Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/tbrnew5/public_html/wp-includes/post-template.php on line 284

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/tbrnew5/public_html/wp-includes/post-template.php on line 284

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/tbrnew5/public_html/wp-includes/post-template.php on line 284

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/tbrnew5/public_html/wp-includes/post-template.php on line 284

TBR News June 20, 2018

Jun 20 2018

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C. June 20, 2018:” Because of the growing, and serious, public discontent that had been manifested during the course of the Vietnamese War from 1950 through 1973, the American governmental establishment resolved to take steps to recognize, infiltrate and neutralize any significant future national anti-government actions.

Once the most powerful nation, the United States is rapidly losing its premier position in the international sphere while at the same time facing a potential serious anti-government political movement developing in that country. The number of unemployed in the United States today is approximately 97,000,000. Official American sources claim that employment is always improving but in fact it is not. Most official governmental releases reflect wishful thinking or are designed to placate the public

This situation is caused by the movement, by management, of manufacturing businesses to foreign labor markets. While these removals can indeed save the companies a great deal of expenditure on domestic labor, by sharply reducing their former worker bodies to a small number, the companies have reduced the number of prospective purchasers of expensive items like automobiles.

The U.S. government’s total revenue is estimated to be $3.654 trillion for fiscal year 2018.

  • Personal income taxes contribute $1.836 trillion, half of the total.
  • Another third ($1.224 trillion) comes from payroll taxes.

This includes $892 billion for Social Security, $270 billion for Medicare and $50 billion for unemployment insurance.

  • Corporate taxes add $355 billion, only 10 percent.
  • Customs excise taxes and tariffs on imports contribute $146 billion, just 4 percent
  • The Federal Reserve’s net income adds $70 billion.
  • The remaining $23 billion of federal income comes from estate taxes and miscellaneous receipts.
  • The use of secret offshore accounts by US citizens to evade U.S. federal taxes costs the U.S. Department of the Treasury well over $100 billion annually.

By moving from a producing to an importing entity, the United States has developed, and is developing, serious sociological and economic problems in a significant number of its citizens, and many suffer from serious health problems that are not treated.

It is estimated that over 500,000 American citizens are without any form of housing. Many of these people either are living on the streets, in public parks, living in cars or in charity shelters. There are at present over 200,000 family groups in America with over 300,000 individuals involved and 25% of the total are minor children.

Over 80,000 individuals are permanently without any residence. Many of these have physical disabilities such as chronic alcoholism or drug addiction. Many are classified as having severe mental disorders.

About 50,000 of these homeless individuals are military veterans, many of whom have serious physical or mental problems. One of the most common mental disorders is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Governmental treatment for these individuals is virtually non-existent.  Approximately half of this number are either black or Latin American (“Hispanics” in official designation.)

Of the total number of the homeless individuals, approximately 10% are female.

Official but private, estimates are that there over 500,000 youths below the age of 24 in current American society that find themselves homeless for periods lasting from one week to a permanent status.

Over 100,000 of this class are young people who are defined as being homosexual. Those in this class find themselves persecuted to a considerable degree by society in general and their peer groups in specific.

Approximately 50% of this homeless population are over the age of 50, many of whom suffer from chronic, debilitating physical illnesses that are not treated.

Drug deaths in the U.S. in 2017 exceeded 60,000.  Nearly half of all opioid overdose deaths involved prescriptions. Opioids are a class of strong painkillers drugs and include Percocet, Vicodin and OxyContin which are synthetic drugs designed to resemble opiates such as opium derived morphine and heroin. The most dangerous opioid is Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid painkiller 50-100 times more powerful than morphine. The increasing demand for these drugs is causing them to be manufactured outside the United States.

Suicide is the primary cause of “injury death” in the United States and more U.S. military personnel on active duty have killed themselves than were killed in combat last year.

The growing instability of American families is manifested by the fact that:

  • One out of every three children in America lives in a home without a father.
  • More than half of all babies are being born out of wedlock for women under the age of 30 living in the United States
  • The United States has the highest child abuse death rate in the developed world.
  • The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the world although the numbers have declined in recent years due to the use of contraceptives.

The United States has the highest incarceration rate and the largest total prison population in the entire world. The criminal justice system in the United States holds more than 4,166,000 people in 1,719 state prisons, 102,000 in federal prisons, 901,000 in juvenile correctional facilities, and 3,163,000 in local jails. Additionally, 5,203,400 adults are on probation or on parole.

The number of people on probation or parole has increased the population of the American corrections system to more than 9,369,400 in 2017. Corrections costs the American taxpayer $69 billion a year.

There are a huge number of American domestic and business mortgages, (67 million by conservative estimate) which have been sliced up, put into so-called “investment packages” and sold to customers both domestic and foreign. This problem has been covered up by American authorities by cloaking the facts in something called MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration System)

This results in the fact that the holders of mortgages, so chopped and packed, are not possible to identify by MERS or anyone else, at any time and by any agency. This means that any property holder, be they a domestic home owner or a business owner, is paying their monthly fees for property they can never own.

Another festering problem consists of the official loans made to students in colleges and universities in the U.S. the predatory nature of the $90 billion student loan industry. These so-called student loans are the most serious economic problem faced today by American university students.

This problem arose due to federal legislation originating in the mid-1990s which effectively removed basic consumer protections from student loans, thus permitting extensive penalties and the methodology for enforced collection.

Because of the highly inflated cost of higher American education, very few students from high school can afford university education. The new college graduate has, on average, a student loan in excess of $20,000 and students attending graduate programs have average debts of over $40,000.

America today has seriously failing public school systems. Upper economic class Americans are able to send their children to expensive private schools and avoid the exceedingly incompetent public systems. The average American lower school graduates are only a step above illiteracy and their lack of knowledge of world affairs is quite unbelievable.

A small number of extremely wealthy men control and operate all of the major American print and television media.

Each of the few very powerful, rich men have their own reasons for deciding what qualifies as news.

But the public in America now gets its news, without cost, from various internet sites and the circulation number of major print news has dropped dramatically. This has forced the internet editions of the print news media to erect what they call “paywalls.” This permits a very limited number of articles to be read or downloaded before the system demands money for the use of additional material.

The major print media in America is faced with imminent bankruptcy and are making frantic efforts at attempts to prevent free news sites from being aired on the internet.

Government surveillance of the American public is very widespread and at the present time, almost every aspect of an American citizen, or resident, is available for official surveillance. This includes mail, television viewing, telephone conversations, computer communications, travel, ownership of property, medical and school records, banking and credit card transactions, inheritances and other aspects of a citizen’s daily life.

This is done to circumvent any possible organization that could contravene official government policy and has its roots in massive civil resistance to governmental policy during the war in Vietnam. The government does not want a reprise of that problem and its growing surveillance is designed to carefully watch any citizen, or groups of citizens, who might, present or future, pose a threat to government policy.

Another factor to be considered is the current American attitudes towards racial issues. There has always been prejudice in the United States against blacks. In 1943 there were bloody riots in Detroit and Los Angeles, the former aimed at blacks and the latter against Mexicans. Since then, there has been chronic racial prejudice but it has been relatively small and very local. Also, there is growing anti-Semitic prejudice in American but this is officially ignored and never is mentioned in the American media. Much of this growing problem is directed at the brutal actions of Israel against Palestinians. Israelis have an undue influence in the American political scene. The very far right so-called neo-cons are almost all Jewish and most are Israeli citizens. Also, the middle-level ranks of American CIA personnel are heavily infiltrated by Israelis and it is said that any secret the CIA has is at once passed to Israel and that countries needs are assuming importance in CIA actions.

