The U.S. military is preparing to house up to 20,000 immigrant children on military bases in Texas and Arkansas. A Pentagon spokesperson said the bases would house “unaccompanied alien children,” but other reports suggest the bases might be used to indefinitely hold entire families following President Trump’s executive order ending the separation of children from their parents at the border. On Thursday, the Justice Department asked a federal court permission to alter a settlement that limits family detention to 20 days.
The government is facing growing criticism for having no system in place to reunite thousands of children with their parents after being separated at the border. Groups like the Texas Civil Rights Project are scrambling to locate children who have been sent to detention centers across the country. The group is representing more than 300 parents but has been able to track down only two children. The former head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement under President Obama has sharply criticized the Trump administration. Bob Carey said, “This is child abuse being perpetrated by a government.”
On Capitol Hill, Republicans have postponed a vote on a broad immigration bill as the party’s leadership acknowledged it lacked enough votes. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi slammed the legislation, which would result in the indefinite detention of asylum seekers and $25 billion to build a militarized wall along the Mexican border.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi: “The speaker’s bill carries out the president’s family deportation agenda. It paves the way for the long, long-term incarceration of families in prison-like conditions and a denial of basic health and safety protections for children. The Republican plan is a family incarceration plan. It replaces one form of child abuse with another. And it brazenly violates children’s human rights. Why do Republicans think traumatized, terrified little children at the border do not deserve the same basic respect that their own children do?”
Earlier this morning, President Trump tweeted, “Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November.”
While much of the nation’s attention has been on the U.S.-Mexico border, immigration authorities carried out its largest workplace raid in recent history this week. Federal agents arrested 146 employees at Fresh Mark, a major meat supplier in Ohio. It was the second-largest ICE raid in Ohio in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, dozens of protesters—including many parents with babies—attempted to occupy the ICE field office in New York on Thursday.
Eliza Summons: “I’m Eliza Summons. And we’re outside the federal building near Foley Square, which is the site of the regional ICE office here in New York. There’s another group of us, of parents and kids, who went in. They’re singing songs inside. They’re presenting demands.”
Protester: “The children that are being kept in cages have no clue what is going on. The least you could do is tell the parents that they will see their kids. They’re probably wasting away in worry. They love their kids, and they want to know it will be OK. We were a safe haven to those in need. But we are no more. I hope that you’ll be a hero, take peaceful action, and love the least of these.”
A Guatemalan woman who has been living in the United States for 13 years has announced she has sought sanctuary with two of her children in a New York church in an attempt to avoid deportation. Thirty-two-year-old Debora Berenice Vasquez spoke to the press on Thursday.
Debora Berenice Vasquez: “When I received notice to leave this country, I was heartbroken. I could not think about what it would do to my family, to my kids. It will rip us apart. I understand now what mothers are feeling that are being separated from their children. And it’s important that we remember that this is not only happening on the border, but it is also happening in New York and in cities and states across the country.”
Debora Berenice Vasquez, speaking inside the St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist Church.
New York gubernatorial candidate and actress Cynthia Nixon voiced her support for Debora Berenice Vasquez seeking sanctuary.
Cynthia Nixon: “Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for offering sanctuary to Debora and her children. And thank you for giving us all a place to gather today to stand up with one voice as New Yorkers and say, 'No,' and say, 'No, not in our name. Not in our name.'”
During an interview at the church, Cynthia Nixon described ICE as a “terrorist organization.”
Cynthia Nixon: ”ICE has strayed so far from its mission. It’s supposed to be here to keep Americans safe, but what it’s turned into is, frankly, a terrorist organization of its own, that is terrorizing people who are coming to this country.”
The governor of New York has said that 700 children have been transported here, separated from their parents at the border.
In Pennsylvania, hundreds of protesters in East Pittsburgh shut down a major highway overnight for five hours to protest the police killing of Antwon Rose, a 17-year-old African-American high school senior. Video of the shooting shows Rose was shot in the back while trying to flee police after a traffic stop. Police have admitted he was unarmed. Rose was set to graduate from high school this year. The killing has sparked two days of protest in Pittsburgh.
Jeana Marie: “We’re fed up. We’re tired of being treated as though we don’t realize racism exists and we don’t realize that we are being murdered in numbers, mass numbers. And more and more police are coming forward and being bold and brave to kill more and more black people, and we won’t stand for it. Pittsburgh is not the city that’s going to stand for that.”
At an earlier demonstration, a protester read a poem Antwon had written about police brutality in 2016.
Protester: “I hear that there’s only two ways out / I see mothers bury their sons / I want my mom to never feel that pain / I am confused and afraid / I pretend all is fine / I feel like I’m suffocating / I touch nothing so I believe all is fine.”
In related news, a new study in The Lancet medical journal has found that police killings of unarmed black Americans directly harms the mental health of the wider black population. One of the report’s authors said, “It’s really about all the kinds of insidious ways that structural racism can make people sick.”
Accused NSA whistleblower Reality Winner has signed a plea deal and is scheduled to formally change her plea to guilty next week. Winner has been jailed for the past year awaiting trial over charges that she leaked a top-secret document to The Intercept about Russian interference in the 2016 election. Winner had faced up to 10 years in prison for violating the Espionage Act. Details of the plea agreement have not been made public.
The White House has proposed merging the U.S. Labor and Education departments into a single agency as part of a sweeping reform of the federal government. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, condemned the proposal. She said, “We’re extremely skeptical of the motivations here given how hostile Betsy DeVos and President Trump have been to public education, workers and unions. It seems like this move is just cover for continuing their agenda to go after public schools, gut civil rights and equity protections, provide support for predatory student loan companies and prey on workers.” The Trump administration’s proposal also calls for restructuring the U.S. Postal Service and for the potential privatization of both the Federal Aviation Administration’s air traffic control services and the Saint Lawrence Seaway.
In news from the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley has slammed a new U.N. report by the U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, who recently toured the United States. Haley said, “It is patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America.” Haley’s comment comes just days after the U.S. pulled out of the U.N. Human Rights Council. Last week, Philip Alston appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss his findings.
Philip Alston: “Vast numbers of people are left living without enough to get by on, the 40 million living in poverty, the figure of 5.3 million, which has been estimated of people who live in, quote, 'Third World conditions' in this country.”
More than 100 people were arrested at the U.S. Capitol Thursday in an action organized by the Poor People’s Campaign to protest the Trump administration’s mistreatment of immigrants. Among those arrested included the Rev. William Barber and David Goodman, the brother of slain civil rights worker Andrew Goodman. Thursday’s action took place on the anniversary of the 1964 disappearance of James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, whose bodies were found buried in a dam in Philadelphia, Mississippi, on August 4 of that year. The Poor People’s Campaign is holding a major march on the U.S. Capitol on Saturday.
Reporters Without Borders has called on the Israeli parliament to reject a new bill that would criminalize the taking of photographs and videos of Israeli soldiers. Violations could result in jail sentences of five years if the photograph or video harmed the morale of Israel’s soldiers or 10 years in jail if it harmed the security of the state. The bill was introduced in April after video emerged showing an Israeli soldier cheering after shooting an unarmed Palestinian in Gaza.
In other news from Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, has been indicted for fraud and misuse of state funds. She is accused of ordering $100,000 worth of catered meals at their official residence. If convicted, she could be sentenced to up to eight years in prison.