In Washington, D.C., Capitol Police arrested 70 Catholic nuns and clergy Thursday as they held a nonviolent sit-in protest inside the Russell Senate Office Building against the Trump administration’s inhumane treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers. More than a dozen protesters stood in a circle, holding the photographs of migrant children who have died in U.S. custody, and reciting their names. The latest protests came as immigrant communities across the U.S. have prepared for reported ICE raids that were scheduled to begin last weekend but have largely not materialized.
Meanwhile, a group of Indian asylum seekers in El Paso, Texas, have launched a hunger strike from inside an ICE immigration jail, demanding they be released while they appeal their deportation orders. One of the men told the Texas Monthly, “If I go back to India, I will be tortured and killed. I can die here.” It’s the second time this year that Indian men have led hunger strikes at the El Paso Processing Center.
Back on Capitol Hill, House Democrats grilled President Trump’s acting homeland security secretary Thursday over migrant family separations, the deaths of children taken into U.S. custody, and reports of squalid, overcrowded and dangerous conditions in U.S. immigration jails. This is House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings questioning the acting DHS chief Kevin McAleenan.
Rep. Elijah Cummings: “You feel like you’re doing a great job, right? Is that what you’re saying?”
Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan: “We’re doing our level best in a very challenging”—
Rep. Elijah Cummings: “What does that mean? What does that mean, when a child is sitting in their own feces, can’t take a shower? Come on, man! What’s that about? None of us would have our children in that position. They are human beings!”
Also at Thursday’s House Oversight hearing, Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez confronted Kevin McAleenan over hateful messages shared by thousands of current and former Border Patrol agents on a private Facebook group. The group’s online discussions, exposed by ProPublica earlier this month, are full of homophobic, anti-immigrant and misogynistic content about migrants and asylum seekers, as well as racist attacks on Texas Representative Veronica Escobar and on Ocasio-Cortez, who is depicted in a photoshopped image being sexually assaulted by President Trump. This is Congressmember Ocasio-Cortez questioning McAleenan.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “Did you see the posts mocking migrant children’s deaths?”
Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan: “I did.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “Did you see the posts planning physical harm to myself and Congresswoman Escobar?”
Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan: “Yes, and I directed an investigation within minutes of reading the article.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “Did you see the images of officers circulating photoshopped images of my violent rape?”
Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan: “Yes, I did.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “Are those officers on the job today and responsible for the safety of migrant women and children?”
Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan: “So, there is an aggressive investigation on this issue proceeding. You’ve heard the chief of the Border Patrol, the most senior female official in law enforcement across the entire country, say that these posts do not meet our standards of conduct, and they will be followed up aggressively.”
President Trump sought to distance himself Thursday from racist chants made by his supporters at a campaign rally in North Carolina on Wednesday evening. Speaking from the Oval Office, Trump insisted that he “felt a little bit badly” about the chorus of “Send her back” directed at Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Somalia and came to the United States as a political refugee. She has been a U.S. citizen longer than the first lady, Melania Trump. Trump made the claim even though video of Wednesday evening’s incident shows he did nothing to intervene as his supporters chanted “Send her back!”
President Donald Trump: “Omar has a history of launching vicious anti-Semitic screeds.”
Crowd: “Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!”
Trump waited a full 13 seconds before continuing his verbal attack on Congressmember Omar. This came just three days after Trump attacked Omar and three other progressive Democratic congresswomen of color on Twitter, writing, “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
Speaking from Capitol Hill Thursday, Congressmember Ilhan Omar accused Trump of “spewing his fascist ideology onstage.” She later flew home to her district in Minnesota, where she was greeted at the Minneapolis airport by scores of supporters chanting “Welcome home, Ilhan!”
Rep. Ilhan Omar: “And when I said I was the president’s nightmare, well, you’re watching it now, because his nightmare is seeing a Somali immigrant refugee rise to Congress. … We are in the ring. We are in the people’s house. And we are going to continue to keep fighting until we have the America we know we all deserve. Thank you.”
