The Trump administration plans to shift over $270 million of federal funds — including at least $155 million from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund — to help pay for its highly contested “Remain in Mexico” policy. The funds would pay for temporary courts on the southern border to hear cases of asylum seekers who have been forced to return to Mexico while their cases proceed through the U.S. legal system. The money will also be used to add nearly 7,000 more spaces to immigration prisons.
The news comes as Puerto Rico is bracing for Tropical Storm Dorian, which could make a direct hit on the island and strengthen into a hurricane later today. Governor Wanda Vázquez has declared a state of emergency for the island. On Tuesday, Trump used the impending storm to take a jab at Puerto Rico, tweeting, “Wow! Yet another big storm heading to Puerto Rico. Will it ever end? Congress approved 92 Billion Dollars for Puerto Rico last year, an all time record of its kind for 'anywhere.'” San Juan mayor and vocal Trump critic Carmen Yulín Cruz responded by saying in a CNN interview, “[Trump’s] behavior, his lack of understanding … is ludicrous. Three thousand Puerto Ricans did not open their eyes this morning because this racist man did not have it within him to do his job. So, get out of the way, President Trump, and let the people who can do the job get the job done.” The 3,000 people is referring to the death toll from 2017’s devastating Hurricane Maria.
In other immigration news, The Washington Post is reporting President Trump has ordered his staff to speed up the construction of his border wall before the 2020 election — even if it means breaking the law. Trump reportedly told aides he will pardon them if they face any legal repercussions related to the request, which could including seizing private land, expediting billions of dollars of construction contracts and ignoring environmental regulations. Trump reportedly dismissed concerns over the implications of circumventing appropriate procedures, including by using eminent domain, telling staffers to just “take the land”.
The Trump administration has reportedly ended the “medical deferred action” program, which allows immigrants with serious health problems to stay in the U.S. for up to two years beyond the terms of their visas to receive critical treatment. Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey said, “The administration is now literally deporting kids with cancer,” and that the change would “terrorize sick kids who are literally fighting for their lives.” The ACLU of Massachusetts has vowed to fight the policy change in court.
Rescue teams are searching for at least 40 refugees who are feared dead after a boat carrying dozens of migrants capsized Tuesday morning off Libya’s coast. According to the Libyan coast guard, some 65 passengers, mostly from Sudan, were rescued with the help of local fishermen. The Associated Press reports that at least five people died, including a woman and a child from Morocco. An estimated 900 people have died so far this year while crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe. Last month, another shipwreck off the Libyan coast claimed around 150 lives, including many children. We’ll have more on the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean with Charlie Yaxley, spokesperson for the U.N. Refugee Agency, after headlines.
In the occupied Palestinian territories, the Gaza Strip is on alert after two bombs killed three Hamas police officers at checkpoints Tuesday night. The deaths were reported by the Interior Ministry. Palestinian officials blamed the attacks on Israel, but other sources say a group linked to the Islamic State may be responsible. Tuesday’s blasts followed an Israeli attack on a Hamas military post earlier in the day, and after separate air attacks Monday on what the Israeli military says was a Hamas compound. Israel launched the air raid in response to cross-border rocket fire, though Hamas denied any involvement.
In Britain, the Queen has consented to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s request to suspend Parliament, increasing the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit. Parliament will be closed from mid-September to mid-October, meaning lawmakers who oppose a no-deal exit from the European Union would have very limited time to pass legislation supporting any other measures. The U.K. is scheduled to leave the European Union on October 31.
Back in the United States, 16 accusers of deceased serial sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein appeared in a New York City federal court Tuesday to describe their experiences of sexual abuse at Epstein’s hands. Jeffrey Epstein was represented by an empty chair next to three of his lawyers. Epstein was found dead in his Manhattan jail cell earlier this month of an apparent suicide, and prosecutors requested charges against him be dropped, but U.S. District Judge Richard Berman decided to allow survivors of Epstein’s abuse to testify against him. This is attorney Gloria Allred, speaking outside the courthouse.
Gloria Allred: “It took a lot of courage for them to write the statements and to have their voice heard, and I really commend them for being here, because Jeffrey Epstein’s death, whether it was a suicide or murder, does not end the case, does not end their fight for justice. It does not end their feeling that they were manipulated and victimized and that they were child victims of Mr. Epstein. So, today they spoke truth to power. They spoke truth to what happened to them.”
