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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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Jan. 6 Committee Prepares Criminal Charges Against Steve Bannon for Ignoring Subpoena

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The move comes after former President Trump told several of his previous aides not to cooperate with the committee’s investigation into the insurrection.


Bannon Refuses to Comply With Subpoena

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection announced Thursday that it is seeking to hold former White House advisor Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena.

The decision marks a significant escalation in the panel’s efforts to force officials under former President Donald Trump’s administration to comply with its probe amid Trump’s growing efforts to obstruct the inquiry.

In recent weeks, the former president has launched a number of attempts to block the panel from getting key documents, testimonies, and other evidence requested by the committee that he claims are protected by executive privilege.

Notably, some of those assertions have been shut down. On Friday, President Joe Biden rejected Trump’s effort to withhold documents relating to the insurrection.

Still, Trump has also directed former officials in his administration not to comply with subpoenas or cooperate with the committee. 

That demand came after the panel issued subpoenas ordering depositions from Bannon and three other former officials: Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, and Pentagon Chief of Staff Kash Patel.

After Trump issued his demand, Bannon’s lawyer announced that he would not obey the subpoena until the panel reached an agreement with Trump or a court ruled on the executive privilege matter.

Many legal experts have questioned whether Bannon, who left the White House in 2017, can claim executive privilege for something that happened when he was not working for the executive.

Panel Intensifies Compliance Efforts

The Thursday decision from the committee is significant because it will likely set up a legal battle and test how much authority the committee can and will exercise in requiring compliance.

It also sets an important precedent for those who have been subpoenaed. While Bannon is the first former official to openly defy the committee, there have been reports that others plan to do the same. 

The panel previously said Patel and Meadows were “engaging” with investigators, but on Thursday, several outlets reported that the two — who were supposed to appear before the body on Thursday and Friday respectively —  are now expected to be given an extension or continuance.

Sources told reporters that Scavino, who was also asked to testify Friday, has had his deposition postponed because service of his subpoena was delayed.

As far as what happens next for Bannon, the committee will vote to adopt the contempt report next week. Once that is complete, the matter will go before the House for a full vote.  

Assuming the Democratic-held House approves the contempt charge, it will then get referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to bring the matter before a grand jury.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Washington Post) (Bloomberg)

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Senate Votes To Extend Debt Ceiling Until December

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The move adds another deadline to Dec. 3, which is also when the federal government is set to shut down unless Congress approves new spending.


Debt Ceiling Raised Temporarily

The Senate voted on Thursday to extend the debt ceiling until December, temporarily averting a fiscal catastrophe.

The move, which followed weeks of stalemate due to Republican objections, came after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) partially backed down from his blockade and offered a short-term proposal.

After much whipping of votes, 11 Republicans joined Democrats to break the legislative filibuster and move to final approval of the measure. The bill ultimately passed in a vote of 50-48 without any Republican support.

The legislation will now head to the House, where Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said members would be called back from their current recess for a vote on Tuesday. 

The White House said President Joe Biden would sign the measure, but urged Congress to pass a longer extension.

“We cannot allow partisan politics to hold our economy hostage, and we can’t allow the routine process of paying our bills to turn into a confidence-shaking political showdown every two years or every two months,’’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Under the current bill, the nation’s borrowing limit will be increased by $480 billion, which the Treasury Department said will cover federal borrowing until around Dec. 3.

The agency had previously warned that it would run out of money by Oct. 18 if Congress failed to act. Such a move would have a chilling impact on the economy, forcing the U.S. to default on its debts and potentially plunging the country into a recession. 

Major Hurdles Remain

While the legislation extending the ceiling will certainly offer temporary relief, it sets up another perilous deadline for the first Friday in December, when government funding is also set to expire if Congress does not approve another spending bill.

Regardless of the new deadline, many of the same hurdles lawmakers faced the first time around remain. 

Democrats are still struggling to hammer out the final details of Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending agenda, which Republicans have strongly opposed.

Notably, Democratic leaders previously said they could pass the bill through budget reconciliation, which would allow them to approve the measure with 50 votes and no Republican support.

Such a move would require all 50 Senators, but intraparty disputes remain over objections brought by Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.), who have been stalling the process for months.

Although disagreements over reconciliation are ongoing among Democrats, McConnell has insisted the party use the obscure procedural process to raise the debt limit. Democrats, however, have balked at the idea, arguing that tying the debt ceiling to reconciliation would set a dangerous precedent.

Despite Republican efforts to connect the limit to Biden’s economic agenda, raising the ceiling is not the same as adopting new spending. Rather, the limit is increased to pay off spending that has already been authorized by previous sessions of Congress and past administrations.

In fact, much of the current debt stems from policies passed by Republicans during the Trump administration, including the 2017 tax overhaul. 

As a result, while Democrats have signaled they may make concessions to Manchin and Sinema, they strongly believe that Republicans must join them to increase the debt ceiling to fund projects their party supported. 

It is currently unclear when or how the ongoing stalemate will be resolved, or how either party will overcome their fervent objections.

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

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California Makes Universal Voting by Mail Permanent

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California is now the eighth state to make universal mail-in ballots permanent after it temporarily adopted the policy for elections held amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 


CA Approves Universal Voting by Mail

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill Monday requiring every registered voter in the state to be mailed a ballot at least 29 days before an election, whether they request it or not.

Assembly Bill 37 makes permanent a practice that was temporarily adopted for elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. The law, which officially takes effect in January, also extends the time mail ballots have to arrive at elections offices from three days to seven days after an election. Voters can still choose to cast their vote in person if they prefer.

Supporters of the policy have cheered the move, arguing that proactively sending ballots to registered voters increases turnout.

“Data shows that sending everyone a ballot in the mail provides voters access. And when voters get ballots in the mail, they vote,” the bill’s author, Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), said during a Senate committee hearing in July.

Meanwhile opponents — mostly Republicans — have long cast doubts about the safety of mail-in voting, despite a lack of evidence to support their claims that it leads to widespread voter fraud. That strategy, however, has also faced notable pushback from some that a lot of Republicans who say it can actually hurt GOP turnout.

Others May Follow

The new legislation probably isn’t too surprising for California, where over 50% of votes cast in general elections have been through mail ballots since 2012, according to The Sacramento Bee. Now, many believe California will be followed by similar legislation from Democrats across the country as more Republican leaders move forward with elections bills that significantly limit voting access.

Newsome signed 10 other measures Monday changing election and campaign procedures, including a bill that would require anyone advocating for or against a candidate to stand farther away from a polling place. Another bill increases penalties for candidates who use campaign funds for personal expenses while a third measure increases reporting requirements for limited liability corporations that engage in campaign activity.

“As states across our country continue to enact undemocratic voter suppression laws, California is increasing voter access, expanding voting options and bolstering elections integrity and transparency,” Newsom said in a statement.

“Last year we took unprecedented steps to ensure all voters had the opportunity to cast a ballot during the pandemic and today we are making those measures permanent after record-breaking participation in the 2020 presidential election.”

The news regarding California came just in time for National Voter Registration day today, giving Americans another reminder to make sure they’re registered in their states. For more information on how to register, visit Vote.gov or any of the other resources linked below.

See what others are saying: (The Hill) (Los Angeles Times) (The Sacramento Bee)

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