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Pentagon asked to house 20,000 migrant children on military bases, per Trump’s orders

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 4:37pm

The Pentagon is looking into the logistics of how and where to house roughly 20,000 migrant children on American military bases, according to reports from The Washington Post and New York Times.

The request comes after President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday afternoon, reversing his policy of separating families at the border. As part of the order, the president made the Department of Justice responsible for the finding and constructing the facilities, since Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities are already at or near capacity.

“The Secretary of Defense shall take all legally available measures to provide to the Secretary, upon request, any existing facilities available for the housing and care of alien families, and shall construct such facilities if necessary and consistent with law,” the order reads. “The Secretary, to the extent permitted by law, shall be responsible for reimbursement for the use of these facilities.”

4 things you need to know about Trump’s new immigration order

Among the likely facilities are three Air Force Bases in Texas and one in Little Rock, Arkansas.

There are concerns, however, over whether these facilities are capable of housing children and families. A solider stationed at Fort Bliss, one of the military bases up for consideration, told The Daily Beast he wasn’t sure whether the base could take care of them “in a humanitarian way.”

According to a memo from the Pentagon, the sites will be operated by employees from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or their contractors. They will provide care to the children, “including supervision, meals, clothing, medical services, transportation or other daily needs,” and HHS representatives will be present at each location.

HHS, unfortunately, has a less than stellar track record when it comes to taking care of migrant children. As ThinkProgress has previously reported, HHS has spent over $800 million on sending immigrant children to a single foster company that has a history of abuse and neglect. At at least one facility contracted by HHS, migrant children were forcibly injected with antipsychotic drugs and physically abused, according to an investigation by Reveal.

The facilities where things go from bad to worse for children separated from their parents

“We’ve heard children in secure detention and staff-secure detention taking medication and not knowing the names of the medication or what they’re for, and also being told that if they don’t take the medication, that will be counted against their behavior,” an immigration lawyer who represents migrant children at two secure detention facilities in Virginia told ThinkProgress. “So that’s pretty consistent with what children have reported to us.”

Reveal’s investigation also found that HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement paid $3.4 billion dollars to private companies that house migrant children from 2014 to 2018. Of that amount, 44 percent of the funds went to companies facing serious allegations of child mistreatment.

The administration has also admitted to having no plans to reunite the over 2,500 children separated at the border due to Trump’s policy, in large part because the president’s executive order does not address the issue. While Trump said Thursday he has directed his administration to “keep illegal immigrant families together and to reunite these previously separated groups,” he has offered no details on how the government will do so.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

House Republicans pass a farm bill that guts food assistance for working families

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 3:05pm

The House of Representatives narrowly passed the farm bill Thursday afternoon 213-211, with 20 Republicans joining all Democrats in voting no.

The House version of the farm bill dramatically cuts funding for food stamps, officially known as Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP).

More than 1 million low-income households, totaling than 2 million people — particularly low-income working families — are in danger of losing their benefits altogether or have them reduced under the bill.

President Donald Trump tweeted after the vote that he was “so happy” to see work requirements included in the bill. Trump has stated previously he would veto any farm bill that neglected to impose tougher work requirements.

Farm Bill just passed in the House. So happy to see work requirements included. Big win for the farmers!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2018

It is unlikely, however, that the work requirements from the House bill will be adopted by the Senate, where top Republicans on the agriculture committee have worked with Democrats to ensure the Senate farm bill avoids stricter work requirements and provisions to restrict eligibility.

The House bill includes new sweeping, aggressive work requirements, despite the fact that current SNAP law already has work requirements in place and the majority of families receiving benefits are employed. Data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation suggests 58 percent of working-age, non-disabled SNAP households are employed while receiving benefits; that figure rises to 62 percent for households with children.

The GOP farm bill actually punishes working families receiving SNAP

The House GOP farm bill would require able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 59, without dependents, to work at least 20 hours a week. Those who aren’t working would be required to take a minimum of 20 hours a week of new job training classes, requirements that would increase to 25 hours in 2026.

