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Hundreds of Migrant Children Moved From Border Facility After Poor Conditions Exposed

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  • Nearly 300 migrant children were moved from a detention facility in Clint, Texas after a group of lawyers who visited last week reported unsafe and unsanitary conditions.
  • The lawyers said the children were not given access to soap, toothbrushes, and other essentials, and many were forced to sleep on concrete floors.
  • Border Patrol officials say that the children are only intended to stay in the facilities for short-term periods, but due to the lack of shelters and funding, they are forced to keep them for weeks in centers without adequate care.

Clint Texas Border Facility

Authorities confirmed Monday that hundreds of children had been transferred from a Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas after a group of lawyers visited last week and found the children living in unsafe conditions.

It was first reported that most of the children were removed from Clint, though around 30 remained. However, on Tuesday, a Customs and Border Protection official confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that 127 of the children who were transferred from Clint were later moved back.

Usually, detention facilities are highly restricted and do not let lawyers or journalists enter. The group of lawyers was allowed to visit the facility, which is about 20 miles outside of El Paso, as part of a legal agreement called the Flores Settlement. That agreement mandates that children have to be held in safe and sanitary conditions.

Following the visit, several of the lawyers spoke to the media and made it clear that nothing about the Clint facility was safe or sanitary.

Conditions at the Facility

One lawyer who went to Clint, named Warren Binford, spoke to the New Yorker about what she saw there. 

Warren said that when the lawyers arrived, they saw around 350 children. “We were so shocked by the number of children who were there, because it’s a facility that only has capacity for a hundred and four,” she said.

Warren went on to describe the interviews that the lawyers conducted with around 60 children at the facility. “Children described to us that they’ve been there for three weeks or longer,” she said.

“They were filthy dirty […] They told us that they were hungry. They told us that some of them had not showered or had not showered until the day or two days before we arrived.”

“Many of them described that they only brushed their teeth once,” she continued. “Many of the children reported sleeping on the concrete floor.”

Binford said that the children told the lawyers “That nobody’s taking care of them, so that basically the older children are trying to take care of the younger children.”

She said that the guards would ask young children to watch over infants and toddlers, “And sometimes we hear about the littlest children being alone by themselves on the floor.”

“There was a lice infestation, as well as an influenza outbreak,” she continued. “And so a number of the children are being taken into isolation rooms, quarantine areas where there’s nobody with them except for other sick children.”

Legal Questions

When asked if she thought there was anything specifically illegal at the facility, Binford said, “Laws were being broken right and left.” 

Citing Flores, Binford argued, “There is nothing sanitary about the conditions they are in. And they are not safe, because they are getting sick, and they are not being adequately supervised by the Border Patrol officers. This is a violation of the case law.”

She added that under the same law, “These children are not supposed to be in a Border Patrol facility any longer than they absolutely have to, and in no event are they supposed to be there for more than seventy-two hours. And many of them were there for three and a half weeks.”

Binford also told the New Yorker that what was going on at the facility is not just illegal under Flores, but also because “They are not supposed to be breaking up families.” Binford noted that last year a judge explicitly ruled, “That these children need to be kept with their parents, that family integrity is a constitutional right and is being violated.” 

We met almost no children who came across unaccompanied,” she stated.

“The United States is taking children away from their family unit and reclassifying them as unaccompanied children. But they were not unaccompanied children. And some of them were separated from their parents.”

Part of a Bigger Problem

Binford’s account may be shocking, but it shines an incredibly important spotlight on a system that is functionally hidden from the public.

Clint is only one example of a facility where there have been reports of unsanitary and unsafe conditions. Recently, similar conditions have been reported at a processing center in McAllen, Texas, which, according to the Texas Tribune, is the largest processing center in America.

Toby Gialluca, a lawyer who visited the McAllen center told the Texas Tribune that people are forced to live in overcrowded spaces, and that space is so limited that some people are even forced to sleep outside.

“Basic hygiene just doesn’t exist there,” Gialluca said. “It’s a health crisis […] a manufactured health crisis.”

Clint and McAllen are just some examples that reflect a much broader problem, which is the fact that across multiple agencies, the government simply does not have enough resources or capacity to deal with the number of migrants in detention centers.

