” in a scathing new report released Wednesday. Refugee rights groups say admissions of refugees have slowed to a crawl under President Trump, with the U.S. on track to take in just 22,000 people this year. That’s less than half of Donald Trump’s stated target of 45,000 refugees—which was already set to be the lowest number resettled in the U.S. since 1980.
In Hungary, lawmakers have approved a harsh anti-immigrant bill that will crack down on anyone offering aid to migrants seeking asylum. Under the legislation, offering food, water or legal advice to migrants would be outlawed. Even printing leaflets with information for asylum seekers would become a criminal offense. This is Hungarian human rights lawyer Márta Pardavi.
Márta Pardavi: “Today is World Refugee Day, and the Hungarian government, instead of providing protection, has decided to actually not provide protection, deny protection and actually side with the persecutors. It starts to persecute even individuals, human rights defenders and others who assist asylum seekers. I think this is a new low point for Hungary today, where even lawyers could face criminal prosecution.”
United Nations investigators said Wednesday that Syria’s government committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during its 5-year siege of the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, which had been occupied by rebels until it was recaptured by Syria earlier this year. A U.N. panel commissioned by the Human Rights Council found besieged civilians in Eastern Ghouta were indiscriminately attacked and systematically denied food and medicine.
The Trump administration has quietly released a major review of a national water contamination crisis caused by a family of chemicals known as PFASs, after President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency suppressed publication of the federal health study. Internal emails, released after a Freedom of Information Act request, showed a Trump administration aide seeking to suppress the study, and warning a top EPA official about the “potential public relations nightmare this is going to be.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study found the chemicals PFOA and PFOS, which are used in Teflon and firefighting foam, are unsafe for human health at levels as little as one-tenth the amount the EPA had previously called safe. The Pentagon has used foams containing these chemicals in exercises at military bases nationwide. In a March report to Congress, the Pentagon listed 126 military installations where the nearby water shows potentially harmful levels of these chemicals, which have been linked to cancers and developmental delays for fetuses and babies.
In climate news, nearly 100 on-air meteorologists will wear blue and red stripes as they go to broadcast today across the United States, in a coordinated effort to draw attention to the threat of human-caused climate change. The stripes are a reference to a “warming stripes” graphic designed by climate scientist Ed Hawkins, which shows global average temperatures as a series of vertical stripes covering the years 1850 to 2017. The graphic shows a shift from blue stripes to red, with the most dramatic increases in temperature coming in recent years.
The action by Meteorologists United on Climate Change comes on the Northern Hemisphere’s summer solstice and amid extreme weather around the world. In southern Texas, emergency workers used boats to rescue trapped residents from their homes in the city of Mercedes Wednesday after more than a foot of rain fell, leaving whole neighborhoods underwater. In Ivory Coast, at least 18 people were killed in the city of Abidjan this week after flash floods from torrential rains tore through residential neighborhoods. In India, nearly 20 people were killed and some 800,000 people were displaced after heavy monsoon rains caused a river to overflow its banks, flooding hundreds of villages. Heavy rains have also left parts of neighboring Bangladesh underwater, with 12 killed and a quarter-million people displaced. Among the dead were two Rohingya refugees living in a sprawling coastal camp in Cox’s Bazar, near the border with Burma. Aid groups are warning of the potential of flooding and landslides to displace some of the 700,000 Rohingya refugees living in makeshift shelters there.
The former archbishop of Washington, D.C., Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, has been removed from the ministry for sexual abuse and misconduct dating back decades. Church officials said Wednesday that McCarrick was credibly accused of sexually abusing a teenager nearly 50 years ago. They also said he had faced three allegations of sexual misconduct with adults in the past. The Washington Post reports that Cardinal McCarrick helped shape many of the church’s policies for responding to the sexual abuse crisis.
In media news, Disney has increased its offer to buy 21st Century Fox to more than $71 billion—boosting its previous bid by more than a third and outbidding an offer by rival Comcast. Any deal by either Disney or Comcast would consolidate two of the biggest players in Hollywood and would reshape the media and entertainment industries.
And in North Carolina, UNC doctoral student Maya Little has been charged with property destruction and faces possible expulsion for pouring red ink and her own blood on the university’s “Silent Sam” statue, which was erected in 1913 to honor Confederate soldiers. In a statement, Maya Little noted that students who had tossed paint on the same statue in the past to celebrate sports victories did not face criminal charges. She wrote, “At UNC, dousing the monument in paint in the name of basketball is deemed a pastime while doing the same to contextualize and fight racism is a crime. Revealing the racist violence upon which Sam was built—exposing a truth the university would like to keep covered—could result in my expulsion.” An online petition demanding that the charges against Maya Little be dropped has been signed by nearly 4,000 people.