- 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.”
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.”
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)
House To Send Impeachment Article Monday, Starting Impeachment Trial Process
- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the House will send the impeachment article against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday, triggering the start of the impeachment trial process.
- The news comes one day after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell requested that the trial be delayed until mid-February so that Trump’s legal team could have two weeks to prepare.
- The senators could still come to their own agreement to delay the start of oral arguments and give Trump’s team more time to file pretrial briefs.
- Some Democrats have signaled support for this move because it would give them extra time to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominations before the trial starts.
Pelosi To Send Impeachment Article
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Wednesday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) will send the impeachment article against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday.
The move will officially trigger the start of the impeachment trial process. The announcement comes one day after Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) requested that the trial be delayed until mid-February so that Trump’s legal team could have two weeks to prepare.
Despite Pelosi’s decision, the senators still could come to their own agreement to start the ceremonial proceedings but delay the start of oral arguments and give Trump’s team more time to file pretrial briefs.
In fact, Democrats, who have been pushing for a schedule that would allow them to still confirm President Joe Biden’s nominees before the trial proceedings start each day, have signaled that they might not oppose a delay because it would give them extra time for confirmations.
During his announcement this morning, Schumer indicated that the details were still being hashed out.
“I’ve been speaking to the Republican leader about the timing and duration of the trial,” he said. “But make no mistake a trial will be held in the United States Senate and there will be a vote on whether to convict the president.”
McConnell, for his part, responded by reiterating that his party will continue to press for Trump’s team to be given enough time.
“This impeachment began with an unprecedentedly fast and minimal process over in the House,” he said. “Senate Republicans strongly believe we need a full and fair process where the former president can mount a defense.”
While the leaders may not have worked out the particulars yet, according to reports, both parties have already agreed that this trial will be shorter than Trump’s first impeachment, which lasted three weeks.
Implications for Power-Sharing Deal
The new impeachment trial deadline could also speed up the currently stalled negotiations between Schumer and McConnell regarding how power will be shared in a Senate with equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats.
Democrats effectively control the Senate because Vice President Kamala Harris will be the deciding vote, but she cannot always be there to resolve every dispute.
As a result, McConnell and Schumer have been working to come up with a power-sharing deal for day to day operations, similar to one that was struck in 2001 the last time the Senate was split 50-50. However, those negotiations have hit a roadblock: the legislative filibuster.
The filibuster is the long-standing Senate rule that requires a supermajority of at least 60 senators to vote to end debate on a given piece of legislation before moving to a full floor vote. Technically, all 50 Democrats and Vice President Harris could agree to change the rule to just require a simple majority to legislation advance, or what’s known as the “nuclear option.”
That move, in effect, would allow them to get through controversial legislation without any bipartisan support, as long as every Democrat stays within party lines. Many more progressive Democrats have pushed for this move, arguing that the filibuster stands in the way of many of their and Biden’s top priorities.
Given this possibility, McConnell has demanded that Democrats agree to protect the filibuster and promise not to pursue the nuclear option as part of the power-sharing deal.
But top Democrats have rejected that demand, with many arguing that having the threat of filibuster is necessary to get Republicans to compromise.
In other words: if Republicans fear that Democrats will “go nuclear,” they will be more likely to agree to certain bills and measures to avoid that.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Politico) (The Wall Street Journal)
Biden Signs 17 Executive Order During His First Day in Office. Here’s What You Need to Know
- In the first hours of his presidency, Joe Biden signed 17 executive orders and proclamations, many of which focused on rolling back Trump administration policies regarding immigration, the environment, and protections for minority groups.
- Biden also implemented several measures to tackle the coronavirus, including requiring masks to be worn on federal property and by federal employees. He is also expected to announce a new national strategy aimed at restructuring the federal response to the pandemic.
- On Thursday, Biden will also invoke the Defense Production Act, which would speed up the development and distribution of vaccine-related equipment.
Biden Rolls Back Trump Policies
President Joe Biden signed 17 executive actions and proclamations Wednesday afternoon. Many of his first acts in office are focused on rolling back several policies implemented by former President Donald Trump that Biden’s aides said have caused the “greatest damage” to the country.
“I thought there’s no time to wait, get to work immediately,” Biden told reporters present during the signed of several of the orders.
Here is a breakdown of some of the key measures Biden implemented.
Biden immediately ended all construction on the border wall by overhauling the national emergency declaration Trump had enacted to divert billions in federal funds to his central campaign promise.
The new president also expanded protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) and overturned a Trump policy that made immigration enforcement more strict and
In similar actions, he also ended the travel ban on multiple Muslim-majority countries and revoked a Trump administration order that would have excluded non-citizens from the 2020 Census count.
One of the most significant actions Biden took was signing a letter to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. It will take 30 days for the return to go into effect.