The attitudes of the working class Americans were inflamed during the last presidential elections by Mr. Trump who catered to them and encouraged rebellious attitudes. By speaking against Central American illegal immigrants, Mr. Trump has caused a polarization of attitudes and the militant right wing in America, currently small in number but well-organized and potentially very dangerous, has begun to make its views very well known in public demonstrations.

 

The Table of Contents

  • EU to launch counter-tariffs against US on Friday
  • Girding for Confrontation: The Pentagon’s Provocative Encirclement of China
  • Exclusive: Pope criticizes Trump administration policy on migrant family separation
  • Child separations: Trump faces extreme backlash from public and his own party
  • The U.S. Has Taken More Than 3,700 Children From Their Parents — and Has No Plan for Returning Them
  • Trump backs plan to end family separations but shirks responsibility
  • Homeland Security chief chased out of Mexican restaurant amid immigration uproar

 

EU to launch counter-tariffs against US on Friday

June 20, 2018

BBC News

The European Union will launch a raft of retaliatory tariffs against US exports on Friday, a top official has said.

The move comes after US President Donald Trump imposed steep duties on steel and aluminium earlier this month.

American exports such as blue jeans, motorbikes and bourbon whiskey will be targeted, trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom confirmed.

However, she said the bloc “did not want to be in this position”.

“The unilateral and unjustified decision of the US to impose steel and aluminium tariffs on the EU means that we are left with no other choice,” she said.

Brussels drew up the list of products in March when Mr Trump initially proposed the 25% tariffs on steel imports and 10% on aluminium, which also target Canada, Mexico and other close US allies.

Cranberries, orange juice, sweetcorn and peanut butter are among the other goods targeted.

It comes amid an intensifying row over trade between the US and its partners.

On Tuesday, Mr Trump threatened to impose duties on an additional $200bn (£151bn) of Chinese goods after hitting $50bn of products with tariffs.

He said the 10% duties would come into effect if China “refuses to change its practices”.

However, China accused the US of “blackmail” and said it would “fight back firmly”, raising fears of a full-blown trade war.

How did this start?

Mr Trump announced plans for tariffs on foreign steel and aluminium in March, justifying them on national security grounds.

He has argued that global oversupply of steel and aluminium, driven by China, threatens American steel and aluminium producers, which are vital to the US.

Since the announcement, South Korea, Argentina, Australia and Brazil have agreed to put limits on the volume of metals they can ship to the US in lieu of tariffs.

However, Canada has announced it will impose retaliatory tariffs on C$16.6bn (£9.5bn) worth of US exports from 1 July.

And Mexico put tariffs on American products ranging from steel to pork and bourbon two weeks ago.

What does the EU say?

Ms Malstrom called the EU response proportionate and in line with World Trade Organization rules.

She said that counter-measures – which affect €2.8bn worth of US goods – would be removed if Washington removed its metal tariffs.

EU steel and aluminium exports now facing US tariffs are worth a total of €6.4bn (£5.6bn).

What could the impact be?

Many of the products the EU has in its sights are specifically chosen to have maximum political effect. Bourbon whiskey is produced in Kentucky, the state of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.

Orange juice is a key export for Florida, a swing state in the US elections.

Meanwhile, economists have warned the US metal tariffs could lead to higher metal costs, disrupt supply chains and even get passed on to US households.

Imposing the metals duties on 31 May, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross dismissed the concerns about higher costs, arguing that the effects would be minimal.

And in March, Mr Trump signalled he could impose yet more retaliation if the EU raised trade barriers on US companies.

Last week, the International Monetary Fund warned that the Trump administration’s protectionist policies are likely to hurt the US economy and undermine the world’s trade system.

IMF director Christine Lagarde said a trade war would lead to “losers on both sides” and have a “serious” impact.

 

Girding for Confrontation: The Pentagon’s Provocative Encirclement of China

by Michael T. Klare

TomDispatch

On May 30th, Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced a momentous shift in American global strategic policy. From now on, he decreed, the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), which oversees all U.S. military forces in Asia, will be called the Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM). The name change, Mattis explained, reflects “the increasing connectivity between the Indian and Pacific Oceans,” as well as Washington’s determination to remain the dominant power in both.

What? You didn’t hear about this anywhere?  And even now, you’re not exactly blown away, right? Well, such a name change may not sound like much, but someday you may look back and realize that it couldn’t have been more consequential or ominous.  Think of it as a signal that the U.S. military is already setting the stage for an eventual confrontation with China.

If, until now, you hadn’t read about Mattis’s decision anywhere, I’m not surprised since the media gave it virtually no attention — less certainly than would have been accorded the least significant tweet Donald Trump ever dispatched.  What coverage it did receive treated the name change as no more than a passing “symbolic” gesture, a Pentagon ploy to encourage India to join Japan, Australia, and other U.S. allies in America’s Pacific alliance system. “In Symbolic Nod to India, U.S. Pacific Command Changes Name” was the headline of a Reuters story on the subject and, to the extent that any attention was paid, it was typical.

That the media’s military analysts failed to notice anything more than symbolism in the deep-sixing of PACOM shouldn’t be surprising, given all the attention being paid to other major international developments — the pyrotechnics of the Korean summit in Singapore, the insults traded at and after the G7 meeting in Canada, or the ominous gathering storm over Iran.  Add to this the poor grasp so many journalists have of the nature of the U.S. military’s strategic thinking.  Still, Mattis himself has not been shy about the geopolitical significance of linking the Indian and Pacific Oceans in such planning.  In fact, it represents a fundamental shift in U.S. military thinking with potentially far-reaching consequences.

Consider the backdrop to the name change: in recent months, the U.S. has stepped up its naval patrols in waters adjacent to Chinese-occupied islands in the South China Sea (as has China), raising the prospect of future clashes between the warships of the two countries. Such moves have been accompanied by ever more threatening language from the Department of Defense (DoD), indicating an intent to do nothing less than engage China militarily if that country’s build-up in the region continues.  “When it comes down to introducing what they have done in the South China Sea, there are consequences,” Mattis declared at the Shangri La Strategic Dialogue in Singapore on June 2nd.

As a preliminary indication of what he meant by this, Mattis promptly disinvited the Chinese from the world’s largest multinational naval exercise, the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), conducted annually under American auspices.  “But that’s a relatively small consequence,” he added ominously, “and I believe there are much larger consequences in the future.”  With that in mind, he soon announced that the Pentagon is planning to conduct “a steady drumbeat” of naval operations in waters abutting those Chinese-occupied islands, which should raise the heat between the two countries and could create the conditions for a miscalculation, a mistake, or even an accident at sea that might lead to far worse.

In addition to its plans to heighten naval tensions in seas adjacent to China, the Pentagon has been laboring to strengthen its military ties with U.S.-friendly states on China’s perimeter, all clearly part of a long-term drive to — in Cold War fashion — “contain” Chinese power in Asia.  On June 8th, for example, the DoD launched Malabar 2018, a joint Pacific Ocean naval exercise involving forces from India, Japan, and the United States.  Incorporating once neutral India into America’s anti-Chinese “Pacific” alliance system in this and other ways has, in fact, become a major twenty-first-century goal of the Pentagon, posing a significant new threat to China.

For decades, the principal objective of U.S. strategy in Asia had been to bolster key Pacific allies Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines, while containing Chinese power in adjacent waters, including the East and South China Seas.  However, in recent times, China has sought to spread its influence into Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean region, in part by extolling its staggeringly ambitious “One Belt, One Road” trade and infrastructure initiative for the Eurasian continent and Africa.  That vast project is clearly meant both as a unique vehicle for cooperation and a way to tie much of Eurasia into a future China-centered economic and energy system.  Threatened by visions of such a future, American strategists have moved ever more decisively to constrain Chinese outreach in those very areas.  That, then, is the context for the sudden concerted drive by U.S. military strategists to link the Indian and Pacific Oceans and so encircle China with pro-American, anti-Chinese alliance systems. The name change on May 30th is a formal acknowledgement of an encirclement strategy that couldn’t, in the long run, be more dangerous.