The Washington Post is reporting Attorney General William Barr is planning a $30,000 holiday party at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. The event is reportedly not an official Justice Department party and will be paid for directly by Barr. Critics say that although the event would not be a legal violation, it skirts an ethical line. Maryland and the District of Columbia previously argued in a lawsuit that foreign governments and other entities patronize the Trump hotel in order to curry favor with the president, putting other businesses at a disadvantage — a violation of the emoluments clause.
A federal judge temporarily blocked Missouri’s contested eight-week abortion ban Tuesday — one day before it was set to take effect. The ban, which does not include exceptions for rape or incest, would penalize abortion providers who perform the procedure after eight weeks, before many people are even aware they are pregnant. A lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood and the Missouri ACLU challenging the law is currently being argued.
Purdue Pharma and its owners, the Sackler family, have offered to settle the more than 2,000 lawsuits against them for their role in the opioid crisis for $10 billion to $12 billion. The sum includes $3 billion from the Sackler family fortune. The deal was reportedly discussed last week by Purdue’s lawyers and includes a plan for Purdue to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy before restructuring into a for-profit “public benefit trust” that would allegedly serve the many plaintiffs suing the company. The Sackler family would relinquish ownership of Purdue under the deal.
The news came out the same day as a landmark ruling in Oklahoma that found Johnson & Johnson helped fuel the state’s opioid crisis. The company was ordered to pay over half a billion dollars. Purdue Pharma was also sued by Oklahoma but settled before any trial took place.
Independent senator and 2020 hopeful Bernie Sanders has released a plan to protect independent journalism and end the consolidation and corporate control of media outlets. His plan includes ending federal approval of major media mergers, giving employees an opportunity to have ownership in news outlets, increasing funding for local and independent news and strengthening antitrust regulations to stop tech giants like Facebook and Google from “cannibaliz[ing], bilk[ing], and defund[ing] news organizations.” Sanders notes that President Trump’s assault on the press has further threatened the media landscape.
In other news about Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator picked up his first labor endorsement from the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America. The group also backed Sanders’s run in 2016. Sanders recently announced his “Workplace Democracy” plan, which would seek to double union membership, bolster collective bargaining, end right-to-work laws and protect worker pensions.
A 17-year-old Palestinian student who was scheduled to start his freshman year at Harvard University was denied entry into the U.S. last week and had his visa revoked. Ismail Ajjawi told The Harvard Crimson he was interrogated by immigration officials upon his arrival at Boston’s Logan Airport on Friday. They reportedly questioned his religious practices and searched his phone and computer, revealing posts by friends that were critical of U.S. policy. Ajjawi, who was to attend Harvard on a full scholarship, was ultimately sent back to his home in Lebanon. PEN America’s Summer Lopez said in a statement, “The idea that Ajjawi should be prevented from taking his place at Harvard because of his own political speech would be alarming. That he should be denied this opportunity based on the speech of others is downright lawless.”
After spending two weeks aboard a solar-powered 60-foot racing yacht, world-renowned 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg will arrive in New York City today, where she’ll begin a months-long tour of the Americas and attend U.N. climate talks in New York and Santiago, Chile. Thunberg does not fly and chose to make the journey from Europe to the U.S. by boat due to the heavy carbon footprint of air travel. This is Greta Thunberg speaking from the yacht.
Greta Thunberg: “We are currently doing between 20 and 25 knots. Last night, we hit 30 knots. And we are about 300 miles away from Nova Scotia, and it’s very rough. There are very high waves. And yeah.”
Crowds of supporters and reporters are expected to greet Thunberg in Manhattan this afternoon.
The legendary peace activist Frances Crowe has died at the age of 100 in Northampton, Massachusetts. Over the past seven decades, Frances had been arrested countless times protesting war, nuclear weapons, nuclear power and the construction of new pipelines. When once asked how many times she had been arrested, Crowe said, “Not enough.”
Frances Crowe: “I’ve done everything that I know of to do, and all I have left is my body and to put it in the way to say no.”
In 2005, Democracy Now! interviewed Frances Crowe about how she set up a pirate radio station in her backyard to broadcast the program.
Frances Crowe: “So, finally, we said we’ll try my backyard. So I put a pole up, and we were on the air. And, you know, I’ve never broken a law that I felt better about.”
Thanks to the efforts of Frances Crowe, Democracy Now! is now heard daily on WMUA at the University of Massachusetts. Frances Crowe died on Tuesday at the age of 100 surrounded by her family and friends.