Individuals who are unable to find full or part-time work would be subject to a “lockout” period that cuts off benefits for a full year. If they are unable to meet the required hours under the policy for a second time, they could face a lockout period of three full years.

The bill also curtails a provision called “broad-based categorical eligibility,” which allows states to enroll their residents in SNAP if they can prove they qualify for other income-based public assistance programs. It provides a safety net for families and individuals working low-wage jobs that put them right above the income cutoff for SNAP.

The program is extremely popular, with 42 states having adopted the policy.

Without it, many working families with an income close to SNAP’s cutoff of 130 percent of the federal poverty level (roughly $1,702 a month for a family of three), would lose access to their benefits. Families in this category are earning an income, yet still face significant costs like child care, transportation, or medical expenses, which make it difficult to afford food.

Trump is expected to veto farm bill unless it imposes tough work requirements

Eliminating categorical eligibility would also jeopardize free school lunch for low-income children. The traditional way for a child to receive free school lunch is through a paper application filled out by the child’s parent. In states that implemented categorical eligibility, however, a child whose family receives SNAP benefits is automatically enrolled by the district into the free school lunch program, ensuring that every child whose family is struggling to make ends meet is guaranteed one meal a day. Roughly 275,000 students would be in jeopardy of losing their free lunches if categorical eligibility was eliminated.


Categories: SCCDP Allies

Pompeo cites Kim Jong Un’s ‘reputation’ as evidence North Korea will denuclearize

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 2:08pm

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted during a cabinet meeting on Thursday that North Korea will follow through on the Kim regime’s vague promise to denuclearize — otherwise, he reasoned, totalitarian dictator Kim Jong Un’s international reputation could take a hit.

Trump accidentally admits everything he’s been saying about North Korea’s nukes is a lie

“He made a personal commitment,” Pompeo said, referring to Kim, a dictator who rules over an international pariah. “He has his reputation on the line in the same way that we do, that says ‘we’re going to create a brighter future for North Korea and we’re gonna denuclearize just as quickly as we can achieve that.'”

Pompeo’s comments came minutes after President Trump touted the agreement he signed with Kim following a summit in Singapore earlier this month.

“The document we signed, if people actually read it to the public, you’d see, ‘Number one statement, we would immediately begin total denuclearization of North Korea,'” Trump said. “Nobody thought that would be possible. If you remember a year and a half ago… everybody was talking about, ‘there’s gonna be a war, there’s gonna be a war with North Korea.'”

During a rally on Wednesday night in Duluth, Minnesota, Trump described his meeting with Kim as “an incredible success.”

Trump also provided a hearty endorsement of Kim’s dictatorship, saying he has confidence he will turn North Korea into “a great, successful country.”

There’s just one problem — North Korea maintains its nuclear capabilities, and the agreement Trump signed with Kim doesn’t detail any sort of verifiable denuclearization process.

Instead, the agreement merely reads, “Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” It does not detail how North Korea will “work toward complete denuclearization” or any sort of inspection process other countries can rely on to verify it is actually doing so, nor does it require Kim to give up any of his nuclear weapons at any particular time.

Fox News now says criticizing Kim Jong Un amounts to criticizing Trump

In exchange for vague assurances, Trump has legitimized the Kim regime, which just last year was involved in the death of U.S. student Otto Warmbier. Warmbier was recorded making a coerced confession during a propaganda news conference before he was returned to the United States with severe brain damage.

Things aren’t much better for many North Korean civilians. As the Sydney Morning Herald recently detailed, in North Korea, “an estimated 100,000 political prisoners are held in fetid gulag-style prisons, ‘re-education’ camps and forced-labour centers. Many are killed through torture or starved to death, according to defectors who have fled North Korea.”

Neither Trump nor Pompeo so much as mentioned “human rights” during their comments about North Korea over the past two days.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Melania Trump really doesn’t care. Do you?

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 1:47pm

I am all for ignoring a woman politician’s fashion in favor of focusing on her politics, good works, and, you know, her overall character. And that is especially true of First Lady Melania Trump, whose style can best be described as uninspiring.