Girding for War with China

To grasp the ramifications of such moves, some background on the former PACOM might be useful.  Originally known as the Far East Command, PACOM was established in 1947 and has been headquartered at U.S. bases near Honolulu, Hawaii, ever since.  As now constituted, its “area of responsibility” encompasses a mind-boggling expanse: all of East, South, and Southeast Asia, as well as Australia, New Zealand, and the waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans — in other words, an area covering about 50% of the Earth’s surface and incorporating more than half of the global population.  Though the Pentagon divides the whole planet like a giant pie into a set of “unified commands,” none of them is larger than the newly expansive, newly named Indo-Pacific Command, with its 375,000 military and civilian personnel.

Before the Indian Ocean was explicitly incorporated into its fold, PACOM mainly focused on maintaining control of the western Pacific, especially in waters around a number of friendly island and peninsula states like Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines.  Its force structure has largely been composed of air and naval squadrons, along with a large Marine Corps presence on the Japanese island of Okinawa.  Its most powerful combat unit is the U.S. Pacific Fleet — like the area it now covers, the largest in the world.  It’s made up of the 3rd and 7th Fleets, which together have approximately 200 ships and submarines, nearly 1,200 aircraft, and more than 130,000 sailors, pilots, Marines, and civilians.

On a day-to-day basis, until recently, the biggest worry confronting the command was the possibility of a conflict with nuclear-armed North Korea.  During the late fall of 2017 and the winter of 2018, PACOM engaged in a continuing series of exercises designed to test its forces’ ability to overcome North Korean defenses and destroy its major military assets, including nuclear and missile facilities. These were undoubtedly intended, above all, as a warning to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un about what he could expect if he continued down the path of endless provocative missile and nuclear tests.  It seems that, at least for the time being, President Trump has suspended such drills as a result of his summit meeting with Kim.

North Korea aside, the principal preoccupation of PACOM commanders has long been the rising power of China and how to contain it.  This was evident at the May 30th ceremony in Hawaii at which Mattis announced that expansive name change and presided over a change-of-command ceremony, in which outgoing commander, Admiral Harry Harris Jr., was replaced by Admiral Phil Davidson.  (Given the naval-centric nature of its mission, the command is almost invariably headed by an admiral.)

While avoiding any direct mention of China in his opening remarks, Mattis left not a smidgeon of uncertainty that the command’s new name was a challenge and a call for the future mobilization of regional opposition across a vast stretch of the planet to China’s dreams and desires.  Other nations welcome U.S. support, he insisted, as they prefer an environment of “free, fair, and reciprocal trade not bound by any nation’s predatory economics or threat of coercion, for the Indo-Pacific has many belts and many roads.”  No one could mistake the meaning of that.

Departing Admiral Harris was blunter still.  Although “North Korea remains our most immediate threat,” he declared, “China remains our biggest long-term challenge.”  He then offered a warning: without the stepped-up efforts of the U.S. and its allies to constrain Beijing, “China will realize its dream of hegemony in Asia.”  Yes, he admitted, it was still possible to cooperate with the Chinese on limited issues, but we should “stand ready to confront them when we must.”  (On May 18th, Admiral Harris was nominated by President Trump as the future U.S. ambassador to South Korea, which will place a former military man at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul.)

Harris’s successor, Admiral Davidson, seems, if anything, even more determined to put confronting China atop the command’s agenda.  During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 17th, he repeatedly highlighted the threat posed by Chinese military activities in the South China Sea and promised to resist them vigorously. “Once [the South China Sea islands are] occupied, China will be able to extend its influence thousands of miles to the south and project power deep into Oceania,” he warned.  “The PLA [People’s Liberation Army] will be able to use these bases to challenge U.S. presence in the region, and any forces deployed to the islands would easily overwhelm the military forces of any other South China Sea claimants. In short, China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States.”

Is that, then, what Admiral Davidson sees in our future?  War with China in those waters?  His testimony made it crystal clear that his primary objective as head of the Indo-Pacific Command will be nothing less than training and equipping the forces under him for just such a future war, while enlisting the militaries of as many allies as possible in the Pentagon’s campaign to encircle that country.  “To prevent a situation where China is more likely to win a conflict,” he affirmed in his version of Pentagonese, “we must resource high-end capabilities in a timely fashion, preserve our network of allies and partners, and continue to recruit and train the best soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and coastguardsmen in the world.”

Davidson’s first priority is to procure advanced weaponry and integrate it into the command’s force structure, ensuring that American combatants will always enjoy a technological advantage over their Chinese counterparts in any future confrontation.  Almost as important, he, like his predecessors, seeks to bolster America’s military ties with other members of the contain-China club.  This is where India comes in.  Like the United States, its leadership is deeply concerned with China’s expanding presence in the Indian Ocean region, including the opening of a future port/naval base in Gwadar, Pakistan, and another potential one on the island of Sri Lanka, both in the Indian Ocean.  Not surprisingly, given the periodic clashes between Chinese and Indian forces along their joint Himalayan borderlands and the permanent deployment of Chinese warships in the Indian Ocean, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi has shown himself to be increasingly disposed to join Washington in military arrangements aimed at limiting China’s geopolitical reach.  “An enduring strategic partnership with India comports with U.S. goals and objectives in the Indo-Pacific,” Admiral Davidson said in his recent congressional testimony.  Once installed as commander, he continued, “I will maintain the positive momentum and trajectory of our burgeoning strategic partnership.”  His particular goal: to “increase maritime security cooperation.”

And so we arrive at the Indo-Pacific Command and a future shadowed by the potential for great power war.

The View from Beijing

The way the name change at PACOM was covered in the U.S., you would think it reflected, at most, a benign wish for greater economic connections between the Indian and Pacific Ocean regions, as well, perhaps, as a nod to America’s growing relationship with India.  Nowhere was there any hint that what might lie behind it was a hostile and potentially threatening new approach to China — or that it could conceivably be perceived that way in Beijing.  But there can be no doubt that the Chinese view such moves, including recent provocative naval operations in the disputed Paracel Islands of the South China Sea, as significant perils.

When, in late May, the Pentagon dispatched two warships — the USS Higgins, a destroyer, and the USS Antietam, a cruiser — into the waters near one of those newly fortified islands, the Chinese responded by sending in some of their own warships while issuing a statement condemning the provocative American naval patrols.  The U.S. action, said a Chinese military spokesperson, “seriously violated China’s sovereignty [and] undermined strategic mutual trust.” Described by the Pentagon as “freedom of navigation operations” (FRONOPs), such patrols are set to be increased at the behest of Mattis.

Of course, the Chinese are hardly blameless in the escalating tensions in the region. They have continued to militarize South China Sea islands whose ownership is in dispute, despite a promise that Chinese President Xi Jinping made to President Obama in 2015 not to do so.  Some of those islands in the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos are also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, and other countries in the area and have been the subject of intensifying, often bitter disagreements among them about where rightful ownership really lies.  Beijing has simply claimed sovereignty over all of them and refuses to compromise on the issue.  By fortifying them — which American military commanders see as a latent military threat to U.S. forces in the region — Beijing has provoked a particularly fierce U.S. reaction, though these are obviously waters relatively close to China, but many thousands of miles from the continental United States.

From Beijing, the strategic outlook articulated by Secretary Mattis, as well as Admirals Harris and Davidson, is clearly viewed — and not without reason — as threatening and as evidence of Washington’s master plan to surround China, confine it, and prevent it from ever achieving the regional dominance its leaders believe is its due as the rising great power on the planet.  To the Chinese leadership, changing PACOM’s name to the Indo-Pacific Command will just be another signal of Washington’s determination to extend its unprecedented military presence westward from the Pacific around Southeast Asia into the Indian Ocean and so further restrain the attainment of what it sees as China’s legitimate destiny.

