- 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)
Federal Court Throws Out Alabama Congressional Map, Citing Racial Gerrymandering
The judges ruled that the Republican-held legislature gerrymandered the map so the state only had one Black-majority district despite Black residents composing 27% of the state’s population.
Alabama Ordered to Redraw Map
A panel of federal judges tossed Alabama’s new congressional map on Monday, ruling that the current version significantly weakens the voting power of Black residents.
In their decision, the three judges noted that while about 27% of Alabamians are Black, the map drawn by the Republican-led legislature after the 2020 census was gerrymandered to leave just one of the state’s seven districts with a Black majority.
“Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress,” the judges wrote. “We find that the plaintiffs will suffer an irreparable harm if they must vote in the 2022 congressional elections based on a redistricting plan that violates federal law.”
As a result, the panel also ordered state lawmakers to redraw their map so that it includes “two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it.”
The legislature was given 14 days to redo their map before they appoint a special master to do so.
Ongoing Legal Battles
Shortly after the ruling, a spokesperson for Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement that his office “strongly disagrees with the court’s decision and will be appealing in the coming days.”
According to reports, the matter could ultimately go to the Supreme Court, which would decide whether lawmakers can draw maps that are gerrymandered along racial lines.
The high court ruled in 2019 that federal courts do not have the power to block congressional maps that are gerrymandered to skew districts in a partisan manner unless a state’s constitution explicitly prohibits such gerrymandering. The justices did keep parts of the Voting Rights Act that ban racial or ethnic gerrymandering, which the federal panel claimed was the case in Alabama.
Alabama’s congressional map is not the only one drawn by Republicans that has been thrown out in recent weeks. Earlier this month, Ohio’s Supreme Court ordered lawmakers to redraw a map that would have given Republicans 12 congressional seats and Democrats just three despite the fact that recently the GOP has only won about 55% of the popular vote statewide.
The state’s high court ruled that the map clearly violated a constitutional amendment overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2018 that effectively banned partisan gerrymandering.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (AL.com)
Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Affirmative Action Cases at Harvard and UNC
The decision to take up the two cases marks the first time affirmative action will go before the high court’s latest conservative-majority bloc.
SCOTUS Takes on Race-Conscious Admissions, Again
The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will again consider whether race-conscious admissions programs at universities are legal in two cases that could have serious implications for affirmative action.
The two lawsuits center around admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), both of which were brought by the conservative nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions.
The Harvard case started in 2014 with a lawsuit that claimed the school discriminated against Asian American students by effectively creating a quota for their admission. It also alleged the school a subjective standard to measure personality traits like likability, courage, and kindness.
The Ivy League school denied the allegations, claiming the challengers used incorrect statistical analysis and broadly arguing that race-conscious policies are legal.
In the case against UNC, the group alleged that the school discriminated against white and Asian applicants by giving preference to Black, Hispanic, and Native American students.
The university, for its part, argued that its policies create more diversity among its student body, also echoing Harvard’s argument that such rules are legal under decades of Supreme Court precedents.
Past Precedent Up in the Air
Lower courts ruled in favor of both schools, finding they did indeed comply with Supreme Court decisions.
But in taking up these two cases, the high court’s conservative majority will now examine whether race-conscious admissions are legal at all. The move could decide the future of affirmative action and undermine more than four decades of precedent on the use of race in college admissions.
The last two times the high court took up cases regarding affirmative action, the justices upheld the constitutionality of race-conscious programs by slim majorities. Now, those majorities have been replaced by a conservative bloc that includes three justices appointed by former President Donald Trump.
According to reports, the justices will likely hear the cases in October.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (NPR)
Pelosi Reverses Course, Signals Openness to Stock Trading Ban for Congress
The move comes as public and bipartisan support for legislation banning Congress members from stock trading has grown in recent weeks.
Pelosi Backtracks on Member Trading
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) on Thursday signaled openness to legislation that would ban members of Congress from trading stocks, reversing her previous position on the matter.
“I do come down always in favor of trusting our members,” Pelosi said at a press conference. “If the impression that is given by some that somebody is doing insider trading, that’s a Justice Department issue and that has no place in any of this.”
“To give a blanket attitude of ‘We can’t do this and we can’t do,’ because we can’t be trusted, I just don’t buy into that. But if members want to do that, I’m okay with that,” she continued.
The speaker’s remarks come as she has faced mounting backlash for voicing opposition to such a ban.
“We are a free market economy,” she told reporters when asked about the matter last month. “They should be able to participate in that.”
While Pelosi herself does not trade, her husband has invested millions in stocks. Those trades have been made public under the 2012 STOCK Act, which has required Congress members and their spouses to disclose when they buy and sell stocks for the last decade.
But the law has a mixed track record. A recent investigation by Insider found that “dozens of lawmakers and 182 senior congressional staff” have violated the law.
The act also came under intense scrutiny after financial disclosures filed by lawmakers exposed that members of both parties made trades in 2020 that benefited their portfolios after receiving early briefings on the seriousness of the pandemic.
The Justice Department reviewed some of the cases, but it ultimately did not bring any charges.
Momentum Grows for Congressional Ban
In recent weeks, pressure to reform the STOCK Act has been growing both among the public and in Congress.
Proponents argue that Congress members should be banned from trading stocks altogether to ensure they do not have conflicts of interest or use their access to classified briefings to make money.
According to a new poll from the progressive firm Data for Progress, 67% of voters support a ban. That number rose to 74% when the respondents were given arguments both for and against the idea.
In Congress, there is widespread bipartisan support for legislation to impose stricter regulations, including among top leadership.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) has reportedly said he is considering banning members from trading if Republicans win control of the House and select him as Speaker in 2022.
“I cannot imagine being a Speaker of the House with the power of what can come before committee, you name them and what can come to the floor and trading millions of dollars worth of options,” he told NPR earlier this month. “I just don’t think the American people think that’s right.”
Members of both parties have already put forth proposals. Last week, Sens. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and Mark Kelly (D-Az.) introduced legislation that would effectively ban lawmakers, as well as their spouses and dependents, from buying and selling stocks.
The same day, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) rolled out a very similar bill, though his version would not include dependents.