There are exceptions to this rule though, and Melania Trump’s decision to wear a hooded green army jacket with white lettering on the back that reads “I REALLY DON’T CARE DO U?” (from Zara, no less) on a trip to visit with imprisoned children ripped from their parents by her husband demands a brief interlude to talk about her fashion.

Fashion bloggers love that Zara jacket Melania wore.

— Kim Bhasin (@KimBhasin) June 21, 2018

First: why, on the first day of summer, in 85 degree weather, while already wearing long-sleeve top, would someone wear a green utility jacket en route to Texas?


Stipulating that fashion is a form of expression, and someone like the First Lady has an entire sartorial team at her disposal (to say nothing of her fashion designer step-daughter), the answer, of course, is that her $39 fuckboi-in-the-suburbs jacket was a deliberate move.

The easy, knee-jerk interpretation is that she doesn’t care in the slightest about the kidnapped children she’s on her way to meet with. She doesn’t care about their plight, or that her contemptible spouse is responsible for their misery, because if she did, she would have worn something more conservative like a simple trench coat–we know she has one.

A far more intriguing interpretation is that she’s sending a passive-aggressive message to her aforementioned husband: “I don’t really care, do u?” Rumors have swirled from the moment he descended that elevator that Melania does not share her husband’s thirst for attention, and has exhibited the kind of icy demeanor around him one might expect of a wife who has endured story after story of her spouse’s infidelity and fascistic tendencies.

Though, if I’m being honest, I don’t think it’s that either.

She’s talking to us.

She knows very well what we think of her. She knows that we are judging this public relations trip of hers. She knows some of us think she died some time ago and was replaced by a body double. She knows we think she doesn’t care.

She knows that after a year and a half of complicity, plagiarism, stepping-out-of-helicopters-wearing-stilettos, anti-bullying nonsense, that we have zero faith in the validity of her concern. Not even a little bit. This is a stunt — at the expense of children.

And you know what, she doesn’t really care, do you?

UPDATE: Melania was photographed returning from her trip, once again wearing the jacket.

FLOTUS spox confirms Mrs. Trump wore a jacket to visit border kids that reads: "I really don't care. Do you?" Spox says: "It's a jacket. There was no hidden message. After today's important visit to Texas, I hope the media isn't going to choose to focus on her wardrobe."

— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) June 21, 2018

Her spokesperson maintains the jacket contained “no hidden message.”

Categories: SCCDP Allies

U.S. citizen William Nguyen detained in Vietnam for nearly two weeks

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 1:38pm

The last time William Nguyen was seen in public was on June 10, standing in the bed of a pickup truck in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, a wound on his left temple bleeding through his buzz cut. Around him was the chaos of a protest being broken up by police.

Footage of the protest posted on YouTube shows Nguyen, 32, being dragged on the street just moments before by a group of plain-clothed men.

Nguyen’s family was arrested that day and has remained incommunicado since. With the exception of  U.S. embassy officials in Vietnam — who were finally able to see Nguyen on Friday — no one has seen the Houston native and Yale graduate.

A friend of Nguyen’s told ThinkProgress that there was “some suspicious activity after they confiscated his phone. It kept showing [his status] as ‘active'” even after his phone had been taken away.

Calls to his phone, though, were declined.

Interrogators frequently take over a detainee’s phone and social media accounts in search of communications they can use in a potential case.

He was participating in a protest to oppose the passage of a new cybersecurity law, as well as a proposed law allowing foreign businesses to unconditionally lease land for up to 99 years as part of forming a special “economic zone,” which some feel will favor Chinese investors.

Over 100 others have also been reportedly arrested at similar protests this month.

Nguyen, who is of Vietnamese descent, was considering moving to Vietnam after graduating with a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore.

The day after his arrest, a local friend paid a fine demanded by the police, who said Nguyen would be released that day, but that did not happen. In fact, the following day on June 12, according to his friends, police went to the apartment where Nguyen was staying and confiscated his laptop, passport, credit cards, and other personal effects.

