Lawmakers Decry Dire Conditions and Lack of Accountability During Visit to Texas Migrant Jails

Jul 02, 2019

As President Trump signed Monday the $4.6 billion border bill approved by Congress last week, a delegation led by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus visited two immigrant prisons Monday, amid growing outrage at reports of inhumane conditions due to Trump’s border policies. Texas Congressmember Joaquin Castro described the conditions at an adult facility as being akin to a prison, where women were held in cells without access to running water and proper medical care. Some had been held for over 50 days. Others reported they had no information on the whereabouts of their separated children. The congressional delegation also visited the Clint Border Patrol station that has come under fire after recent reports of overcrowding and inhumane conditions for the children being locked up there. Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted after yesterday’s visits, “It’s not just the kids. It’s everyone. People drinking out of toilets, officers laughing in front of members Congress. I brought it up to their superiors. They said 'officers are under stress & act out sometimes.' No accountability.”

Congressmembers held a press conference outside of the children’s prison in Clint amid boos and racist jeers from protesters. This is Congressmember Ayanna Presley.

Rep. Ayanna Presley: “Keep yelling! This is very appropriate: vile rhetoric for vile actions, hateful rhetoric for hateful behavior, racist words and venom for racist policies. Very apropos. This is bigger than a funding debate or about any speeches that we give here on the floor of the House of Representatives. This is about the preservation of our humanity, and this is about seeing every single person there as a member of your own family. I am tired of the health and the safety, the humanity and the full freedoms of black and brown children being negotiated and compromised and moderated. We need a system that works, that is humane and that is compassionate and that keeps families together.”

On Friday, a federal judge ordered Customs and Border Protection to let independent health monitors into detention facilities in Texas holding migrant children to ensure conditions are “safe and sanitary.” Last week, lawyers asked U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee to hold the Trump administration in contempt over conditions in the facilities and to mandate immediate improvements.

In related news, NBC News is reporting a federal watchdog warned in May that border agents armed themselves and feared possible riots due to the conditions at an El Paso, Texas, immigration detention facility.

Migrant Child Freed from Clint Border Patrol Jail: “They Treated Us Badly”

Jul 02, 2019

The Associated Press has released a video showing a 12-year-old girl speaking to a lawyer about her and her 6-year-old sister’s experience at the Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas, which has been called a “child jail.” The two young girls were taken to the facility after being separated from their aunt when they arrived in the U.S. in May. The Clint Border Patrol station recently came under intense scrutiny after reports of widespread neglect and inhumane living conditions, including lack of food, water, sanitation and medical care. This is an excerpt from the AP’s video.

12-year-old girl: “They gave us little food. Some children did not bathe. They didn’t bathe them. They treated us badly where we were. They were mean to us.”

Alison Griffith: “And where did you sleep? Did you sleep on beds?”

12-year-old girl: “They slept on just the floor.”

Alison Griffith: “Did they give you blankets or not?”

12-year-old girl: “They would only give us one blanket.”

Alison Griffith: “And was it enough to withstand the cold?”

12-year-old girl: “No. Some children were sick. They said that they’d take them to hospitals, but they wouldn’t take them.”

The young girl also told the lawyer that children would cry out for their parents and other separated family members.

ProPublica: Secret Border Patrol Facebook Group Rife with Racist, Sexist and Anti-Immigrant Posts

Jul 02, 2019

Customs and Border Protection has opened an investigation into social media posts by border agents belonging to a racist, xenophobic Facebook group. The investigation follows the publication of a new piece in ProPublica uncovering the secret Facebook group—which has around 9,500 members— and in which current and former CBP employees post racist, homophobic, anti-immigrant and misogynistic content about migrants, as well as some lawmakers and other high-profile people. One post contained a photoshopped image of Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez being sexually assaulted by President Trump. In another thread, members of the group made fun of a video of a man trying to carry a child through a rapid river in a plastic bag. Someone commented, “At least it’s already in a trash bag.” Asked by a reporter yesterday to respond to her depiction in the Facebook post, Congressmember Ocasio-Cortez said it was “indicative of the culture” she observed inside the migrant prison she had just visited, and said she did not feel safe around the officers. Congressmember Joaquin Castro added that some CBP agents have “become desensitized to the point of being dangerous to the migrants in their care.” Posts were also uncovered that mocked the Salvadoran father and 23-month-young daughter who drowned last month while attempting to cross the Rio Grande to get to the U.S. border.

Migrant Father and Daughter Who Drowned in Rio Grande Buried in El Salvador

Jul 02, 2019

Migrant father Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his young daughter Valeria were buried yesterday in their hometown in El Salvador in a private ceremony. A photo of their drowned bodies in the Rio Grande river both caused widespread outrage at the humanitarian crisis at the U.S. southern border and raised questions about the ethics of exploiting such images in the press. Journalists were not permitted to attend the funeral.

El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele said Sunday that their tragic deaths were caused by flawed immigration policies and unsustainable situations in all the countries implicated—the U.S., Mexico and El Salvador.

