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ICE Operations Continue Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

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  • As the coronavirus outbreak spreads, reports show that ICE agents have not slowed in their attempts to arrest undocumented immigrants across the U.S. 
  • Advocates argue that these operations should be suspended in the midst of the public health crisis and are calling for immigration courts to close.
  • Some are also pushing for those at high risk for the coronavirus to be released from immigration detainment centers, which are susceptible to high spreads.
  • ICE said they are taking precautionary measures but are still continuing daily operations.

ICE Arrests Carry On

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is continuing their arrests of undocumented immigrants during the coronavirus crisis, despite calls from many advocates and experts requesting that they temporarily suspend their operations.

On Sunday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom significantly boosted the state’s response to the pandemic when he ordered the closure of all bars, nightclubs, brewpubs, and wineries and encouraged all people over the age of 65 to stay home. But the Los Angeles Times revealed that just a day after this escalation, a group of ICE officers made rounds in the city to search for four of their targets. 

Though the agents greeted each other by bumping elbows instead of shaking hands and had respirator masks on deck just in case, they were not otherwise deterred by the coronavirus in their pursuits, nor by criticism they’ve received from immigrant advocates. According to the Los Angeles Times, this week more than 45 organizations have signed a letter to the Department of Homeland Security requesting that the enforcement actions of ICE be temporarily suspended.   

“We’re out here trying to protect the public by getting these criminal aliens off the street and out of our communities,” David Marin, the director of Enforcement and Removal Operations for ICE in L.A., told the Los Angeles Times. “Asking us to stop doing that basically gives those criminals another opportunity to maybe commit more crimes, to create more victims.” 

One of the individuals that the Los Angeles ICE agents handcuffed on Monday was Pedro Castillo Bravo, who was confronted on his way to work. Castillo had worries about his lack of food at home and the frenzy of panic buying. He had planned to pick up supplies and food on his way home that day.   

“I’m the head of the house,” Castillo told The Los Angeles Times, with the outlet reporting that he was teary-eyed. “If they have me here locked up, what about rent and food?”

ICE arrests don’t seem to be faltering anywhere else around the country either. In El Paso, Texas, raids in recent weeks have targeted small, Latino-owned businesses, which are prone to struggle during the outbreak. In Denver, there have been reports of arrests of at least two parents in the past week amid school closures. 

“It is reckless and extremely dangerous for ICE to be out there conducting hands-on arrests of people and then putting them in detention in what is a crowded facility that is just ripe for a disastrous outbreak,” Arash Jahanian of the Meyer Law Office, which handles local Denver immigration cases, told the Denver Post

Calls for Action

ICE said it is continuing daily operations. On their website, the agency noted that it does not conduct its operations at medical facilities “except under extraordinary circumstances,” which has been a concern of both public health and legal experts as it might deter undocumented immigrants from seeking needed medical help.  

ICE also noted that its agents are following CDC guidelines in terms of handling possible cases. 

“ICE transports individuals with moderate to severe symptoms, or those who require higher levels of care or monitoring, to appropriate hospitals with expertise in high risk care,” its website reads. “Detainees who do not have fever or symptoms, but meet CDC criteria for epidemiologic risk, are housed separately in a single cell, or as a group, depending on available space.”

While the ICE has suspended all social visits to immigration detention centers nationwide in efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus, many still have high concerns about the virus spreading among those detained. Similar fears have been rippling through the countries for those placed in federal prisons as well. In these places, the detainees typically live together in very tight quarters, making the preventative measure of social distancing impossible. Others have criticized and are worried about these facilities’ past displays of inadequate medical care and neglect.

“Immigration detention is like a cruise ship but obviously worse for many reasons,” Eunice Cho, a senior staff attorney and detention expert at the American Civil Liberties Union, told Mother Jones

On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Northwest Immigration Rights Project filed a lawsuit demanding that nine individuals who are at high risk for the coronavirus be released from the Tacoma, Washington ICE detention center where they’re currently being held. The plaintiffs include those with an autoimmune disorder, lung disease, and epilepsy, among other ailments. 

“Release protects the people with the greatest vulnerability to COVID from transmission of the virus, and also allows for greater risk mitigation for all people held or working in a prison, jail, or detention center,” the lawsuit argues. 

“Release of the most vulnerable people from custody also reduces the burden on the region’s limited healthcare infrastructure, as it lessens the likelihood that an overwhelming number of people will become seriously ill from COVID-19 at the same time,” it said.

On Tuesday, immigration judges, attorneys for ICE employees, and public health agencies called for the immediate closure of all immigration courts for the time being to combat potential sharing of the virus during these gatherings. 