However Chinese leaders end up responding to such strategic moves, one thing is certain: they will not view them with indifference.  On the contrary, as challenged great powers have always done, they will undoubtedly seek ways to counter America’s containment strategy by whatever means are at hand.  These may not initially be overtly military or even obvious, but in the long run they will certainly be vigorous and persistent.  They will include efforts to compete with Washington in pursuit of Asian allies — as seen in Beijing’s fervent courtship of President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines — and to secure new basing arrangements abroad, possibly under the pretext, as in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, of establishing commercial shipping terminals.  All of this will only add new tensions to an already anxiety-inducing relationship with the United States.  As ever more warships from both countries patrol the region, the likelihood that accidents will occur, mistakes will be made, and future military clashes will result can only increase.

With the possibility of war with North Korea fading in the wake of the recent Singapore summit, one thing is guaranteed: the new U.S. Indo-Pacific Command will only devote itself ever more fervently to what is already its one overriding priority: preparing for a conflict with China.  Its commanders insist that they do not seek such a war, and believe that their preparations — by demonstrating America’s strength and resolve — will deter the Chinese from ever challenging American supremacy.  That, however, is a fantasy.  In reality, a strategy that calls for a “steady drumbeat” of naval operations aimed at intimidating China in waters near that country will create ever more possibilities, however unintended, of sparking the very conflagration that it is, at least theoretically, designed to prevent.

Right now, a Sino-American war sounds like the plotline of some half-baked dystopian novel.  Unfortunately, given the direction in which both countries (and their militaries) are heading, it could, in the relatively near future, become a grim reality.

Exclusive: Pope criticizes Trump administration policy on migrant family separation

June 20, 2018

by Philip Pullella

Reuters

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis has criticized the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the Mexican border, saying populism is not the answer to the world’s immigration problems.

Speaking to Reuters, the Pope said he supported recent statements by U.S. Catholic bishops who called the separation of children from their parents “contrary to our Catholic values” and “immoral”.

“It’s not easy, but populism is not the solution,” Francis said on Sunday night.

In a rare, wide-ranging interview, the pope said he was optimistic about talks that may lead to a historic agreement over the appointment of bishops in China, and said he may accept more bishops’ resignations over a sexual abuse scandal in Chile.

Reflecting at his Vatican residence on his five years as pope, he defended his leadership of the Roman Catholic Church against criticism by conservatives inside and outside the Church who say his interpretation of its teachings is too liberal.

He also said he wanted to appoint more women to top positions in the Vatican administration.

One of his most pointed messages concerned President Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy, in which U.S. authorities plan to criminally prosecute all immigrants caught crossing the Mexican border illegally, holding adults in jail while their children are sent to government shelters.

The policy has caused an outcry in the United States and has been condemned abroad as videos emerged of youngsters held in concrete-floored enclosures and an audio of wailing children went viral.

U.S. Catholic bishops have joined other religious leaders in the United States in condemning the policy.

“I am on the side of the bishops’ conference,” the pope said, referring to two statements from U.S. bishops this month.

“Let it be clear that in these things, I respect (the position of) the bishops conference.”

Francis’ comments add to the pressure on Trump over immigration policy. The pope heads a church which has 1.3 billion members worldwide and is the largest Christian denomination in the United States.

The president has strongly defended his administration’s actions and cast blame for the family separations on Democrats.

“Democrats are the problem,” Trump said on Twitter on Tuesday. “They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants.”

The U.S. crackdown chimes with a new political mood sweeping western Europe over the large numbers of migrants and asylum-seekers, most of them escaping conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.

The pope said populists were “creating psychosis” on the issue of immigration, even as aging societies like Europe faced “a great demographic winter” and needed more immigrants.

Without immigration, he added, Europe “will become empty.”

CHURCH’S FUTURE “ON THE STREET”

Since assuming the papacy in 2013, Francis has promoted a liberal interpretation of Catholic teachings at a time when politics in many parts of the West have shifted toward economic nationalism.

He has faced internal opposition from conservative clergy who oppose his liberal interpretations, especially his approach to sexuality and showing mercy toward divorced Catholics. But the pope said he prayed for conservatives who sometimes said “nasty things” about him.

Defending his leadership, the 81-year-old Argentine pontiff said the future of the Catholic Church was “on the street”.

He said he wanted to appoint more women to head Vatican departments because they were better at resolving conflicts, though this should not lead to what he called “masculinism in a skirt”.

The pope said his health was good apart from leg pain related to a back condition. He reiterated comments first made shortly after his election that he may someday resign for reasons of health as his predecessor, Pope Benedict, did in 2013, but said: “Right now, I am not even thinking about it.”

He spoke at length about immigration, a controversial issue in Europe as well as the United States. The populist Italian government has refused port access to non-government ships that have been rescuing asylum-seekers trying to cross to Italy from Africa in flimsy boats.

One ship was forced to disembark more than 600 migrants in Spain at the weekend.

Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini, who is also leader of the far-right-wing League party, has criticized the pope in the past, once saying the pontiff should take in migrants in the Vatican if he was so concerned about them.

“I believe that you cannot reject people who arrive. You have to receive them, help them, look after them, accompany them and then see where to put them, but throughout all of Europe,” Francis said.

“Some governments are working on it, and people have to be settled in the best possible way, but creating psychosis is not the cure,” he added. “Populism does not resolve things. What resolves things is acceptance, study, prudence.”

SOME STRUGGLES AND TOUGH DECISIONS

Francis said he was saddened by Trump’s decision last year to implement new restrictions on American travel and trade with Cuba. The move rolled back his predecessor President Barack Obama’s opening to the island nation. That deal, which the Vatican helped broker, “was a good step forward”, the pope said.

He also said Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris agreement to curb climate change caused him “a bit of pain because the future of humanity is at stake”. The pope said he hoped Trump would re-think his position.

Rejecting criticism that he is at risk of selling out Chinese Catholics loyal to the Vatican, Francis said talks to resolve a dispute over the appointment of bishops in China – an obstacle to resuming diplomatic ties – were “at a good point”.

The pope has accepted the resignations of three bishops in Chile over the sexual abuse scandal there and allegations that it was covered up. He said he could accept more resignations but did not say which bishop or bishops he had in mind.

The pope also commented on internal criticism of his papacy by conservatives, led by American Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke.

In 2016, Burke and three other cardinals issued a rare public challenge to Francis over some of his teachings in a major document on the family, accusing him of sowing disorientation and confusion on important moral issues.

Francis said he had heard about the cardinals’ letter criticizing him “from the newspapers … a way of doing things that is, let’s say, not ecclesial, but we all make mistakes”.

He borrowed the analogy of a late Italian cardinal who likened the Church to a flowing river, with room for different views. “We have to be respectful and tolerant, and if someone is in the river, let’s move forward,” he said.

He said reform of the Vatican administration, the Curia, was going well “but we have to work more”. The pope once criticized Curia careerists as having “spiritual Alzheimer’s”.

Francis said he was mostly happy about reforms enacted to make once-scandalous Vatican finances more transparent. The Vatican bank, which closed hundreds of suspicious or dormant accounts, “now works well”, he said.

“There have been some struggles and I have had to make some strong decisions,” he said.

(Reuters will be releasing more on the pope’s interview throughout the day.)

Editing by Mark Bendeich and Timothy Heritage

 

Child separations: Trump faces extreme backlash from public and his own party

  • Reaction to the border policy is disquieting many Republicans facing midterm elections
  • Families divided: ‘The most horrific policy I’ve ever seen’

June 19, 2018

by David Smith in Washington and Tom Phillips in Mexico City

The Guardian

Donald Trump heads to Capitol Hill on Tuesday afternoon facing an extraordinary backlash from his own party – and the American public – over his policy of separating children from their parents at the southern US border.