Later that evening, Congressmember Omar tweeted, “Home sweet home.” On Thursday, the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee asked the Senate’s sergeant-at-arms, who also chairs the Capitol Police Board, to enhance security for “certain targeted members.” We’ll have more on President Trump’s latest racist remarks after headlines.
The House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025, while ending sub-minimum wages for tipped workers. In the Senate, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not allow a vote on the minimum wage.
Meanwhile, domestic workers and their supporters are rallying behind a bill that would grant them the right to overtime pay, meal breaks and collective bargaining. Under federal labor law, domestic workers are excluded from many of the protections most workers receive; the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act would change that. The bill is co-sponsored by Washington Congressmember Pramila Jayapal and California senator and 2020 presidential hopeful Kamala Harris. This is Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
Ai-jen Poo: “The need for child care and elder care is exploding, especially as the Baby Boom generation ages and people live longer. These are jobs that are not going to be outsourced. They won’t be automated. These are going to be a large part of the jobs of the future. And now, thanks to all of you, we are going to make these jobs good jobs.”
Domestic workers are among the lowest-paid workers in the U.S. and suffer high rates of wage theft and sexual harassment on the job.
President Trump said Thursday he will nominate Eugene Scalia as his next secretary of labor. Scalia is the son of the late far-right Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. He previously served as the Labor Department’s top lawyer under President George W. Bush. As a partner at the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Scalia has a long history of opposing labor unions on behalf of corporate clients including Walmart. Much of Scalia’s legal work has been aimed at stopping the Dodd-Frank financial regulations enacted after the 2008 financial collapse. Last week, Alex Acosta resigned as labor secretary amid an uproar over the extremely lenient plea deal he granted to the wealthy serial child sex abuser Jeffrey Epstein in 2008, when Acosta was a U.S. attorney in Florida.
Meanwhile, a federal judge in New York has denied bail to Jeffrey Epstein, declaring him a danger to the community and a significant flight risk. U.S. District Judge Richard Berman pointed to a raid by investigators on Epstein’s mansion earlier this month that found “piles of cash,” stashes of diamonds and an expired passport with Epstein’s photo next to someone else’s name listed under a Saudi address.
Iran is denying President Trump’s claim that the U.S. military shot down an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz. The competing claims came as the Trump administration demanded Iran immediately release an oil tanker seized in the Gulf by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Iranian state media said the foreign ship was carrying a million liters of oil being illegally smuggled out of Iran.
In Afghanistan, at least 12 people were killed and almost 90 wounded Thursday as a pair of car bombs exploded at the gates of police headquarters in the southern city of Kandahar. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Hours later, at least eight people were killed and 33 others wounded when an explosion tore through the entrance to a university in the capital, Kabul. This comes as U.S. officials and the Taliban continue peace talks in Qatar aimed at ending the longest war in U.S. history—now in its 17th year.
In Kyoto, Japan, 33 people were killed Thursday after a man burst into an animation studio, doused the three-story building with a flammable liquid and set it on fire. Police arrested a 41-year-old man after the arson attack on the Kyoto Animation company. Witnesses reportedly heard the suspect shout “they stole my ideas” and “they copied my novel” as police arrested him. If convicted, the man could face the death penalty.
Back in the United States, the National Weather Service has declared an excessive heat warning for vast swaths of the Midwest and East Coast, with warnings that high humidity and triple-digit temperatures could combine to bring heat-related illnesses and deaths. In Washington, D.C., the heat index could reach 115 degrees this weekend, when some 290 million American are likely to experience temperatures above 90 degrees. This comes as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that worldwide surface temperatures last month were the highest ever recorded for the month of June—a finding consistent with global heating caused by human activity.
The Trump administration is preparing to roll back government regulations on nuclear power plants, with staffers at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recommending allowing the nuclear industry to carry out more “self-inspections” while slashing the size and scope of radiation-protection and emergency-preparedness inspections at nuclear plants.