- 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.
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)
Trump Signs Order Allowing Former Troops to Be Called Upon for Coronavirus Fight
- President Trump signed an executive order that allows for former troops to be brought back to active duty to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.
- This is not an immediate order to call former service members back, but it is typically used when the military is in need of specific skill sets, like persons with high demand medical capabilities.
- Officials are still reviewing who might be activated.
- The order comes just days after the Army called upon former service members to voluntarily rejoin and help in the military’s response efforts. Over 14,000 have expressed interest as of Friday.
Trump Signs Executive Order
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday that allows the Pentagon to bring former U.S. troops and members of the National Gaurd and reserve back to active duty to help those already battling the county’s coronavirus outbreaks.
During his press conference Friday night, Trump said the decision allows the federal government “to mobilize medical, disaster and emergency response personnel to help wage our battle against the virus by activating thousands of experienced service members including retirees.”
“We have a lot of people, retirees, great military people — they’re coming back in,” Trump added.
What This Means
The executive order released by the White House states that anyone recalled can remain on active duty for up to 24 months straight. It provides the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security the authority to order as many as 1 million individuals at one time, however, it is not an order to do so.
According to Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman, the order applies to units and individual members in the National Guard and Reserves and certain Individual Ready Reserve members who are normally in an inactive status.
Hoffman said that decisions about who may be activated are still being reviewed, but he added, “Generally, these members will be persons in Headquarters units and persons with high demand medical capabilities whose call-up would not adversely affect their civilian communities.”
As of now, the Individual Ready Reserve contains 224,841 members, according to the Department of Defense, and nearly 11,000 of those members “have medical capabilities.”
“This is a dynamic situation, we do not currently have a projected number of expected activations, but the Department is now fully authorized to make activations as needed,” Hoffman said.
He also stressed that the departments would consult with state officials before using any National Gaurd Reserve Component units under the executive order.
Earlier this week, the Army called upon former service members to voluntarily rejoin and help in the military’s pandemic response efforts. The Army said the initial response has been positive, with at least 14,6000 people expressing interest as of Friday.
See what others are saying: (Politico) (CNN) (Fox News)
FDA Authorizes Portable Test Kit That Can Detect COVID-19 in 5 Minutes
- The FDA has approved the use of a new coronavirus test kit that can give positive results in as little as 5 minutes and negative results in 13, leaps faster than the hours and sometimes days laboratory tests normally take.
- The tests are run on a lightweight and small portable device that can be used in emergency rooms, urgent care clinics, and even outside hospital walls.
- Abbott, the medical device company that makes the kits, plans to send out 50,000 tests a day starting next week.
New Test Approved
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave Emergency Use Authorization to the medical device company Abbott for a new coronavirus test kit that gives results within minutes.
Abbott announced the news in a Friday press release, saying it plans to start delivering 50,000 tests a day beginning next week. The tests run on the company’s ID NOW platform, a portable device about the size of a small toaster than weights only 6.6 pounds.
Its portability means it can be used directly in an emergency room or urgent care clinic and even, “outside the traditional four walls of a hospital in outbreak hotspots.”
The company called it “the fastest available molecular point-of-care test for the detection of novel coronavirus(COVID-19), delivering positive results in as little as five minutes and negative results in 13 minutes.”
Second Rapid Test to Be Approved by FDA
The approval from federal health officials means that regulators were satisfied with the test’s validation data and are confident that its benefits outweigh any risk, like false positives or negatives.
The FDA’s approval marks the seconds time it has green-lit a fast working test that could accelerate testing across the country. Last week, it approved a 45-minute rapid point of care test by the molecular diagnostics company Cepheid. However, that test is primarily intended for emergency rooms and hospitals, not doctors’ officers or urgent care clinics.
Still, those turnaround times are leaps faster than the hours to days it takes most laboratory tests to bring results.
Medical Shortages Still Cause Concern
The approval of the Abbott test comes as cities across the nation battle with numbers of potential patients that surpass available tests and resources. Even with insufficient testing, the United States became the country with the largest number of reported cases of coronavirus on Thursday, exceeding China and Italy. By Friday, the U.S. hit more than 100,000 cases.
Many fear that shortages of other critical medical equipment, like masks and swabs, could stifle the new rapid test’s impact. That’s because the kit requires a swab sample collected from patients, and many health care facilities are running desperately low on the tools needed to safely collect those samples.