Two in three voters oppose the separations, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll, as an outcry from Democratic and Republican politicians, former first ladies, churches, commentators and business leaders gathers momentum.

“When does public opinion become a demand that politicians just can’t ignore?” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll. “Two-thirds of American voters oppose the family separation policy at our borders. Neither quotes from the Bible nor get-tough talk can soften the images of crying children nor reverse the pain so many Americans feel.”

Trump’s election campaign was built around a tough stance on immigration, with “build the wall” a frequent chant at his rallies. He is now losing the battle for public opinion, though support among his Republican base is resilient and might encourage him to dig in.

For example, despite the firestorm, Republicans support the zero tolerance policy at the border by 55% to 35%, the Quinnipiac survey found. And while national voters oppose building a wall on the border with Mexico by 58% to 39%, three in four Republicans back it.

One issue does cross the partisan divide. Four in five voters support allowing undocumented migrants brought to the US as children, so-called “Dreamers”, to remain and ultimately apply for citizenship. According to the Quinnipiac poll, which questioned 905 voters nationwide from 14 to 17 June, support ranges from 61% to 28% among Republicans to 94% to 5% among Democrats.

Public reaction to the border policy – nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May – is disquieting many Republicans facing midterm elections in November. An editorial in the Wall Street Journal warned the party’s internal feuding over immigration is fast becoming “an election-year nightmare over separating immigrant children from their parents”.

The conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt was quoted by the Axios website as saying this could be “Trump’s Katrina” – a reference to the 2005 hurricane that devastated both New Orleans and the reputation of George W Bush.

Trump, who could end the crisis with a phone call, was scheduled to meet House Republicans on Tuesday afternoon in what could turn into a heated confrontation in an already sweltering Washington. His homeland security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, has insisted: “Congress alone can fix it.”

The president unleashed more tweets on the subject on Tuesday. He offered no concessions. “Democrats are the problem,” he wrote. “They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13. They can’t win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters!”

He added: “#CHANGETHELAWS Now is the best opportunity ever for Congress to change the ridiculous and obsolete laws on immigration. Get it done, always keeping in mind that we must have strong border security.”

But whereas Republicans have habitually followed Trump’s lead, prompting comparisons to a cult, the emotive images and sounds of children in fenced cages have prompted a growing number to speak out.

Fred Upton, a congressman from Michigan, urged an immediate end to the “ugly and inhumane practice”, adding: “It’s never acceptable to use kids as bargaining chips in political process.”

Lisa Murkowski, a senator from Alaska, said: “The time is now for the White House to end the cruel, tragic separations of families.” John McCain of Arizona, a frequent Trump critic, tweeted: “The administration’s current family separation policy is an affront to the decency of the American people, and contrary to principles and values upon which our nation was founded. The administration has the power to rescind this policy. It should do so now.”

Despite previously asserting that it would oppose any fix aimed solely at addressing the plight of children separated from their parents, the White House acknowledged on Tuesday that it is reviewing emergency legislation introduced by Ted Cruz, the hardline senator who faces a re-election fight in Texas, to keep families together.

Asked if the White House supports the Cruz measure, Mercedes Schlapp, director of strategic communications, told reporters: “We’re looking into the legislative text on the Cruz bill.”

Other legislation is in the works in both the House and Senate, aiming to provide Trump with a face-saving solution and spare Republicans from a public relations disaster heading into November. The House is already locked in a struggle over immigration legislation that threatens to damage Republicans’ chances. Democrats have been paying personal visits to detention centres in Texas and demanding the resignation of Nielsen.

There has also been condemnation from religious leaders and the business community. On a visit to Dublin, Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple, told the Irish Times: “It’s heartbreaking to see the images and hear the sounds of the kids. Kids are the most vulnerable people in any society. I think that what’s happening is inhumane, it needs to stop.”

Politicians in Mexico, which is less than a fortnight away from a presidential election, lined up to denounce the separations. “The brutality of the policy … will be one of the black pages in the modern history of the United States,” tweeted former president Felipe Calderón. “We must all do everything we can to revert it. It is cruel, inhumane, illegal.”

Presidential candidate Ricardo Anaya said the treatment of young immigrants recalled the “terrifying images” of Nazis separating mothers from their children. His rival, José Antonio Meade, denounced the policy as an unacceptable “horror”.

 

The U.S. Has Taken More Than 3,700 Children From Their Parents — and Has No Plan for Returning Them

June 19, 2018

by Ryan Devereaux

The Intercept

The Trump administration’s program of systematically separating migrant children from their parents is steadily expanding, government officials confirmed Tuesday. Under Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s “zero tolerance” doctrine, U.S. authorities have been ordered to criminally prosecute all individuals arrested for illegally crossing the border without exception, including asylum-seekers and parents arriving with small children.

The result has been historic, and catastrophic, with the U.S. government intentionally creating thousands of so-called unaccompanied minors whose immigration cases have now become separate from their parents, plunging them, on their own, into an already overwhelmed system of federal bureaucracies.

In a phone call with reporters, senior officials at the various agencies responsible for the crackdown said thousands of families have been impacted by the measures so far. They added that there is no uniform, border-wide guidance in place establishing rules for how immigration agents on the ground should handle cases involving sensitive populations, such as babies and small children. Instead, officials said, it is up to Border Patrol chiefs at individual stations to exercise “discretion” in determining how to handle such cases. Officials described the ongoing effort as a program aimed at “deterrence.”

Brian Hastings, acting chief of law enforcement operations for the Border Patrol, told reporters that from May 5, 2018, through June 9, 2018, a total of 2,235 families comprising 4,548 people were apprehended along the southern border. “The total number of children that were made UACs through this prosecution initiative,” he explained, was 2,342, and the total number of adults referred for prosecution during that time period was 2,206.

“All humanitarian considerations and policies remain in place. There’s discretion given to the field chiefs over each of the nine southwest border sectors for the appropriate referrals for sensitive cases, those include adults who are traveling with traveling with tender-age children,” Hastings said. “The chiefs in the field are allowed to make that discretionary call.” When asked if that meant there was no blanket, border-wide guidance on the separation of infants from their parents, Hastings replied, “That’s correct.” He added that “the chiefs in the field” have “generally” considered children under the age of 5 as being “tender aged.” Hastings could not provide statistics on the number of children under 5 who his agency has separated from their parents.

Steve Wagner, acting assistant secretary at Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, which oversees the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is in turn responsible for the children the government is taking into custody, said his agency hopes the program will deter parents from entering the country without authorization. “We expect that the new policy will result in a deterrence effect,” he said. “We certainly hope that parents stop bringing their kids on this dangerous journey and entering the country illegally, so we are prepared to continue to expand capacity as needed. We hope that will not be necessary in the future.”

Wagner had no numbers to provide regarding families who have been reunited, post-prosecution, under the administration’s new program.

Shortly after the call, McClatchy, citing a review of federal data, reported that the “Trump administration has likely lost track of nearly 6,000 unaccompanied migrant children, thousands more than lawmakers were alerted to last month.” Last week, the government said it separated 1,995 children from their parents from April through May. Today, the Border Patrol cited a somewhat larger number — 2,342 — for May through June. Earlier this month, The Intercept reported a minimum of 1,358 children were separated from their parents from October 2017 through mid-May. While precise numbers remain fuzzy, due to overlapping timelines reported by different media outlets, it is safe to say the number of migrant kids separated from their parents by the Trump administration is well over 3,700 and climbing.