He has been accused in local media of violating Article 318 of the Vietnam Legal Code (“disturbing the public order”) which, in Vietnam, gives the state three months to investigate the allegations, during which time Nguyen can continue to be detained.

Although he has not been formally charged, accounts of his arrest have already been reported in Vietnamese state media.

The Vietnamese authorities have been quiet about Nguyen’s case, although according to the Guardian newspaper, a spokesperson for the ministry of foreign affairs said that force had not been used against him.

According to a statement released by his family and friends, who have been organizing the campaign to secure his release (along with a Facebook page and Twitter handle) the U.S. State Department has “prioritized his case.”

His sister, Victoria Nguyen, who lives in Chicago, also released a statement calling for her brother’s release, thanking people for their “overwhelming support” in helping to get his story out.

“But that’s not enough. This has escalated out of control, and we demand justice. We all want him home. And simply just that,” read the statement.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly named  the city of Victoria Nguyen’s residence.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

House Republicans make a spectacle out of the immigration debate

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 1:27pm

The House of Representatives failed Thursday to move forward one of two Republican-led immigration reform bills it has been considering.

The bill — introduced by Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Michael McCaul (R-TX),
Raul Labrador (R-ID), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), and John Carter (R-TX) — took a hard line stance on border security, cut legal immigration, and offered no path to citizenship for young immigrants known as DREAMers. The bill offered only a temporary “contingent nonimmigrant” status to beneficiaries of the Deferred Action with Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which gave certain young immigrants temporary work authorization and deportation relief and is currently stuck in a legal battle after Trump tried to end the program last fall. It also didn’t stop the separation of immigrant families at the U.S. border, something not fully addressed by Trump’s executive order from Wednesday.

On Thursday afternoon, the bill, known as “Goodlatte-McCaul” failed by a vote of 193-231. Every Democrat present and 41 Republicans voted against the bill.

Neither that proposal nor the second bill (which was supposed to be considered on Thursday, but has now been delayed to Friday) was expected to pass — and the whole process leading up to the vote has been chaotic. On Wednesday afternoon, Republican lawmakers couldn’t even seem to agree on what exactly they would vote on the next day.

The second bill is considered a compromise between different GOP factions. It would create a path to citizenship for recipients of the DACA program, but only in return for but only in return for $25 billion for the border wall and cuts to paths of legal immigration, like getting rid of the diversity visa and limiting family visas. It also attempts to stop the separation of undocumented families crossing the U.S. border by asking the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to detain families together while the parents are going through criminal proceedings.

On Thursday morning, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) referenced the fact that neither bill seemed likely to move forward.

“I think we’re advancing the cause even if something doesn’t pass,” Ryan said at a news conference. “I think these are the seeds that are going to be planted for an ultimate solution.”

“A lot of our members want to be able to express themselves by voting for the policies they like,” he added.

According to the Washington Post, many Republican lawmakers and aides also said Trump reduced the likelihood that the bills would move forward after he tweeted Thursday morning that neither would be able to pass the Senate anyway.

After the failure of the Goodlatte-McCaul bill on Thursday, opinions hadn’t changed.

“I don’t think the prospects for tomorrow’s vote are any better than I thought the prospects were for this one,” Rep. Michael Burgess (R-NC) told Fox News after the vote.

By voting on the bill on Thursday, the House effectively killed a discharge petition that was meant to bypass Ryan and force a vote on a series of proposals that would have tried to find a permanent solution to the DACA program. Although every single Democrat and 23 Republicans signed that petition, it fell two signatures short after the GOP leadership convinced the rest of their caucus not to sign. Trump threatened to veto any proposals that didn’t include funding for the border wall he previously promised would be fully paid for by Mexico.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Republican judge orders the entire Consumer Financial Protection Bureau eliminated

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 12:51pm

A Republican federal trial judge held on Thursday that the entire Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — all of it — must cease to exist. The case is CFPB v. RD Legal Funding.