This month, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Homeland Security Department, the Defense Department, and the Justice Department requested $4.5 billion from Congress to help care for migrants in detention.

In an interview with the AP last week, acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner John Sanders said that Border Patrol only has the capacity to hold 4,000 people, but right now it is already holding 15,000 people.

“The death of a child is always a terrible thing, but here is a situation where, because there is not enough funding,” he said. “They can’t move the people out of our custody.”

On Tuesday, it was reported that Sanders was resigning from his position.

One of the main reasons the Border Patrol facilities are so bad is because they are only supposed to be temporary.

As Binford said, people are only intended to be held at those facilities for 72 hours at most before being transferred to shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

However, people end up staying at the Border Patrol centers, like the ones in Clint and McAllen, for weeks and weeks because the DHHS’s shelters are all full.

On Monday, Border Patrol officials told AP in a statement, “Our short-term holding facilities were not designed to hold vulnerable populations and we urgently need additional humanitarian funding to manage this crisis.”

Response

On Sunday, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both blamed Democrats for not giving enough funding to the Department of Homeland Security.

“We’re doing a fantastic job under the circumstances,” Trump said when asked about children in dention centers on Meet the Press. “The Democrats aren’t even approving giving us money. Where is the money? You know what? The Democrats are holding up the humanitarian aid.”

Pence made similar arguments during an interview on Face the Nation, saying that holding children in U.S. custody was “heartbreaking” and “unacceptable,” but arguing that the Trump administration could not do anything unless Democrats agreed to more funding.

However, Congressional Democrats have said they do not want to give more money to the Trump administration because they do not believe it will actually go to helping migrants in detention facilities.

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN) Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) issued a joint statement regarding this issue.

“It is absolutely unconscionable to even consider giving one more dollar to support this President’s deportation force that openly commits human rights abuses and refuses to be held accountable to the American people,” the Representatives wrote.

See what others are saying: (The New Yorker) (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press)

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Sen. Smith Leads Effort to “Protect Access to Abortion Care Where it is Still Legal”

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The Senator also told Rogue Rocket she supports major reforms to the Supreme Court.


Protecting Access to Medication Abortion Act

As conservative states move to limit abortion following the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, Sen. Tina Smith (D-Mn.) is working to ensure access to the procedure is protected wherever it is still possible.

“What I’m working on right now is to try to protect access to abortion care where it is still legal in this country after the Supreme Court basically eviscerated this 50-year freedom,” Smith told Rogue Rocket while discussing a bill she recently introduced to safeguard access to medication abortion.

The legislation, dubbed the Protecting Access to Medication Abortion Act, would codify existing Food and Drug Administration guidelines on medication abortion pills to ensure people in states where abortion remains legal can always access them through telehealth and certified pharmacies, including mail-order pharmacies.

“What my bill would do is it would say in states where abortion is still legal, you should be able to get access to medication abortion — which is safe and is effective in the first ten weeks of pregnancy, it’s been around for over 20 years,” said Smith, who previously served as the Vice President for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota.

“You don’t need to go into the doctor to get access to it. You can do a telehealth visit and it can be mailed to your home,” she continued. “Or potentially, if you live in a place where abortion has been banned, you could go someplace — go to Minnesota, for example — where abortion is legal and get access to it there. This is a way of trying to add another layer of protection for women, people who are grappling with the loss of this fundamental freedom and control over their own body.”

“You have providers who have dedicated their lives to making sure that women have access to the health care that they need. You have states that are passing laws that criminalize doctors, criminalize women for accessing abortion care in their states. I think we have to be real, that we need to try to protect both providers and women.”

Smith Questions Legitimacy of Supreme Court

Smith also said the decision to overturn Roe undermines the Supreme Court’s legitimacy because the decision represents the views of “an extreme minority that is enforcing its will” on a majority of Americans who, as polls have consistently shown, broadly support abortion protections.

The reversal, she said, is the result of Republicans’ “concerted effort” to pack the Supreme Court with conservative justices.

“Republican senators and Republican presidents have put on the Supreme Court individuals that they knew that they could trust to overturn Roe,” the senator stated. “I think it calls into question the legitimacy of the court […] I think on a whole range of other issues where we see, you know, what looks to a lot of us like a Supreme Court that is putting its own opinions into court precedent rather than following precedent and the law.” 

