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DHS Directs FEMA To Help With Migrant Children Amid Record Backlogs

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  • The Biden administration has deployed FEMA to help shelter and transfer migrant children at the southern border as record numbers of unaccompanied minors continue to enter the country.
  • As of Sunday, U.S. Border Patrol was holding more than 4,200 children in detention centers, jail cells, and other crowded holding facilities usually meant for adults, according to government records reviewed by reporters.
  • The surge of young migrants has quickly become a politicized flashpoint in the early days of the Biden administration.
  • Republicans claimed Biden’s efforts to rollback Trump-era policies are responsible for the surge, but Democrats have said the crisis is simply a result of Trump’s failed actions on immigration. 

FEMA to Aid With Migrant Crisis

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Saturday that it was deploying the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is known for responding to natural disasters, to help “receive, shelter, and transfer” unaccompanied migrant children at the southwest border.

The move is part of a 90-day effort by President Joe Biden’s administration to process the rapidly growing amount of children and teens trying to enter the country in record numbers after he rolled back several immigration policies imposed by former President Donald Trump.

Biden has maintained the Trump-era rule enacted last March that allows the U.S. to expel almost all migrants on the grounds of preventing further spread of COVID-19. However, he has also issued narrow carve-outs for children and asylum seekers who would otherwise be sent to Mexico while awaiting their trials.

The result has been a massive influx of child and teen migrants that the federal government does not have the capacity to accommodate. According to recent reports, about 8,500 teens and children are living in shelters run by Health and Human Services (HHS) — the department tasked with eventually placing them with sponsors.

However, because the agency has been unable to quickly add the capacity it needs to hold the overwhelming number of child-migrants, thousands of kids have instead been packed into detention centers, jail cells, and other holding facilities meant for adults that pose large COVID risks and are unsafe for minors.

Record Influx of Children Migrants

As of Sunday, U.S. Border Patrol was holding more than 4,200 unaccompanied children in those short-term facilities, according to government records reviewed by several outlets.

Nearly 3,000 of the children in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody had been held longer than 72 hours — the timeframe for which agency is legally required to transfer most unaccompanied minnows to the HHS agency tasked with resettlement.

The unprecedented surge represents a recent upward trend. The number of children in CBP custody increased by 31% increase from early last week, and the number of kids held longer than 72 hours has more than doubled in the same time.

Unsurprisingly, the situation has quickly become a highly politicized one for Biden in the first weeks and months of his presidency. Republicans have blamed the influx of migrant children on Biden’s policies, with many arguing that he has incentivized parents to risk their children’s safety to send them to the U.S. with the aim of joining them later. 

Many Democrats, however, have argued that Biden just inherited the border crisis from Trump, and that the flow of migrants to the border is the result of failed policies under the last administration. 

Still, other more progressive Democrats, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), have condemned the Biden administration for reopening facilities to hold migrant children, arguing it just allows them to hold more minors, rather than focus on resettling them.

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

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Florida Appeals Court Grants Officers Involved in Shootings Privacy Protections Under Marsy’s Law

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  • A Florida appeals court sided with a local police union Tuesday, ruling that a state constitutional amendment known as Marsy’s Law can shield the identities of officers who shoot suspects if the officers are threatened during those incidents — an argument often made in police shootings.
  • Marsy’s Law grants privacy protections to victims of crimes, and a trial court previously sided with the city of Tallahassee and media, saying it could not interpret the law “to shield police officers from public scrutiny of their official actions.”
  • Lawyers representing the media called the new ruling a “setback for police accountability.”
  • The appeals court, however, argued that privacy protections would not stop an internal affairs investigation, grand jury proceedings, or stop a state attorney from later deciding that an officer was not a victim in a specific case.

Case That Lead To Appeals Court Ruling

Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeals unanimously decided Tuesday that municipalities cannot make the names of officers who shoot citizens public if the officers themselves were crime victims.

According to Axios, that is almost always the argued case in police shootings.

The ruling stems from a case involving two Tallahassee officers who fatally shot a suspect in separate incidents. Florida’s Police Benevolent Association, the police union representing the two officers, argued in a lawsuit that the city shouldn’t release any information that would personally identify them as the shooters.

They cited Florida’s 2018 constitution amendment, called Marsy’s Law, which grants privacy rights to crime victims. They argued that the amendment applied to these officers because they were allegedly threatened in these use-of-force incidents.

The city and news media, however, argued that the documents identifying the two officers were public records under the Florida constitution. They also argued that officers acting in their official capacities cannot be victims.

The trial court had sided with the city and media, saying that the court “cannot interpret Marsy’s Law to shield police officers from public scrutiny of their official actions.”

It also added that the language of the law was not intended to apply to officers acting in their official capacity.

The police union appealed that ruling and the three-judge panel of the appeals court unanimously sided with the officers, saying that Marsay’s Law does not exclude “law enforcement officers … from the protections granted crime victims.”

Because of this, the judges said an officer who is a victim has the right to keep confidential, “information or records that could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s family, or which could disclose confidential or privileged information of the victim.”

What Does This Mean for Police Accountability?

The judges said that keeping an officer’s identity private wouldn’t stop an internal affairs investigation or a grand jury proceeding. It also wouldn’t stop a state attorney from later deciding the officer was not a victim and bringing charges.

Still, a lawyer representing media organization issued a statement criticizing the ruling.

“Today’s decision was an unfortunate setback for police accountability. We respectfully disagree with the court’s reasoning and are considering our options,” Tampa lawyer Mark Caramanica said in a prepared statement.