The president also issued a sweeping order that reversed a number of the Trump administration’s environmental policies, including revoking the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, re-establishing a working group to look into the social costs of greenhouse gasses, and temporarily banning oil and natural gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Justice for Minority Groups
In one far-reaching order, Biden directed all federal agencies to review equity in their programs and policies. They are required to issue a report within 200 days that, among other things, details how each will remove barriers to opportunities and ensure all Americans have equal access to federal resources.
Biden also ended Trump’s policy that limited federal agencies, contractors, and other organizations from holding diversity and inclusion training. The same order also disbanded the 1776 Commission created by Trump to study his claims that the education system was too liberal in its teaching of American history.
In a separate order, the president issued changes that will broaden federal protections against sex discrimination to include LGBTQ+ Americans, reversing a previous action by Trump.
As part of a broad measure aimed at general accountability in the executive branch, Biden issued an order that will establish ethics rules for all people in his administration. The same order will also require all executive branch appointees to sign an ethics pledge.
Separately, the president additionally froze all new regulations Trump had put in place during his last few weeks in office until they can be further evaluated.
Economy and Coronavirus
Chief among Biden’s first acts in office were his plans for the coronavirus pandemic and the damage it has caused to the American people.
In terms of financial relief, Biden extended the ban on evictions and foreclosures and paused student loan payments until September.
As for direct actions concerning the pandemic, the president imposed a mask mandate for all federal employees and anyone on federal property. He also signed an extensive order aimed at restructuring the federal response to the pandemic.
Biden is expected to enact more policies in regards to the coronavirus in the coming days, including taking more executive actions to ramp up testing and vaccine distribution, safely reopening schools and businesses, and provide more money to states to help carry out those efforts, among other things.
To achieve these goals, he will also invoke the Defense Production Act, which will compel American companies to manufacture supplies for the pandemic response such as PPE and other items needed for vaccines.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (ABC News) (The Washington Post)
U.S. To Join WHO-led Vaccine Distribution Plan as Biden Implements a Flurry of COVID-19 Executive Orders
- Dr. Anthony Fauci indicated Thursday that President Joe Biden will join COVAX, a World Health Organization-led COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.
- Fauci’s announcement comes one day after Biden signed an executive order reversing former President Donald Trump’s plan to remove the United States from the WHO.
- Among other orders, Biden plans to implement a mask mandate for airports, planes, trains, and other forms of interstate travel. He has already ordered masks to be worn on all federal property.
- Biden is also expected to invoke the Defense Production Act on Thursday, which would speed up the development and distribution of vaccine-related equipment.
U.S. To Join COVAX
Just one day after President Joe Biden signed an order to keep the United States in the World Health Organization, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the country will join its global COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.
That plan, COVAX, is a collaborative effort between 92 countries to ensure that COVID vaccines aren’t only distributed in wealthy countries.
The idea behind the plan is that establishing a global herd immunity will be much more effective at curbing the spread of the virus than just establishing herd immunity in countries that can afford to buy large quantities of the vaccine, especially when international travel picks back up.
The plan is not without its shortcomings. Earlier this week, the WHO stated that some countries participating in COVAX have been disregarding the plan and buying large quantities of vaccines for themselves.
Nonetheless, in a video conference call Thursday morning with the WHO’s executive board, Fauci — now chief medical advisor to the president — said the Biden administration believes it can inoculate every American while also helping people in other countries.
Biden’s plan to join COVAX is a stark contrast from the Trump administration, which refused to participate in the program.
Fauci said Biden will issue the directive to join COVAX later Thursday.
Additionally, Fauci noted that the U.S. once again “intends to fulfill its financial obligations” to the WHO.
In his attempt to leave the organization, Trump cut off payments from the U.S.; however, his administration never got the chance to fully cut ties with the organization because the U.S. wasn’t scheduled to officially leave until July of this year.
Biden Signs Mask Mandate, Other Orders To Come
Among other COVID-related executive orders signed Wednesday, Biden implemented a national mask mandate for people on federal property.
Sometime Thursday, Biden is also expected to sign another order requiring masks to be worn in airports, as well as on airplanes, trains, and other interstate transit systems.
Also on Thursday, Biden is also expected to sign an order that will establish a COVID-19 testing board. Once implemented, the board will be responsible for increasing testing rates, addressing supply shortfalls, and determining the rules and regulations for international travelers coming into the U.S. It will also have the power to distribute resources to minority communities that have been disproportionately affected by the virus.
On top of that, Biden plans to sign an order that will direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse states and Native American tribes for their emergency response efforts. Notably, those reimbursements include costs related to reopening schools.
Finally, Biden is expected to invoke the Defense Production Act on Thursday. Such a move would speed up the production of masks and other equipment needed to help administer vaccines.