Smith went on to say she supports expanding the Supreme Court and argued there are also many other ways to address the issue of legitimacy.

“Americans are seeing that the […] legitimacy of the court is deeply damaged. The question is, what do we do about it? How do we restore trust in the court?” Smith asserted. “Restoring balance to the court by adding justices is one important step, and I support that. There are other things that we could do.”

“The Supreme Court doesn’t abide by any clear responsibility to reveal who is paying for trips of Supreme Court justices or who’s behind the amicus briefs,” she added. “So there’s a level of financial transparency that doesn’t exist on the court like it does in other parts of government.”

The senator concluded by calling for action at the federal, state, and individual levels and urging Americans to take the issue to the polls this fall.

“I think that it is just important to understand that the Supreme Court has spoken, but the Supreme Court does not get the last word,” she said

“There is action that citizens can take, actions that I can take as a legislator, action that governors and attorney generals and state legislatures can take. And in a democracy — and we live in a democracy — we have to bring the power of people’s views on this forward in all the ways that we can, including at the ballot box.”

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Reuters) (The New York Times)

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Supreme Court Rules High School Football Coach Can Pray on Field

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All of our rights are “hanging in the balance,” wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a dissenting opinion.


Court’s Conservatives Break With 60 Years of History

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of a former high school football coach who lost his job after he refused to stop praying on the field at the end of games.

Joseph Kennedy, who was hired at Bremerton High School in Washington State in 2008, kneeled at the 50-yard line after games for years and prayed. He was often joined by some of his players, as well as others from the opposing team.

In 2015, the school asked him not to pray if it interfered with his duties or involved students.

Shortly after, Kennedy was placed on paid administrative leave, and after a school official recommended that his contract not be renewed for the 2016 season he did not reapply for the position.

Kennedy sued the school, eventually appealing the case to the Supreme Court.

The justices voted 6 to 3, with the liberal justices dissenting.

“Respect for religious expressions is indispensable to life in a free and diverse republic — whether those expressions take place in a sanctuary or on a field, and whether they manifest through the spoken word or a bowed head,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion.

“Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a brief, quiet, personal religious observance,” he added.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissenting opinion.

“Today’s decision is particularly misguided because it elevates the religious rights of a school official, who voluntarily accepted public employment and the limits that public employment entails, over those of his students, who are required to attend school and who this court has long recognized are particularly vulnerable and deserving of protection,” she said.

“In doing so, the court sets us further down a perilous path in forcing states to entangle themselves with religion, with all of our rights hanging in the balance.”

The defense in the case argued that the public nature of Kennedy’s prayers put pressure on students to join him, and that he was acting in his capacity as a public employee, not a private citizen.

Kennedy’s lawyers contended that such an all-encompassing definition of his job duties denied him his right to self-expression on school grounds.

“This is just so awesome,” Kennedy said in a statement following the decision. “All I’ve ever wanted was to be back on the field with my guys … I thank God for answering our prayers and sustaining my family through this long battle.”

Religious Liberty or Separation of Church and State?

Sixty years ago, the Supreme Court decided that the government cannot organize or promote prayer in public schools, and it has since generally abided by that jurisprudence.

But the court led by Chief Justice John Roberts has been increasingly protective of religious expression, especially after the confirmation of three conservative Trump-appointed judges.

Reactions to the ruling were mostly split between liberals who saw the separation of church and state being dissolved and conservatives who hailed it as a victory for religious liberty.

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, which represented the Bremerton school district, said in a statement that the ruling “gutted decades of established law that protected students’ religious freedom.”

“If Coach Kennedy were named Coach Akbar and he had brought a prayer blanket to the 50 yard line to pray after a game,” one Twitter user said, “I’ve got a 401(k) that says this illegitimate, Christofascist SCOTUS rules 6-3 against him.”

“The people defending former Coach Kennedy’s right to kneel on the field after the game to pray – are the ones condemning Colin Kaepernick’s right to kneel on the field to protest police brutality against Black Americans,” another user wrote.

Others, like Republican Congressmember Ronny Jackson and former Secretary of State for the Trump administration Mike Pompeo, celebrated the ruling for protecting religious freedom and upholding what they called the right to pray.