Also on Tuesday, in a turn of events, Guatemala closed its borders to U.S. deportations in fear of coronavirus cases striking their country. On their website, the ICE notes that it has been screening people’s temperatures before air charter removal from the country, but the Honduran government announced last week that three of its citizens who were deported from the U.S. exhibited symptoms of the coronavirus. 

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (CBS) (Washington Post)

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Donald Trump and Eldest Three Children Hit With Fraud Lawsuit From New York AG

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AG Letitia James says that the former president “falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself.” 


Lawsuit Filed Against Trump 

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced on Wednesday that she filed a civil lawsuit against former president Donald Trump and his three eldest children over allegations that they fraudulently inflated asset valuations within the Trump Organization.

Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump are all listed alongside their father in the lawsuit. Executives Jeffrey McConney and Allen Weisselberg, the latter of whom recently pled guilty to tax crimes, are also listed alongside other Trump businesses. 

“Donald Trump, with the help of his children…and senior executives at the Trump Organization, falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to induce banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms than would otherwise have been available to the company, to satisfy continuing loan covenants, to induce insurers to provide insurance coverage for higher limits and at lower premiums, and to gain tax benefits, among other things,”  a press release announcing the lawsuit claimed. 

The Attorney General’s office claims that between 2011 and 2021, Trump and the Trump Organization made 200 false and misleading claims about asset values on annual financial statements.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in a State Supreme Court in Manhattan. 

“The complaint demonstrates that Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and to cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us,” James said while announcing the complaint. 

Her office is seeking to permanently ban Trump and his children from serving as an officer or director in any New York corporation and to bar Trump and his organization from entering into any New York real estate acquisitions for five years. The office is also seeking to recover $250 million in penalty payments, among other forms of relief. 

 The Office of the Attorney General has also referred the matter to the federal attorneys in New York and to the IRS for criminal investigation. 

“There aren’t two sets of laws for people in this nation: former presidents must be held to the same standards as everyday Americans,” James added in a statement on social media. 

“Trump’s crimes are not victimless,” she continued. “When the well-connected and powerful break the law to get more money than they are entitled to, it reduces resources available to working people, small businesses, and taxpayers.”

Trump Allegedly Inflated Key Assets

According to James’ release, Trump “made known through Mr. Weisselberg that he wanted his net worth on his statements to increase every year.”

“And the statements were the vehicle by which his net worth was fraudulently inflated by billions of dollars year after year,” the release continued. 

Among the assets Trump and his organization allegedly inflated was the Trump Tower Triplex, an apartment Trump allegedly claimed was 30,000 square feet when it is just around 11,000 square feet. Because of its ballooned size, the property was valued at $327 million in 2015, roughly three times as much as the sole apartment in New York City to ever sell for over $100 million at the time. 

For further comparison, the highest sale for a listing in Trump Tower at the time was only $16 million. 

Trump also allegedly claimed Mar-a-Lago was valued as high as $739 million based on the “false premise” that the property could be developed and sold for residential use. The lawsuit claims that Trump actually signed deeds donating those rights, limiting the property’s use to a social club. James and her office claim its value would fall closer to $75 million. 

Inflated Clauations Cannot Be “Excused”

“The inflated asset valuations in the Statements cannot be brushed aside or excused as merely the result of exaggeration or good faith estimation about which reasonable real estate professionals may differ,”  the lawsuit states, adding that instead, they are the result of improper methodology intentionally meant to falsely boost Trump’s net worth. 

The investigation into Trump’s alleged fraud began nearly three years ago, and the former president has repeatedly called it a politically motivated witch hunt. His attorney, Alina Habba, doubled down on that rhetoric in a statement Wednesday. 

“Today’s filing is neither focused on the facts nor the law – rather, it is solely focused on advancing the Attorney General’s political agenda,” Habba said. “We are confident that our judicial system will not stand for this unchecked abuse of authority, and we look forward to defending our client against each and every one of the Attorney General’s meritless claims.”

For his part, Trump has blasted the lawsuit on Truth Social, calling James a “fraud” and a “crime-fighting disaster.”

Trump previously tried to impede the probe but was ultimately ordered by a judge to sit for a deposition and turn over subpoenaed documents. Reports say he pled the fifth hundreds of times during his deposition. 

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

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Hurricane Fiona Causes “Catastrophic” Damage in Puerto Rico, Leaving Many Without Power

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While power has been restored to some, more than a million remain without it as continued rainfall, flooding, and landslides are expected to cause further damage across the island.


Hurricane Fiona Wreaks Havoc

Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico Sunday, bringing heavy rains, flooding, and landslides, while also knocking out power for the entire island and killing at least one person.

