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Administration Wrongfully Separated Over 900 Migrant Children, ACLU Says

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  • A new court filing from the ACLU revealed that that the Trump administration is still separating migrant families, despite officially ending the separation policy in June 2018.
  • According to the ACLU, data given to them by the government shows that more than 900 migrant children were separated from their parents in the last year.
  • The ACLU said that many of the separations were based on “minor criminal history” such as traffic violations, decades-old infractions, and “allegations or arrests without convictions.”
  • They also said that many of the separations were based on “highly dubious allegations of unfitness” like being HIV positive or eating at a restaurant that gang members also ate at.

ACLU Court Filing

Court documents filed Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) revealed that the Trump administration has separated more than 900 migrant children from their parents in the year since the administration officially ended the separation policy.

The ACLU filing asks that the court come up with more specifically outlined standards for separating families to ensure compliance with a federal ruling from June 2018, which required the Trump administration to stop separating migrant children from their families.

The same month, Donald Trump himself issued an executive order to end family separations except in cases where parents may pose a risk to their child.

However, the Trump administration is still separating families according to government data given to the ACLU as part of the court order. 

“The government is systematically separating large numbers of families based on minor criminal history, highly dubious allegations of unfitness, and errors in identifying bona fide parent-child relationships,” the court filing said.

The ACLU also said that the original court ruling from June 2018 specified that children could be separated from parents who had criminal histories.

However, that did not include immigration offenses, and as the document says “The Court made clear, however, that it was not blessing separations based on any criminal history, regardless of gravity.”

“Rather, the Court’s decision relied on traditional due process and child custody standards, which permit the drastic step of separating a child and parent only where the criminal history is so significant that it bears on whether the parent is a danger to the child or is an unfit parent,” it continued.

The ACLU filing goes on to say that the government is “separating young children based on such offenses as traffic violations, misdemeanor property damage, and disorderly conduct violations. Some of the separations are for offenses that took place many years ago. And some are for mere allegations or arrests without convictions.”

They also added that families have been separated based on the governments “assertion that the parent does not appear to be doing a proper job parenting” or “that the parent has not sufficiently proven his or her relationship to the child.”

The ACLU additionally noted that the children being separated from their families were increasingly younger than before. According to the filing, 481 children, which is more than half of those separated, were under the age of 10.

Around 20 percent of separated children were under five-years-old, which is a huge increase from last year when only four percent of children separated were under five.

Examples of Criminal Histories

The ACLU filing provided numerous examples of children being separated from their parents for reasons they believe violate the court’s previous ruling.

Of the 911 separations, 678 were because alleged criminal history. 

According to the ACLU, the data on family separations the administration gave them consisted of lists with the name of the parent who was separated from their child, and “a cryptic, summarized reason for the separation—often just a few words or a line of text—that states the allegations against the parent.”

“Sometimes the entry will simply be ‘due to parent’s criminal history,’ with no further explanation,” the document added.

The ACLU went on to describe the lists, saying they provided minimal information and did not include key data, like how old the convictions are, and noting that only 179 cases provided “reliable date information,” adding “the most recent dated charge was on average 10 years old.”

They gave specific examples, like one child who was separated from their parent because of a “‘false police report / hit and run’ conviction from 26 years ago.” Another parent was separated from their child “based on a 3-day jail sentence for misdemeanor assault from 20 years ago.”

Additionally, despite the fact that the court had explicitly decided that parents could not be separated from their children because of immigration offenses, “[the] list of separations reports hundreds of cases that include such convictions as part of the reasons for separation, including cases where the unlawful entry or reentry conviction was combined with other minor offenses, such as DUIs or traffic offenses.”

Examples of “Unfit” Parents

The ACLU also gave multiple examples where parents who had no criminal records were separated from their children because they were deemed “unfit.”

In one example, a dad was separated from his three young children because he had HIV, and despite requests, the government still never explained why being HIV positive made the dad a threat to his children. 

Another example said that a 5-year-old was separated from their mother who broke her leg at the border “and was briefly hospitalized for emergency surgery.”

In another case, a father in a detention center was separated from his one-year-old daughter because he did not want to wake up her to change her wet diaper. 

Other parents were separated from their children because Border Patrol agents did not believe they were actually their parents.

In one case, Border Patrol separated a father from his three-year-old daughter because his name was not on her birth certificate, despite the fact he had other proof he was her dad. The agents took away his daughter and refused to give him a paternity test.

Lawyers eventually intervened and were able to confirm he was the father, but during the time they were separated his three-year-old was sexually abused in government care.

The court documents also said that 44 parents were separated from their children because of alleged connections to gangs.

However, these included examples like a mother who was separated from her two children because she “ate at a restaurant frequented by gang members.” Another mother was separated from her child because she was seen leaving a store “while a group of gang members were being arrested nearby.”

One mother had her child taken from her because she had been abused by a gang member. Those are just some examples from the 218-page filing.

Trump Administration

The ACLU’s filing comes just a few weeks after acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said in testimony before a House committee that family separations were “rare” and made only “in the interest of the child.”

“This is carefully governed, it’s overseen by a supervisor when those decisions are made,” the acting secretary said.

However, the ACLU disagrees. Their filing says that the court must come up with more specific standards because the current ruling seems to give too much power to Border Patrol agents to decide who should be separated.

“They’re taking what was supposed to be a narrow exception for cases where the parent was genuinely a danger to the child and using it as a loophole to continue family separation” Lee Gelernt, the lead attorney in the family separation lawsuit and deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in an interview.