See what others are saying: (News4) (Tampa Bay Times) (RawStory)

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Minneapolis Police Chief Testifies Against Derek Chauvin

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  • In a highly unusual move, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo on Monday testified against former officer Derek Chauvin, who faces murder and manslaughter charges in the death of George Floyd. 
  • In his testimony, Chief Arradondo said that Chauvin violated a number of departmental policies when he kneeled on Floyd’s neck, including rules on reasonable force, neck restraints, non-violent de-escalation, and rendering aid. 
  • Arradondo is now the highest-ranking public safety official to testify in the trial. It is rare for a police chief to take the witness stand against a fellow officer.
  • Experts said his testimony underscores the difficulty Chauvin’s defense will have in persuading the jury he did his job before, during, and after he kneeled on Floyd’s neck.

Chief Arradondo Testimony

The second week of the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former officer who kneeled on George Floyd’s neck, began Monday with a rare testimony from Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo.

It is unusual for a police chief to take the witness stand against a fellow officer and even more unusual for one to offer such sharp rebukes of a former employee.

In his testimony, Arradondo said  Chauvin violated several departmental policies when he kneeled on Floyd’s neck. 

The most important part of the testimony came from Arradondo’s remarks on defensive tactics and reasonable force. When shown a picture of Chauvin using the neck restrain on Floyd and asked by prosecutors if that was part of the department’s training, the chief said it was not.

“A conscious neck restraint by policy mentions light to moderate pressure,” he said. “When I look [at the picture], when I look at the facial expression of Mr. Floyd, that does not appear in any way, shape, or form that that is light to moderate pressure.”

“I absolutely agree that violates our policy,” he added.

Arradondo also noted that in order for use of force to be considered reasonable, it has to be applied throughout the entire encounter and a number of factors need to be taken into account, including the threat to the officer and others.

“There’s an initial reasonableness in trying to just get him under control in the first few seconds,” he said. “But once there was no longer any resistance, and clearly when Mr. Floyd was no longer responsive and even motionless, to continue to apply that level of force to a person proned out, handcuffed behind their back, that in no way, shape, or form is anything that is by policy, it is not part of our training, and it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values.” 

Ongoing Trial

Chief Arradondo is now the highest-ranking public safety officer to testify against Chauvin. 

His testimony emphasizes the attempts of law enforcement officials to distance themselves from the former officer’s actions. As The New York Times wrote, the chief’s testimony “underscored the difficulty that Mr. Chauvin and his lawyers will have in persuading the jury that the officer was just doing his job when he pinned Mr. Floyd to the ground with his knee for more than nine minutes last May.”

That point is especially notable because in his questioning of Arradondo, Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, focused on the claim that the police department’s policies gave officers some room to determine the reasonableness of the use of force on a case-by-case basis, which the chief agreed with.

Still, in addition to holding firm that Chauvin did not use reasonable force in this case, Arradondo also emphasized that Chauvin violated department procedures on a number of policies. . For example, he noted that the former officer went against policies for non-violent de-escalation and rendering first aid, which the officers involved failed to give after detecting that Floyd did not have a pulse. 

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NBC News) (The Minneapolis Star Tribune)

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Students Watched Footage of George Floyd’s Death for Assignment on Derek Chauvin’s Trial

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  • As part of a class assignment, freshman students at a Texas high school were required to act as jurors in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is currently facing murder charges over his role in the death of George Floyd.
  • Parents complained about the assignment, which involved their children watching graphic footage of Floyd’s encounter with police, watching 45 minutes of Chauvin’s trial each day, and not being allowed to discuss the case with anyone for at least six weeks.
  • In a letter to the school, parents said, “This murder seen by millions around the globe was triggering and traumatizing for adults. Yet, you left students to handle their own emotions and mental health as they left your class, without proper and professional support.”
  • The school’s principal agreed that the assignment was not age-appropriate, and the district said the unapproved lesson has been removed.

Class Assignment Sparks Outrage

A Texas high school is facing criticism from parents over a class assignment regarding the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd— a death that sparked worldwide protests and discussion about racism and police brutality.

A teacher at Cedar High School in Dallas reportedly assigned their freshman students to watch the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is facing second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter charges after kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe.

Watching that trial meant the children also had to see graphic images and footage of the incident.

According to parents, the teacher never asked for their consent to carry out such an assignment. Parents, however, eventually learned about what was going on and wrote to the school, arguing that the trial could impact the mental health of their 14 and 15-year-old children.

“It is unfathomable to me that you felt it appropriate to force my child to watch George Floyd’s murder on television in your classroom and then move on with his day as if nothing had happened,” the letter to the school read, according to a local ABC station.

“This murder seen by millions around the globe was triggering and traumatizing for adults. Yet, you left students to handle their own emotions and mental health as they left your class, without proper and professional support.”

School Responds

The teacher, who has not been named, responded to the parental complaints with an outline of the project. That breakdown laid out plans for students to watch the trial for about 45 minutes each day because they would be “acting as actual jurors in the trial.”

“Therefore, every day, your child will be attentive to the actual trial, listening and paying attention to the evidence of both sides, defense and prosecution, during the trial,” the teacher explained.

The teacher’s memo even said the students were not allowed to speak with anyone about the case for at least six weeks, adding, “They may not text discuss what they hear with friends, siblings, or relatives – not even the family dog.”

In response to the growing outrage, Cedar Hill Independent School District officials issued a statement saying they were aware of the assignment.

“The assignment was not approved by campus or district administrators,” the school district told ABC News. “The matter has been addressed with the teacher, and the assignment was removed.”

In a separate response to parents, Cedar High School Principal Jason Miller wrote, “I don’t feel that viewing and discussing this case in school is age-appropriate for scholars.”

See what others are saying: (ABC News) (Insider) (WFAA)

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