Photos and videos posted on social media show floodwaters consuming major streets and engulfing cars. Some pictures show an entire bridge flooded, making it impassible. Other footage shows a different bridge entirely uprooted and a metal barrier ripped away from the road and floating down a river of floodwater.

Officials have said conditions are still too dangerous to fully evaluate the extent of the crisis. In remarks to the public, Puerto Rico’s governor, Pedro Pierluisi, described the damage as “catastrophic.”

He asserted that the storm has been one of the most significant since Hurricane Maria — which hit the island almost exactly 5 years ago to the day — killing more than 3,000 people, leaving many without power for months, and causing destruction that the island is still recovering from.

Pierluisi noted that Puerto Rico has received over 30 inches of rain and that some areas have even gotten more rain than during Hurricane Maria. As of Monday afternoon, the National Gaurd has led 30 rescue operations so far, saving more than 1,000 stranded residents in 25 municipalities, according to the governor.

Pierluisi also added that more than 2,000 people were in the island’s 128 shelters, with officials further saying there is plenty of shelter space for those who need it. On Sunday, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, which will allow federal agencies to coordinate disaster relief.

Continued Issues As Storm Rages On

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s water authority has confirmed that just over 70% of the island is still without water. According to poweroutage.us, more than 1.3 million customers were still without power as of Monday morning.

The power company LUMA also stated that electricity had been restored to around 100,000 customers over the course of Sunday night, though it previously warned that the full restoration of power could take several days as the storm has created “incredibly challenging” conditions.

While Hurricane Fiona has passed through Puerto Rico, having now made landfall in the Dominican Republic, officials and experts say that heavy rains and further flooding are still to be expected for the next few days.

The National Weather Service has warned that “life-threatening and catastrophic flooding” as well as mudslides and landslides are expected to continue across the island. As a result, Pierluisi has urged Puerto Ricans Monday to remain home and in shelters so that officials can continue to respond to others in need.

He also noted that the areas most impacted by the hurricane include the southern part of the island, the southwest, and the mountains.

After moving through the Dominican Republic, Hurricane Fiona is expected to head towards Turks and Caicos Tuesday. The National Hurricane Center has said that the storm will continue to grow and by Wednesday, it is set to become a major hurricane — which means a Category 3 or higher.

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

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Government Aid Cut Child Poverty in Half During Pandemic, Data Shows

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The reduction occurred similarly across geography, race, family type, and citizenship status.


Largest Drop in Half a Century

The United States’s child poverty rate sank to the lowest level on record last year, primarily thanks to pandemic relief measures and other government programs, according to an analysis of census data released Tuesday.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s supplementary poverty measure, which accounts for safety net programs and tax credits as well as regional differences in the cost of living.

From around 11% in 2019, the percentage of kids living below the poverty line fell to 9.7% in 2020 and 5.2% the year after that.

In just two years, nearly 5.5 million kids were lifted from poverty, marking an almost 60% drop in the child poverty rate.

The Center’s researchers gave most credit to the federal government’s numerous interventions in the economy, from stimulus payments and the expanded child tax credit to eviction moratoriums and expanded unemployment insurance.

Without government intervention, poverty in 2020 would have experienced its second-largest recorded increase, the Center claimed, but instead, it underwent the largest single-year decline in over half a century.

Especially impactful was the expanded child tax credit, which sent up to $300 per child to households with children every month between July and December 2021.

According to the analysis, this policy alone pulled nearly three million kids out of poverty.

But the tax credit’s expansion expired at the end of the year despite Democrats’ efforts to prolong it with Biden’s signature Build Back Better bill, which was blocked by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who reportedly told colleagues he was concerned that families might use the payments to buy drugs.

Poverty Before COVID

Child poverty has fallen by 59% since 1993, when it sat at around 28%, according to another analysis published Sunday by The New York Times and the nonpartisan group Child Trends.

They found that the decline occurred across all 50 states and D.C., as well as in different levels of poverty.

It similarly affected nearly all subgroups of children, — white, Black, Asian and Hispanic, single-parent and two-parent, immigrant and non-immigrant.

The causes driving the pre-pandemic decline included general economic improvement — low unemployment, a higher labor force participation rate among single mothers, and growing state minimum wages — but the researchers pinned government welfare programs as the dominant factor.

They specifically mentioned the earned income tax credit, social security, unemployment insurance, and nutrition and housing assistance.

Despite the positive trend, more than eight million children still live below the poverty line, and that number excludes those who live just above it but still struggle to meet basic needs.

The current poverty line sits around $29,000 for a family of four in a location with typical living costs.

Moreover, disparities still persist, with Black and Latino children about three times as likely as their white peers to be poor.

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

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