Testifying before lawmakers last month, the deputy chief of Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol, said he anticipates that the government will continue separating families at a rate of roughly 650 cases every two weeks into the foreseeable future. The Border Patrol chief in the nation’s busiest sector, meanwhile, is pushing his agents to ramp up arrests and prosecutions even more, telling the Washington Post over the weekend that his office has not yet reached 100 percent enforcement — as the administration has called for — but that they are working to get there.

Such an increase would require overcoming the mounting political and public pushback the administration’s efforts are currently receiving. But even if zero tolerance ended tomorrow, thousands of families have already been separated, so the question remains: Is there a functional mechanism in place to insure those parents get their kids back?

For attorneys and advocates on the ground, the answer at the moment is no. In a series of interviews over the last week, federal public defenders and legal advocates working within the immigrant detention system and at the ports in Arizona, as well as providers of care to migrant kids nationally and U.S. immigration officials, were unanimous in their criticism of the system — or lack thereof — currently in place to reunite migrant children with their parents.

Dona Abbott is the branch director of refugee services for Bethany Christian Services, a leading organization involved in placing children in ORR custody in foster care. With more than 40 years of experience dealing with children fleeing violence and persecution, she told The Intercept that there is simply no system in place for the reunification of families to criticize or praise. Instead, she said, there is a never-ending list of questions that people who deal with the fallout of family separations have been forced to answer on their own: How do you reunify children with parents who are being deported? Can we reunify them before they’re deported? What does the parent want? What does the parent say is in the child’s best interest?

“Just finding the parent sometimes is a challenge,” Abbott explained.

No System in Place

Sometimes arresting agencies are handing kids over to ORR with identifying information, Abbott said, and sometimes they aren’t. Again, she said, there’s no system in place. “There’s a lot of families and a lot of kids affected by this — a lot,” she said. At the same time, none of the child welfare organizations that deal with unaccompanied minors, which the administration is creating more and more of each week, were consulted or warned before “zero tolerance” became the official enforcement posture of the federal government in early April. “We didn’t have a chance to ask questions and talk about how will the system work,” Abbott said. “Typically, you like to do that.”

Currently, the government’s solution for parents whose children it has taken is a 1-800 number. This also presents a problem, Abbott said, because often parents in detention have little to no access to phones. “What we’re finding is that we’re having to call detention centers,” she explained. As an example, Abbott pointed to the case of an 8-year-old girl who Bethany Christian is currently providing care for. “She’s been separated from her mom about a week, and we just keep calling all of the detention centers,” she explained. “Do you have someone by this name?” they ask. “The 1-800 number hasn’t been called, probably because mom hasn’t been allowed to make the call and we’re just not sure where mom is,” Abbot said.

For little kids, certainty about a parent’s whereabouts is of critical importance, Abbott said. “When you’re 8, a week is a long time,” she said. “You just don’t know, is my mom safe?” The issue of state-enforced separations, involving armed men in uniforms with guns, she added, can be particularly jarring for children from areas in Central America and Mexico where the line between organized crime and government security forces is nonexistent, and the entire purpose of the journey north was to escape precisely those kinds of scenarios. Abbott described the case of 10-year-old boy who tells the story of seeing his father handcuffed before they were separated. “That is scary for someone coming from a country where we know, it’s been reported over and over again, police are corrupted,” Abbott explained.

This particular boy’s ordeal also involved another troubling development emerging in recent cases, Abbott added: agents in the field, specifically Border Patrol agents, making on-the-ground calls about who gets to try to claim asylum and who does not. “Border Patrol seems to have a lot of independence and autonomy in their decisions,” Abbott said. “In the case of this little 10-year-old, there just didn’t seem to be anything other than they didn’t think dad had an asylum case and they immediately deported him, but they didn’t deport his son, and they didn’t make sure they went together. So now we have to try to reunite them. And the son is indigenous, which adds another layer of issues.”

Rather than install a system that reunites children with their parents, the administration has imposed at least one new measure that could decrease that likelihood. Earlier this month, McClatchy reported that ORR had entered into a new agreement with the Department of Homeland Security, in which the agency would share fingerprints and run immigration checks on potential sponsors who come forward to take custody of kids. “It’s not just the parent,” Abbott explained. “The new rule is everyone in the household, every adult in the household, must be fingerprinted, and those fingerprints, all those fingerprints, must be handed over to the Department of Homeland Security for criminal investigation. That means, probably, detention and deportation.” Already, as McClatchy reported, “the percentage of unaccompanied youths claimed by parents has dropped from 60 percent four years ago to 41 percent in 2017 after increasing crackdowns.” Abbott expects more of that to come.

“I can’t imagine it won’t exacerbate a difficulty with sponsors not feeling safe coming forward to claim their family member, their child,” she said.

False Claims About Separations

In a call with reporters last week, public affairs officials with the various Trump administration agencies responsible for separating migrant kids from their parents defended their actions on the grounds that they have no other choice, falsely claiming that the law requires such separations. Demanding that they not be quoted in their effort to “correct the record,” the flaks blamed the media for irresponsible reporting. In particular, they claimed that the federal government is not separating babies from their parents and denying that government agents have used false pretenses to take kids from their parents, never to be returned again. Abbott said both claims were false.

For one, she said, the government has definitely separated babies from their parents. “The average age now of a child we have in care is 7, but we have children from 8 months all the way to 17,” she said. Second, she said, Bethany Christian provided care for a 6-year-old girl, who, along with her mother, described the pretense of a bath being used to carry out a separation. “Her mother was told, ‘We’re going to give her a bath,’ and they took her and never brought her back. Put her in foster care. I’m sure some immigration officer thought that saved the trauma of the separation, crying and screaming, but I can’t imagine what that mom thought,” Abbott said. “Maybe what the government is trying to say is, ‘We’re not systematically condoning that,’” Abbott said, but the fact remains: “We’ve heard it directly from a parent and a child.”

The chaotic implementation of “zero tolerance” is leading to all sorts of experiences like this, Abbott argued, and the public is only hearing a fraction of them. She described another, about a little boy who came to Bethany Christian carrying a belt. “An adult belt just rolled up and clung in his hands,” Abbott explained. “We were like, ‘Oh, what’s this about?’ We finally get the belt away from him and inside, as we unravel it, is dad’s name and phone number.” For Abbott, the presence of the number sent a clear message. “Dad had in one last desperate moment” said to himself: “What can I send with my son that tells somebody where to find me?”

“So he writes it on his belt,” she said. “We’ve just had too many kids have those kind of separation stories to suggest that it is anything but a little chaotic. More than a little bit — it is chaotic.”

Abbott is hardly alone in her concerns. Two sources The Intercept interviewed regarding the government’s family separation program — including an attorney who has represented children in ORR custody and a senior DHS official working on immigration issues — spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the press. They, too, pointed to the absence of an effective system to reunite parents with their kids.

Contrary to claims from the administration, the attorney said the government is indeed separating parents from children even when those families present themselves at lawful ports of entry. “We’re definitely seeing that, even though sometimes the administration says they’re not doing that,” they told The Intercept. Similarly, they added, the government’s claim, relayed in a background call with reporters last week, that it is not separating babies from their parents, is simply not true. “That’s wrong,” they said. “We’re seeing babies.”

No Way Home

The likelihood that those children will find their way back to their parents is entirely uncertain, the attorney added. In cases where a parent expresses a desire to be deported with their child, Immigration and Customs Enforcement promises to coordinate on reunification, they said, but has routinely failed to follow through. “We’ll get a promise of coordination and then it doesn’t happen,” they said, adding that instead attorneys come to learn that a parent has already been deported just as the reunification process is unfolding. “There’s just not any commitment to the coordination of removal or reunification before removal. There doesn’t seem to be any plan.” The DHS official agreed with that assessment. “It’s all up in the air,” they told The Intercept. “There’s no way this ends well. I feel like now that we’ve crossed this precipice, there’s no limit as to how far Trump and his people will go.”