The Center for Disease Control issued guidance Tuesday that allows some patients to collect their own nasal swabs in health care facilities, in an effort to reduce the amount of protective equipment needed for health care workers.
On the opposite end, however, others note that fast and efficient testing can help medical professionals determine how much protective equipment they actually need to wear when interacting with a patient, as well as what kind of care to provide. Since this test can be done in a doctor’s office, it could even potentially help diagnose patients with mild or asymptomatic cases of the virus and help stop them from unknowingly spreading it.
Experts also say drastically increasing testing capacity can help get the economy back on track sooner. With increased testing, measures like keeping everyone at home could be replaced with more targeted identification and isolation of those infected.
EPA Limits Environmental Regulations During Coronavirus Crisis
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that it is scaling back its enforcement of environmental rules during the coronavirus emergency as businesses face challenges like layoffs and accessibility issues.
- The temporary policy allows companies to monitor their own compliance with environmental laws, and the EPA said it will not issue penalties for violations of certain reporting requirements.
- Many critics slammed the move, arguing that it opens doors to excess pollution and does not prioritize the health and safety of people and wildlife.
- The EPA defended the policy, saying it has reserved its authorities for situations other than routine monitoring and reporting and will consider the pandemic’s impacts on a “case-to-case basis.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it will limit the enforcement of certain regulations as the coronavirus pandemic continues, leaving companies in charge of monitoring their own compliance with environmental laws.
The agency unveiled the temporary policy on Thursday, arguing that businesses are running into obstacles like layoffs and accessibility issues as the virus alters normal life across the nation.
“EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.
Under normal circumstances, companies must report when their facilities release a certain amount of pollution into the air or water. Now, that requirement will be put on hold for the time being.
“In general, the EPA does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the EPA agrees that Covid-19 was the cause of the noncompliance and the entity provides supporting documentation to the EPA upon request,” the policy states.
The agency also said it would exercise “discretion” in enforcing other environmental rules. It noted that the policy does not apply to criminal violations or hundreds of the country’s most toxic waste sites that fall under the Superfund act. The EPA also said it expects public water systems to maintain high standards.
“Public water systems have a heightened responsibility to protect public health because unsafe drinking water can lead to serious illnesses and access to clean water for drinking and handwashing is critical during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the policy says.
The memo said that the changes will apply retroactively beginning on March 13, with no set end date indicated.
Criticism of New Policy
Some, including people in the oil industry, had been asking for these regulations to be loosened, but others slammed the EPA’s choice, claiming it is too broad and lax.
Gina McCarthy, who headed the EPA under the Obama administration and is now president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the policy an “open license to pollute.”
Some called the changes “outrageous” and “evil,” accusing the EPA of prioritizing businesses over the health of individuals and wildlife.
Prominent figures in the climate change fight slammed the move as well.
“The EPA uses this global pandemic to create loopholes for destroying the environment,” teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted. “This is a schoolbook example for what we need to start looking out for.”
Others pointed out the irony of suspending rules that preserve air quality while a respiratory disease makes its rounds across the country.
“What part of, ‘air pollution increases our vulnerability to respiratory diseases LIKE CORONAVIRUS,’ is not clear, EPA?” one Twitter user wrote.
Defense of Policy
The EPA stood behind their move and did not agree with its classification as a dismissal of regulations.
“It is not a nationwide waiver of environmental rules,” Andrea Woods, an E.P.A. spokeswoman, told The New York Times. “For situations outside of routine monitoring and reporting, the agency has reserved its authorities and will take the pandemic into account on a case-by-case basis.”
Susan Parker Bodine, the EPA official who issued the policy, said that it does not excuse organizations from consequences if they do committ environmental violations.
“If you do have violations of your permit, you’re still obligated to meet your permit limits, you’re supposed to do everything possible,” Bodine told ABC. “And after the fact the agency will take that all into consideration but there isn’t a promise of no penalties in those kinds of situations.”
“If you have an acute risk, if you have an imminent threat … the facility has to come in and talk to their regulator, their authorized state or come into the agency,” she added. “And the reason for that is that we want to, we want to put all of our resources into keeping these facilities safe keeping communities safe.”