“I am excited to build on this victory and continue securing our inalienable right to religious freedom,” Pompeo wrote.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Fox News)

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Rep. Schiff Urges DOJ to Investigate Trump for Election Crimes: “There’s Enough Evidence”

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“When the Justice Department finds evidence of criminal potential criminal wrongdoing, they need to investigate,” the congressman said.


Schiff Says DOJ Should Launch Inquiry

Rep. Adam Schiff (R-Ca.) told Rogue Rocket that he believes there is “certainly […] enough evidence for the Justice Department to open an investigation” into possible election crimes committed by former President Donald Trump.

Schiff, who took the lead in questioning witnesses testifying before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection on Tuesday, said that it will be up to the DOJ to determine whether “they have proof beyond a reasonable doubt” of criminal activity, but added that an investigation must first be launched.

“Donald Trump should be treated like any other citizen,” the congressman said, noting that a federal judge in California has already ruled that Trump and his allies “likely” engaged in multiple federal criminal acts. “When the Justice Department finds evidence of criminal potential criminal wrongdoing, they need to investigate.”

“One of the concerns I have is it’s a year and a half since these events. And while […] there’s an investigation going on in Fulton County by the district attorney, I don’t see a federal grand jury convened in Atlanta looking into this, and I think it’s fair to ask why,” Schiff continued, referencing the ongoing inquiry into Trump’s attempts to overturn the election in Georgia.

“Normally, the Justice Department doesn’t wait for Congress to go first. They pursue evidence and they have the subpoena power. They’re often much more agile than the Congress. And I think it’s important that it not just be the lower-level people who broke into the Capitol that day and committed those acts of violence who are under the microscope,” he continued. “I think anyone who engaged in criminal activity trying to overturn the election where there’s evidence that they may have engaged in criminal acts should be investigated.”

Schiff Takes Aim at DOJ’s Handling of Committee Subpoenas

Schiff also expressed frustration with how the DOJ has handled referrals the committee has made for former Trump officials who have refused to comply with subpoenas to testify before the panel.

“We have referred four people for criminal prosecution who have obstructed our investigation. The Justice Department has only moved forward with two of them,” he stated. “That’s not as powerful an incentive as we would like. The law requires the Justice Department to present these cases to the grand jury when we refer them, and by only referring half of them, it sends a very mixed message about whether congressional subpoenas need to be complied with.”

As far as why the congressman thought the DOJ has chosen to operate in this manner in regards to the Jan. 6 panel’s investigation, he said he believes “the leadership of the department is being very cautious.” 

“I think that they want to make sure that the department avoids controversy if possible, doesn’t do anything that could even be perceived as being political,” Schiff continued. “And while I appreciate that sentiment […] at the same time, the rule of law has to be applied equally to everyone. If you’re so averse, […] it means that you’re giving effectively a pass or immunity to people who may have broken the law. That, too, is a political decision, and I think it’s the wrong decision.”

On the Note of Democracy

Schiff emphasized the importance of the American people working together to protect democracy in the fallout of the insurrection.

“I really think it’s going to require a national movement of people to step up to preserve our democracy. This is not something that I think Congress can do alone. We’re going to try to protect those institutions, but Republicans are fighting this tooth and nail,” he asserted. “It’s difficult to get through a Senate where Mitch McConnell can filibuster things.”

“We don’t have the luxury of despair when it comes to what we’re seeing around us. We have the obligation to do what generations did before us, and that is defend our democracy,” the congressman continued. “We had to go to war in World War II to defend our democracy from the threat of fascism. You know, we’re not called upon to make those kinds of sacrifices. We see the bravery of people in Ukraine putting their lives on the line to defend their country, their sovereignty, their democracy. Thank God we’re not asked to do that.”

“So what we have to do is, by comparison, so much easier. But it does require us to step up, to be involved, to rally around local elections officials who are doing their jobs, who are facing death threats, and to protect them and to push back against efforts around the country to pass laws to make it easier for big liars to overturn future elections.” 

“We are not passengers in all of this, unable to affect the course of our country. We can, you know, grab the rudder and steer this country in the direction that we want.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (CNN)

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