In the absence of clarity, defense attorneys involved in the prosecutions that lead to family separations have turned to federal magistrate judges for relief, and in some cases, the judges are taking action.

In Tucson, upwards of 70 migrants are criminally prosecuted, in group hearings, for illegally crossing the border every day under the government program known as Operation Streamline. With those prosecutions spiking 71 percent over the last year, and family separations becoming routine, federal defense attorneys have begun asking judges presiding over the hearings to take unusual steps in order to increase the chances that parents will be reunited with their children. “One of the things we were asking for the judges to order, and the judges have been receptive to ordering, is that our clients be kept here, even if they receive a sentence of time served, and they’re subject to deportation — that they be kept here in order to be reunited with their kids,” Molly Kincaid, a federal public defender in Tucson told The Intercept. “They’d literally rather be kept in custody and reunited with their children.”

Kincaid explained, “Most of our clients who are affected by this are getting the misdemeanor, they’re only being charged with the misdemeanor because it’s their first entry.” Normally, she said, people charged with the first-time offense take the plea, accept the time served, and are quickly deported. Now that parents and children are in the mix, she said, an increasing number of defendants are expressing that they want to remain in the country. “It’s very bizarre because most of the time that’s what our clients want — they want the misdemeanor and to go back home as soon as possible, but when you have a child here, obviously that’s the most important thing,” Kincaid said.

So far, the magistrate judges in Tucson have appeared receptive to the effort. “In every single case where an attorney is requesting that recommendation, our magistrate judges are making them,” Christina Woehr, also a federal public defender in Tucson, told The Intercept. In an effort to bolster recommendations, Kincaid has additionally sought orders requiring the government to disclose the locations of children in custody. Any increase in transparency would be a welcome change, the two attorneys said.

Earlier this month, Kincaid appeared before Magistrate Judge Bruce G. Macdonald’s during a Streamline hearing. Her client, Cerafino Perez Andres, a Guatemalan father, had crossed the border with his 15-year-old daughter five days earlier. Following his arrest, Perez Andres’s daughter was taken by the government and, standing before Macdonald, Kincaid explained that he had no idea where she was. Federal prosecutor Christopher Lewis told Macdonald that CBP and the U.S. Attorney’s Office have “no knowledge or control as to where they will place those children,” and that the kids are the responsibility of ORR, which does not have a mechanism for reporting back on the whereabouts of the children it receives from DHS agencies.

“I’m hoping, though, that you can ask them to at least provide you with that information,” Macdonald told Lewis, according to audio of the hearing obtained by the Arizona Daily Star.

“I can inquire, but there’s no mechanism on the part of ORR to report that back,” the prosecutor replied.

“Well, I’m asking for you to ask them to report that back,” the judge said.

Cosme Lopez, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, stressed that the judge’s words were not an order. “I think the pivot point here is ORR,” Lopez told The Intercept, downplaying the Department of Justice’s role in family separations. “Our involvement has really not changed that much,” he said. “We have nothing to do with the children or the apprehension,” he added. “Our piece is so minute, it’s not even funny,” he insisted. The DOJ does not literally apprehend then process children, but the department’s role in family separation is not “minute.” Family separation is the consequence of a “zero tolerance” directive initiated by Sessions, who is head of the Justice Department. This change in prosecutorial priorities is at the very core of the national scandal that family separation has evolved into. The DOJ is just as implicated as all of the other enforcement agencies.

Kincaid and Woehr, the federal public defenders, point out that judges placing detention recommendations on their clients’ cases is hardly a solution to the situation at hand. They describe the measures more like a band-aid intended to staunch the enormous due process and emotional damage currently being done to migrant families. “It’s a pretty terrible choice to have to make as a parent,” Woehr said. “Do you want to be held in indefinite detention hoping you are reunited with a child who, you don’t know where they are, or do you want to ask to be deported and let your child’s immigration case wind its way through our system?” Woehr added, “The issue we run into with asking the government to disclose the location of the children is ICE says, ‘Well, they’re not in our custody anymore; they’re in ORR custody, so we have no way of finding their location,’ which shifts the burden of finding the location of the child to our detained or deported clients, which just adds to the terrible situation that they’re facing.”

“It’s Kafkaesque,” she said. “It’s just a nightmare.”

Kincaid agreed. “It’s one of the things that we’re struggling with right now and that we’re trying to address — is basically how to follow up with our clients to see if this reunification is happening, to see if they’re actually staying here, or they’re just getting deported immediately and their kids are staying here, which is obviously the worst-case scenario for most of our clients,” she said. “I can tell you that the whole situation seems to be shrouded in mystery for us.” Both pushed back on arguments, such as those from the Trump administration, that the migrants impacted by family separation bring their kids to U.S. in order to exploit a loophole and thus, gain entry into the country. “I don’t get that at all,” Kincaid said. “I’ve never heard that from any client,” Woeher added. Describing the experiences her clients have recounted, Kincaid said, “It really is more of a situation of real desperation.”

Fighting for Reunification

Beyond the horror of seeing parents separated from their kids, the attorneys said the current situation raises serious due process and proportionality questions. “Parents in this country who are citizens and are going through a process to potentially have their parental rights terminated — they have a lot of rights,” Kincaid pointed out, and yet, in the case of migrants, parents are losing their children through rapid-fire procedures in remote, closed-off government facilities. There’s also the question of how the punishment fits the crime, when the crime is a misdemeanor and the punishment is indefinitely losing your child. “You’re looking at a day in custody as your sentence, but oh, as a collateral consequence of your sentence, you’re going to lose your child for maybe a year — we don’t know,” Woeher said of the current practice.

For now, the public defenders’ focus remains on reunification, though it’s a campaign they wish they did not need to undertake. “We’re fighting for reunification right now but really, I think, the best thing that could happen is to go back to prosecutorial discretion, where you just don’t charge these cases,” Kincaid said. “Let’s not put ourselves in this situation to begin with, where we’re separating families.”

Part of what’s making the impact of “zero tolerance” and family separation so profoundly difficult to respond to, especially in terms of reunification, attorneys say, is that huge numbers of the people involved are little kids, toddlers, and babies — all of whom now have their own immigration cases, and no parents around to help.

With three offices and nearly 70 people on staff, the Florence Project has been the sole provider of free legal representation for people in immigration detention in the state of Arizona for nearly 30 years. Since January, the organization has documented 350 cases of family separation, and attorneys there are feeling the effects of representing very young clients. “Our kids program used to work mainly with 16-, 17-year-old Guatemalan boys, unaccompanied minors,” Lauren Dasse, the project’s executive director, told The Intercept. “Now we’re seeing a lot of young children. A lot of our clients are young and separated from parents.”

Those clients, Dasse said, have included a blind 6-year-old girl who was separated from her mother, and other preverbal, nonverbal, and disabled children and babies. The difficulty of sorting out these newly unaccompanied kids’ individual immigration cases, and reuniting them with their parents, is immense, Dasse said. “This is the most challenging thing I’ve seen,” she explained. “And I’ve heard that from staff cohorts in the field for a long time doing immigration defense and criminal defense, that this is the most challenging that they’ve had to do, is prep an inconsolable 4-year-old for their asylum hearing. You can imagine.”

And it’s not just the young kids, Dasse pointed out. “We have an older client, I think she’s 13, and she feels very guilty about her dad being detained because her dad was fleeing with her to keep them both safe,” she explained. “She’s put in a place where she has to make very adult-like decisions, with us representing her. She shouldn’t be in that place where she has to think of her own asylum case at this moment, because she has her guardian, her parent, as opposed to the unaccompanied minors that we’ve worked with for 20 years.”