“What everyone understands intuitively and what the medical evidence shows, this will have a devastating effect on the children and possibly cause permanent damage to these children, not to mention the toll on the parents,” he added.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Washington Post) (Fox News)

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FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses

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The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.


New FDA Authorization

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.

The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.

Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.

Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.

Hazy Recommendations, For Now

Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.

The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.

In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.

However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.

An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.

Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.

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

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Paris Hilton Urges Lawmakers To Crack Down on Abusive Teen Treatment Facilities

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The heiress alleges that she was a victim of abuse in these types of centers for two years and wants to ensure that no child suffers through the same experience.


Paris Hilton Details Abuse Within “Troubled Teen Industry”

Socialite and entrepreneur Paris Hilton spoke outside of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to support the Accountability for Congregate Care Act, which is set to be introduced in the near future.

Hilton joined Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to advocate for the legislation, which aims to create a “bill of rights” for children in treatment and behavioral centers.

The heiress has alleged that she spent two of her teenage years in these types of facilities and was subject to rampant abuse. She is far from alone. 

During a press conference, Hilton said that one night when she was 16, she woke up to two large men in her bedroom forcing her out of her house. She said she screamed for help because she thought she was being kidnapped, but her parents watched as she was taken away to a “troubled teen” program. 

“Like countless other parents of teens, my parents had searched for solutions to my rebellious behavior,” she explained in an op-ed for The Washington Post this week. “Unfortunately, they fell for the misleading marketing of the ‘troubled teen industry’ — therapeutic boarding schools, military-style boot camps, juvenile justice facilities, behavior modification programs and other facilities that generate roughly $50 billion annually in part by pitching ‘tough love’ as the answer to problematic behavior.”

Hilton said she was sent to four different facilities where she was “physically and psychologically abused.” 

“I was strangled, slapped across the face, watched in the shower by male staff, called vulgar names, forced to take medication without a diagnosis, not given a proper education, thrown into solitary confinement in a room covered in scratch marks and smeared in blood and so much more,” she explained during the press conference. 

“At Provo Canyon School in Utah, I was given clothes with a number on the tag. I was no longer me, I was only number 127,” she continued. “I was forced to stay indoors for 11 months straight, no sunlight, no fresh air. These were considered privileges.”

Goals of the  Accountability for Congregate Care Act

Hilton claims that a lack of transparency and accountability has allowed this structure of abuse to thrive for decades. In some cases, she said it has taken children’s lives. Now, she wants Congress and President Joe Biden to act. 

“This bill creates an urgently needed bill of rights to ensure that every child placed into congregate care facilities is provided a safe and humane environment,” Hilton said of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act.

“This bill of rights provides protections that I wasn’t afforded, like access to education, to the outdoors, freedom from abusive treatment, and even the basic right to move and speak freely. If I had these rights and could have exercised them, I would have been saved from over 20 years of trauma and severe PTSD.” 

Foster children, children being treated for mental disorders, and other children in youth programs would be impacted by the bill.

Hilton was one of several survivors and advocates who fought for the legislation on Wednesday. Rep. Khanna thanked them for using their stories to fight for change. 

“No child should be subjected to solitary confinement, forced labor, or any form of institutional abuse,” he wrote. “Thanks to Paris Hilton, my colleagues & the survivors & advocates who joined us today to discuss how we can hold the congregate care industry accountable.”

While only Democratic legislators are currently sponsoring the bill, Hilton called for a bipartisan effort to fight for the rights of children. 

Ensuring that children are safe from institutional abuse isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue,” Hilton said. “It’s a basic human rights issue that requires immediate attention.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (NBC News)

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Surgeons Successfully Test Pig Kidney Transplant on a Human

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The procedure has been hailed as a major scientific breakthrough that could eventually open the door to a renewable source of desperately needed organs.


Groundbreaking Procedure

Surgeons at the NYU Langone Transplant Institute revealed Tuesday that they temporarily attached a kidney from a genetically modified pig to a human patient and found that it worked normally.

The operation was the first of its kind and could one day lead to a vast supply of organs for those who are in severe need. According to the Associated Press, more than 90,000 people in the U.S. are in line for a kidney transplant. Each day, an average of 12 die while waiting.

With the family’s consent, the groundbreaking procedure was performed on a brain-dead patient who was kept alive on a ventilator.

According to the surgeons, the pig used was genetically engineered to grow an organ that wouldn’t produce a sugar that the human immune system attacks, which would then trigger the body to reject the kidney. 

The organ was connected to blood vessels on the patient’s upper leg, outside the abdomen, and it was observed for over 54 hours, with doctors finding no signs of rejection.

Concerns and Hurdles Ahead

While the procedure was successful, this doesn’t mean it’ll be available to patients anytime soon. Several questions about long-term functionality remain, and it will still have to go through significant medical and regulatory hurdles. 

Details of the procedure haven’t even been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal yet, though there are plans for this. 

Experts are also considering the ethical implications of this type of animal-to-human transplant. For some, raising pigs to harvest their organs raises concerns about animal welfare and exploitation. Such medical procedures have already earned criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.

“Pigs aren’t spare parts and should never be used as such just because humans are too self-centered to donate their bodies to patients desperate for organ transplants,” PETA said in a statement, according to The New York Times.

On the other side of the debate are people like Dr. Robert Montgomery, the director of the N.Y.U. Langone Transplant Institute who performed the breakthrough procedure in September.

“I certainly understand the concern and what I would say is that currently about 40% of patients who are waiting for a transplant die before they receive one,” he told BBC.

“We use pigs as a source of food, we use pigs for medicinal uses – for valves, for medication. I think it’s not that different.”

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

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