Judge Loretta Preska’s decision on this matter can barely even be described as an “opinion” because she devotes less than two pages of analysis to this question before proclaiming that a federal agency must be simply wiped away. Instead, Preska adopts the reasoning of two federal appellate judges who dissented in a similar case holding that the CFPB is, in fact, constitutional. Significantly, a crucial segment of Preska’s conclusions were only shared by one of these dissenting judges — out of a total of ten judges who heard that federal appellate case.

And it gets worse from there. The dissenting opinions Preska relies upon were published on January 31. On May 14, the Supreme Court handed down its opinion in Murphy v. NCAA — parts of which are inconsistent with Preska’s conclusion that the entire CFPB must be struck down. Preska’s opinion makes no reference to Murphy. In fact, the judge who literally judge ordered an entire agency to be shut down appears blissfully unaware of Murphy‘s existence.

Trump’s Justice Department finally did something so lawless that even GOP leaders are recoiling

To explain, the CFPB has a somewhat unusual management structure. Though its Director is nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, the Director serves a five year term and can only be removed for “inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office.” Though most judges to consider the issue believe such a structure to be constitutional, a minority disagree.

As Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote in his dissenting opinion in PHH Corporation v. CFPB, a minority of judges who object to the CFPB’s management structure believe that “to carry out the executive power and be accountable for the exercise of that power, the President must be able to supervise and direct those subordinate officers.” Accordingly, Kavanaugh and a handful of other judges believe that the president must have the authority to remove a CFPB Director even if that Director has done nothing wrong.

Yet even Kavanaugh would only go but so far. The president must be allowed to fire a CFPB Director, according to Kavanaugh, but the CFPB may continue functioning.

Before today, only one judge claimed that the entire CFPB must fall. Writing only for herself in PHH Corporation, Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson claimed that the entire CFPB must fall because “above all else, the 111th Congress wanted the CFPB to be independent: free, that is, from industry influence and the changing political tides that come with accountability to the President.” That is, given the choice between an agency where the Director can be fired at will, and no agency at all, Henderson assumes that Congress would prefer nothing.

This is, to say the least, an extraordinary conclusion. When a court strikes down one part of a broader law, it frequently must ask whether Congress would have preferred other provisions of that law to fall along with it — this is an analysis known as “severability.” Yet, as the Supreme Court recently explained in Murphy, there is a very strong presumption against striking down more of a law than is absolutely necessary to excise the unconstitutional provision.

“In order for other . . . provisions to fall,” the Court explained in Murphy, “it must be ‘evident that [Congress] would not have enacted those provisions which are within its power, independently of [those] which [are] not.’”

The word “evident” appears nowhere in Henderson’s opinion. Nor does is appear anywhere in Preska’s very brief treatment of the legality of the CFPB. It should go without saying that judges who fail to cite a standard laid out in a binding Supreme Court decision typically do not see their decisions upheld on appeal.

So, if Preska’s RD Legal Funding opinion is reviewed by a higher court, there is very little chance that she will be affirmed (though it’s possible that the Supreme Court will ultimately agree with Kavanaugh’s analysis, Henderson and Preska’s reasoning is way out in right field). There is a danger, however, that the Trump administration will refuse to appeal this case — setting off a chaotic series of events where non-parties to the litigation attempt to intervene in the case after the district judge has already handed down a judgment.

In other words, if no one can be found who is both willing and able to appeal this decision, an entire agency set up to protect consumers will cease to exist due to the whim of a single person.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Sinclair forces news stations to air segment blaming media for overreacting about child separation

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 12:40pm

President Donald Trump’s ever-shifting explanations regarding his choice to forcibly remove migrant children from their parents as part of a “zero-tolerance” immigration policy have left his media allies scrambling to keep up in recent weeks.

But the newest must-run segment by right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group — the country’s largest owner of local television stations — may preview the administration’s final-draft spin plan.

The president “correctly decided to step in” Wednesday “to stop the separation of children from their families at the border,” former Trump staffer turned Sinclair propagandist Boris Epshteyn says in the segment.