Dasse described what’s felt like “a perfect storm of things that have happened over the past few months that have made our work and fighting your case so much more challenging.” She fears the combined impact of Trump administration efforts are aimed at increasing the time people spend in detention, so they will become more likely to abandon their cases, even if those cases involved potentially legitimate asylum claims. “Everything’s pointing to prolonged detention, and then the pressure is on people to give up on their cases,” she said. The DHS immigration official agreed, adding that the message from the administration appears to be “if you aren’t willing to be torn from your kids, spend six months or more in detention, and suffer humiliation and a complete upheaval of your life, then you don’t really need asylum.”

In response to the crackdown, the Florence Project is staffing up and building a rapid response team to handle family separation. Due to the government’s utter lack of transparency, much of that work involves combing through volumes of Streamline hearing transcripts, searching for parents whose children might have been taken. “It’s all very time-consuming,” she said. “Time-consuming and urgent. There’s an urgency right now that we’re all feeling.” The stakes right now couldn’t be greater, she argued.

“We are creating immeasurable trauma — immeasurable trauma, that will have lifelong effects on people,” Dasse said. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Abbott, of Bethany Christian, echoed that sentiment. “I’ve worked with unaccompanied children since 1977,” she said. “Forty years in child welfare, I’ve never seen anything quite like this. It’s so systematic.” Normally, she explained, the kids she works with have become unaccompanied for a reason. They are fleeing a war, for example, or a natural disaster, or some other crisis that causes them to enter the system without their parent. This is something different. In the U.S. context, she said, “people have managed to make it all the way to somewhere where they’re asking asylum and then are being separated.”

“This is purposeful, not part of the chaos of fleeing for your life. This is purposeful separation after you arrive at a border asking for safety,” Abbott said. “Quite honestly, I’ve never experienced where we use children as a deterrent.”

 

Trump backs plan to end family separations but shirks responsibility

As anger over policy grows, it emerges children are being sent to ‘tender age’ shelters

June 20, 2018

by Lauren Gambino in Washington

The Guardian

Donald Trump has told Republicans he is “1,000%” behind their immigration reform effort, but did not offer a clear path forward as his administration faced bipartisan condemnation over separating children and their parents at the border.

Meanwhile, it emerged that Trump administration officials have been sending babies and young children forcibly taken from their parents at the US-Mexico border to at least three “tender age” shelters in south Texas.

Lawyers and medical providers who have visited the Rio Grande valley shelters described playrooms full of crying preschool children.

Kay Bellor, the vice-president for programs at the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said: “The thought that they are going to be putting such little kids in an institutional setting? I mean, it is hard for me to even wrap my mind around it. Toddlers are being detained.”

Steven Wagner, an official with the Department of Health and Human Services, said: “We have specialised facilities that are devoted to providing care to children with special needs, and tender age children, as we define as under 13, would fall into that category.

“They’re not government facilities per se, and they have very well-trained clinicians, and those facilities meet state licensing standards for child welfare agencies, and they’re staffed by people who know how to deal with the needs particularly of the younger children.”

At a closed-door meeting with House Republicans on Capitol Hill, members said Trump expressed concern for the families being separated by the “zero-tolerance” policy, but he did not take responsibility for the practice. Instead, the president urged the Republicans in the room to pass legislation that keeps families together.

After the meeting, the Florida Republican congressman Carlos Curbelo said: “The president does want this to end.”

Curbelo, who has led the charge for immigration reform, said Trump told members that Ivanka Trump had appealed to him to stop separating families. However, the president gave no indication that he was willing to reverse the policy and did not acknowledge that he could stop the separations without legislation, he added. Instead, Trump insisted Congress deliver a legislative solution.

Unbowed by mounting public anger, Trump and leading administration officials have fiercely defended the policy, which has led to the separation of more than 2,300 children from their parents in five weeks.

Before the meeting on Tuesday evening, as the president walked through the Capitol, a protester yelled: “Mr President, fuck you.”

As Trump left the session, he faced a rare demonstration by members of Congress. House Democrats shouted at the president to abandon his immigration policy while waving signs that read: “Families belong together.”

The California congressman Juan Vargas shouted: “Mr President, don’t you have kids? Don’t you have kids, Mr President? How would you like it if they separated your kids?”

Speaking to reporters, Trump said: “We had a great meeting. These are laws that have been broken for many years, decades. But we had a great meeting.”

House Republicans, barrelling towards a vote on a pair of immigration bills, were hoping the president would rally skeptical members of the caucus around a proposal that sought common ground between moderates and conservatives on an issue that has fiercely divided the party.

Instead, Trump said he would sign either proposal that came to his desk, members said

The Kansas Republican congressman Kevin Yoder said: “He said we need to pass one of the two bills.” He added that the president was “agnostic” about which of the two measures they should pass.

The Florida Republican congressman Mario Díaz-Balart said: “Here’s what I’m absolutely – 1,000% – sure of. “Without his [Trump’s] support, without his approvals, there’s no shot of it passing the House, there’s no shot of it going anywhere.”

During his remarks, which were expected to focus on immigration, Trump spoke about his recent visit to North Korea and his trade policy, members said. He also openly mocked the Republican congressman Mark Sanford, a conservative critic of the president who lost a primary this month after Trump endorsed his opponent, they said.

The meeting came at a delicate moment for Republicans, as several lawmakers in both chambers rushed to defuse the spiralling political crisis caused by the immigration crackdown.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, said “all of the members of the Republican conference support a plan that keeps families together” and endorsed a narrow plan that would allow law enforcement to detain parents and children together while their immigration case is adjudicated in court. McConnell said he hoped to pass a bill as early as this week.

Any such legislation would require some support from Democrats, who immediately rebuffed the plan, arguing that Trump could unilaterally end the practice.

The Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, said: “There is no need for legislation. There’s no need for anything else. You [Trump] started it, you can stop it – plain and simple.”

Under the policy, all adults are arrested for crossing the border illegally. As children cannot be kept in an adult prison, they are held separately.

In the House, Republicans have included a provision to end family separations in their compromise immigration proposal, which would also provide $25bn (£19bn) for Trump’s border wall and his other hardline security demands. The bill would offer a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants, known as Dreamers. A rival bill, supported by a conservative bloc of Republicans, would not guarantee them a path to citizenship.

Trump did not discuss whether he would back a standalone measure should support for the immigration proposals flounder. The president has called on Democrats to negotiate an end to the separations, inviting criticism that he is leveraging the crisis at the border to win support for his hardline immigration framework.

The House is expected to vote on the immigration measures this week and their fates are far from certain.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press

 

Homeland Security chief chased out of Mexican restaurant amid immigration uproar

June 20, 2018

RT

A group of activists sabotaged Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen’s outing to a Mexican restaurant, in protest against the administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the US-Mexican border.

The Department of Homeland Security chief sat down for a pleasant fajita at a Mexican restaurant in Washington, DC on Tuesday – but maybe considering her department’s actions it wasn’t the best idea. Nielsen had her immigrant-cuisine feast cut short by a group of activists from the Democratic Socialists of America. According to videos tweeted out by the group, they apparently thought it was untoward of the DHS chief to enjoy a meal at a ritzy Mexican restaurant while the United States government separates children from their parents at the US-Mexican border and then places them in detention centers

One protester shouted: “In a Mexican restaurant of all places. The f***ing gall.”

Videos of the confrontation – and Nielsen’s retreat from restaurant – were posted to Twitter.

DHS press secretary Tyler Houlton described the incident as “a work dinner” where Nielsen and her colleagues “heard from a small group of protesters who share her concern with our current immigration laws that have created a crisis on our southern border.”

“The hubris of this administration is the stuff of legend,” commented journalist Ken Klippenstein in response to the video showing a “concerned” Nielsen fleeing to the safety of her SUV.

Of course, none of this would have happened if Nielsen had simply built a wall around her Mexican restaurant table.

 

 

 

 

 

 

No responses yet

Leave a Reply