#CloseTheCamps Protests Planned Across the U.S.

Jul 02, 2019

In more immigrant rights news, a coalition of human rights and other groups are holding “Close the Camps” demonstrations around the country today, calling on lawmakers to shut down immigrant jails, defund detention and deportation, and reunite separated families.

Mexico Deploys National Guard, Ramps Up Crackdown on Immigrants

Jul 02, 2019

Meanwhile, Mexico’s newly formed National Guard officially began operations Sunday, deploying 70,000 members across the country. The force was set up by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to combat violence from organized crime, but critics have called out recent incidents showing members detaining Central American migrants at the border.

In related news, Mexican immigration officials said they recently deported over 80 Haitian migrants, amid mounting pressure from the U.S. to stem the flow of northbound migrants.

Hong Kong Protests Continue as Activists Renew Demands to Withdraw Extradition Bill

Jul 02, 2019

In Hong Kong, riot police used tear gas to forcibly remove hundreds of protesters occupying a Legislature building early Tuesday morning. The activists began their occupation on Monday when they stormed Hong Kong’s Legislative Council and smashed the glass to gain entry, tearing down portraits of officials and spray-painting the walls. The action took place as hundreds of thousands flooded the streets Monday to mark the anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese control 22 years ago. It’s the latest in massive civil unrest that started last month when millions took to the streets to protest a bill that would allow the extradition of Hong Kong residents and visitors to mainland China. The vice chair of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Labour Party, Fernando Cheung, said the protests would continue until the government completely withdraws the extradition bill.

Fernando Cheung: “I think this is going to go on for a real long time if the government does not withdraw the bill completely and does not express or have any actual plan to rebuild the communication between the people and its regime. … Hong Kong is still in unrest. We are very much not satisfied with the government not allowing a complete withdrawal of the extradition bill, and also a real urge from all sides to establish an independent inquiry to the whole fiasco.”

We’ll have more on Hong Kong after headlines.

Iran Surpasses Enriched Uranium Stockpile Allowed Under Nuclear Deal

Jul 02, 2019

Iran announced it has surpassed the limit on uranium enrichment permitted under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, and said it would continue to increase its stockpile. Trump responded to the news by saying Iran was “playing with fire.” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said they would not bow to U.S. pressure but would engage in dialogue with any parties that demonstrate respect.

Last week, France, Germany and the United Kingdom said that INSTEX—an alternative financial mechanism that would circumvent U.S. sanctions—was operational. Iran said that the system was a positive development but that Europe was not buying Iranian oil and needed to do more to uphold its commitment to keeping the landmark 2015 agreement alive in the face of the U.S. withdrawal last year and crippling sanctions.

Japan Resumes Commercial Whaling After 30+ Year Moratorium

Jul 02, 2019

Japan has resumed commercial whaling after more than 30 years of adhering to a global ban on the practice. Japan, which has argued whaling is part of its culture, continued to hunt whales during the ban for what it claimed was scientific research, though critics say that was merely a veil as it continued selling whale meat for profit. Last December, Japan announced it was leaving the International Whaling Commission. Greenpeace Japan called that decision “out of step with the international community,” adding, “Japan must urgently act to conserve marine ecosystems.”

USDA to Move 100s of Jobs Out of D.C. Amid Pushback from Employees, Lawmakers and Climate Scientists

Jul 02, 2019

Back in the U.S., the Department of Agriculture is in turmoil as the agency prepares to move hundreds of jobs from the capital to Kansas City. Last month, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the relocation of two key research agencies, prompting a dramatic silent protest by over a dozen employees who stood up and turned their backs to the stage Perdue was speaking from. Employees must now choose whether to move or lose their jobs. Politico is reporting a survey shows that four out of five employees may decide to quit rather than relocate.

Numerous scientists, lawmakers, agricultural and environmental groups have called out the move by Perdue, which they warn will harm employees of the agency and farmers, and is part of the Trump administration’s agenda to suppress climate research. Last month, Politico reported that the agency stopped promoting dozens of publicly funded scientific studies about the impacts of climate change. Democrats have thus far been unsuccessful in their attempts to stop the move through legislative and other measures. Many of those who are being forced to either move or quit are economists and scientists responsible for cutting-edge climate research in this country.

Trump Requests Tanks, Fighter Jets for July 4th Military Parade

Jul 02, 2019

And President Trump has requested a military spectacle including tanks and fighter jets for the upcoming Fourth of July parade and his address to the nation. Officials have raised concerns about the ballooning cost of the event, as well as the potential for physical damage to the Mall due to the massive military hardware. A Trump-planned military parade for last year was scuttled after it was revealed that it could cost up to $92 million, including $50 million in Defense Department costs. On Monday, the D.C. Council expressed its opposition to having tanks drive down the city’s streets, tweeting, “We have said it before, and we’ll say it again: Tanks, but no tanks.”

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