“President Trump [made the decision] to enforce a ‘zero tolerance’ policy and prosecute all adults illegally crossing our borders,” Epshteyn says. “Many members of the media and opponents of the president have seized on this issue to make it seem as if those who are tough on immigration are somehow monsters. Let’s be honest: While some of the concern is real, a lot of it is politically driven by the liberals in politics and the media.”

Note the passive voice Epshteyn uses while describing what Trump started doing in May: “the separation of children.” The president’s former assistant then uses active voice to describe what Trump was forced by immense political pressure to do Wednesday, “correctly decided to step in.”

Epshteyn carefully adheres to that delusional re-ordering of events throughout the segment, elsewhere terming Trump as “working to show that it is possible to balance humanity with security” and “addressing” (active) “the separation” (passive) of migrant teens, toddlers, and infants from their confused, asylum-seeking parents.

Sinclair-owned stations are required to run Epshteyn’s segments. The company currently controls local media in four out of every 10 U.S. homes, and could soon reach seven in 10 if Trump’s FCC approves its purchase of the Tribune Company’s television holdings. That means Epshteyn’s blatant reconfiguring of very recent history will be forced down the brainstems of roughly the same share of the country as still approves of Trump’s job performance in tracking polls.

Epshteyn’s monologue, while filled with right-wing propaganda, actually reveals useful information. The Sinclair-Trump symbiosis is strong. If this is the tack Sinclair is choosing in the wake of Trump’s highest-profile political defeat to date — one that prompted the president to briefly acknowledge he cares more about looking strong than being right — it may forecast what’s coming from the White House, the Speaker of the House’s office, and the rest of the Trump machine.

If the White House follows Epshteyn’s lead, they’re likely to focus energy on blaming the policy Trump launched in May and ended in June by claiming that Barack Obama invented it. He didn’t — hard-hearted family detention policies begun under Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were limited in scope, while Trump’s zero-tolerance policy targets every single border-crosser — but Trump has already been tweeting that Obama did.

The president and his congressional allies have also taken to claiming that everyone’s only pretending to be upset about the brutalization of children at the hands of uniformed state security services when what they really want is open borders. He’s hinted that migrant families fake their asylum claims and that Democrats are looking to harvest future voters rather than to undo a voluntary cruelty initiated at Trump’s behest in May.

At one point this morning in discussing his border mess, Trump even  appeared to embrace the fringe “qAnon” web conspiracy that centers on the still-simmering right-wing belief that prominent Democrats are satanic child-rapists.

Trump suggests asylum-seekers are crisis actors

Epshteyn’s segment nods to some of these scattered, grasping narratives. He says that opponents of Trump’s psychological torture of kids must think “that border security and humane treatment of families are mutually exclusive,” gripes that Trump’s enemies want “to make it seem as if those who are tough on immigration are somehow monsters” as though all the rending-apart of families is just your standard off-the-rack Tough Guy stuff, and scolds that “while some of the concern is real, a lot of it is politically driven by the liberals.”

But the segment primarily serves as a signal-fire for Epshteyn’s former boss. The strategy, if Trump listens to his TV network, will be to pretend he never did the very-bad thing he did, that he sprung into manful and athletic action to stop that very-bad thing he never did, and that it’s really all somebody else’s fault.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Trump’s latest attack on Democrats echoes a conspiracy theory from the fringes of the internet

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 11:34am

During a cabinet meeting on Thursday, President Trump sought to blame Democrats for the humanitarian crisis he created with his family separation policy, going so far as to accuse Democrats of “creat[ing] a massive child smuggling industry.”

“The people are suffering because of the Democrats,” Trump said. “So, we’ve created, and they’ve created, and they’ve let it happen — a massive child smuggling industry. That’s exactly what it has become.”

Trump suggests asylum-seekers are crisis actors

Referring to unaccompanied children who cross the border, Trump said, “these alien minors were separated and sent all the way up here alone, but they really came up with coyotes. You know what a coyote is? Not good, these are not-good people.”

