Administration Wrongfully Separated Over 900 Migrant Children, ACLU Says
- 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)
Survey and Census Data Shows Record Number of Americans are Struggling Financially
Americans are choosing not to pursue medical treatment more and more frequently as they encounter money troubles.
A recent federal survey shows that a record number of Americans were worse off financially in 2022 than a year prior.
Coupled with recent census data showing pervasive poverty across much of the country, Americans are forced to make difficult decisions, like foregoing expensive healthcare.
According to a recent Federal Reserve Bureau survey, 35% of adults say they were worse off in 2022 than 2021, which is the highest share ever recorded since the question was raised in 2014.
Additionally, half of adults reported their budget was majorly affected by rising prices across the country, and that number is even higher among minority communities and parents living with their children.
According to recent census data, more than 10% of the counties in the U.S. are experiencing persistent poverty, meaning the area has had a poverty rate of 20% or higher between 1989 and 2019.
16 states report at least 10% of their population living in persistent poverty. But most of the suffering counties were found in the South — which accounts for over half the people living in persistent poverty, despite making up less than 40% of the population.
These financial realities have placed many Americans in the unfortunate situation of choosing between medical treatment and survival. The Federal Reserve study found that the share of Americans who skipped medical treatment because of the cost has drastically increased since 2020.
The reflection of this can be found in the overall health of households in different income brackets. 75% of households with an income of $25,000 or less report being in good health – compared to the 91% of households with $100,000 or more income.
See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Hill) (Federal Reserve)
Montana Governor Signs TikTok Ban
The ban will likely face legal challenges before it is officially enacted next year.
First Statewide Ban of TikTok
Montana became the first state to ban TikTok on Wednesday after Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed legislation aimed at protecting “Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party.”
The ban will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, though the law will likely face a handful of legal challenges before that date.
Under the law, citizens of the state will not be held liable for using the app, but companies that offer the app on their platforms, like Apple and Google, will face a $10,000 fine per day of violations. TikTok would also be subject to the hefty daily fine.
Questions remain about how tech companies will practically enforce this law. During a hearing earlier this year, a representative from TechNet said that these platforms don’t have the ability to “geofence” apps by state.
Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics, told the Associated Press that app stores could have the capability to enforce the restriction, but it would be difficult to carry out and there would be a variety of loopholes by tools like VPNs.
Montana’s law comes as U.S. politicians have taken aim at TikTok over its alleged ties to the CCP. Earlier this year, the White House directed federal agencies to remove TikTok from government devices. Conservatives, in particular, have been increasingly working to restrict the app.
“The Chinese Communist Party using TikTok to spy on Americans, violate their privacy, and collect their personal, private, and sensitive information is well-documented,” Gov. Gianforte said in a Wednesday statement.
Criticism of Montana Law
TikTok, however, has repeatedly denied that it gives user data to the government. The company released a statement claiming Montana’s law “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people” in the state.
“We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue using TikTok to express themselves, earn a living, and find community as we continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana,” the company said.
The American Civil Liberties Union condemned Montana’s law for similar reasons.
“This law tramples on our free speech rights under the guise of national security and lays the groundwork for excessive government control over the internet,” the ACLU tweeted. “Elected officials do not have the right to selectively censor entire social media apps based on their country of origin.”
Per the AP, there are 200,000 TikTok users in Montana, and another 6,000 businesses use the platform as well. Lawsuits are expected to be filed against the law in the near future.
See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Fast Company) (CBS News)
How a Disney-Loving Former Youth Pastor Landed on The FBI’s “Most Wanted” List
“Do what is best, not for yourself, for once. Think about everyone else,” Chris Burns’ 19-year-old son pleaded to his father via The Daily Beast.
Multi-Million Dollar Scheme
Former youth pastor turned financial advisor Chris Burns remains at large since going on the run in September of 2020 to avoid a Securities Exchange Commission investigation into his businesses.
Despite his fugitive status, the Justice Department recently indicted Burns with several more charges on top of the $12 million default judgment he received from the SEC.
Burns allegedly sold false promissory notes to investors across Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida. The SEC claims he told the investors they were participating in a “peer to peer” lending program where businesses that needed capital would borrow money and then repay it with interest as high as 20%. Burns allegedly also reassured investors that the businesses had collateral so the investment was low-risk.
The SEC says that Burns instead took that money for personal use.
Burns began his adult life as a youth pastor back in 2007 before transitioning into financial planning a few years later. By 2017, he launched his own radio show, The Chris Burns Show, which was funded by one of his companies, Dynamic Money – where every week Burns would “unpack how this week’s headlines practically impact your life, wallet, and future,” according to the description. He also frequently appeared on television and online, talking about finances and politics.
The SEC alleges that he used his public appearances to elevate his status as a financial advisor and maximize his reach to investors.
His family told The Daily Beast that he became obsessed with success and he reportedly bought hand-made clothes, a million-dollar lakehouse, a boat, several cars, and took his family on several trips to Disney World. His eldest son and wife said that Burns was paying thousands of dollars a day for VIP tours and once paid for the neighbors to come along.
Then in September 2020, he reportedly told his wife that he was being investigated by the Securities Exchange Commission but he told her not to worry.
The day that he was supposed to turn over his business documents to the SEC, he disappeared, telling his wife he was just going to take a trip to North Carolina to tell his parents about the investigation. Then, the car was found abandoned in a parking lot with several cashier’s checks totaling $78,000
FBI’s Most Wanted
The default judgment in the SEC complaint orders Burns, if he’s ever found, to pay $12 million to his victims, as well as over $650,000 in a civil penalty. Additionally, a federal criminal complaint charged him with mail fraud. Burns is currently on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
Last week, the Justice Department indicted him on several other charges including 10 counts of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud.
“Burns is charged for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from clients in an illegal investment fraud scheme,” Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “Financial crimes of this nature can cause significant disruptions to the lives of those who are victimized, and the FBI is dedicated to holding these criminals accountable.”
His family maintains that they knew nothing of Burns’ schemes. His wife reportedly returned over $300,000 that he had given to her.
She and their eldest son, who is now 19, told The Daily Beast they just want Burns to turn himself in, take responsibility for his actions, and try to help the people he hurt.
“Do what is best, not for yourself, for once. Think about everyone else,” Burns’ son said in a message to his father via The Daily Beast.