“They were sent up here with human traffickers,” Trump said. “Because the Democrat-supported policies have allowed this to happen.”

Trump did not bother to try to explain how the “zero tolerance” policy his administration implemented in April addresses the problem, since it creates a disincentive for parents to stay with their children as they make the dangerous trek through Mexico to the US border.

Trump’s comments are darkly ironic, coming as they do the day after a number of major airlines announced they would no longer allow the federal government to transport children who had been separated from their parents because of Trump administration policy to detention centers in far-flung places.

Trump’s claims about a sex trafficking ring come while some of his supporters push a conspiracy theory that the president is an international hero who is clandestinely working to dismantle a global sex trafficking ring.

As ThinkProgress has previously detailed about the so-called “QAnon” conspiracy:

The “QAnon” theory — also sometimes referred to broadly as “the Storm” —  involves an anonymous 4chan user claiming to have high-level government information who leaves cryptic clues across the internet for followers to “decode.” The convoluted messages don’t seem to have much meaning on their face, but followers claim they signal credible predictions.

For instance, “QAnon” claims that the major Democratic operatives and celebrities who currently have the most power over the country are pedophiles, and will soon be arrested for their role in facilitating sex trafficking rings.

Over the past several months, “the Storm” theories have gradually made their way out of the depths of 4chan and into more mainstream online platforms like YouTube, Reddit, and Twitter — including Roseanne Barr’s Twitter account.

Suffice it to say, there is no evidence that QAnon is any less bogus than the similar Pizzagate conspiracy theory WikiLeaks played a key role in pushing for Trump’s benefit during the presidential campaign.

There are indications that Trump has embraced QAnon, at least to a point. As Right Wing Watch details, a QAnon truther was given VIP access to Trump’s rally on Wednesday evening in Duluth, Minnesota.

Meanwhile, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s admission during a press conference on Monday that she couldn’t immediately account for girls who had been separated from their parents played a role in catalyzing public outcry — one that prompted Trump to try and walk back his family separation policy.

CNN anchor debunks House Republican’s false claim about Trump’s immigration order

During Thursday’s cabinet meeting, Trump admitted his administration has no immediate plan to reunite the more than 2,300 children who have been separated from their families as a result of his policy.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

House Republican expands attack on environmental groups’ global work

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 11:09am

A top congressional Republican is ratcheting up his campaign against prominent U.S. environmental organizations, an effort critics are likening to a return of McCarthyism. So far, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) has singled out two environmental groups well-known for their effective advocacy and legal work to protect the environment.

Bishop, a strong supporter of the fossil fuels industry and long-time opponent of public lands, sent a letter to the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) on Wednesday seeking documents about the group’s environmental work on the island of Okinawa in Japan. In the letter, the congressman suggested the group’s efforts are being used to impose additional costs on U.S. military activities in Japan. The U.S. military has a large presence on the island.

In response, CBD accused Bishop of abusing his position.

“Rob Bishop is the one working against American interests, first by trashing our national monuments and now its democratic principles at the behest of the fossil fuel industry,” Kierán Suckling, CBD’s executive director, said in a statement. “He’s abusing his position, tarnishing the House of Representatives and making a fool of himself with these amateurish McCarthy tactics.”

The letter comes two weeks after Bishop sent a similar letter to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), demanding information about its work in China. Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on oversight and investigations, co-signed the two letters.

House Republicans investigate NRDC’s work on Chinese clean energy issues

NRDC told ThinkProgress that it responded to Bishop’s letter by the June 12 deadline given by the congressman, and remains in contact with committee staff.

In a separate letter, dated June 13, Bishop wrote to Defense Secretary James Mattis about lawsuits filed by NRDC and CBD. “We are interested in environmental litigation by U.S. based 501(c) organizations against the Department of Defense and its negative impact on our national security,” Bishop and Westerman wrote in the letter to Mattis.

Bishop’s letter pointed to work done by NRDC as far back as the 1990s that aimed to stop the use of sonar and underwater explosives by the U.S. Navy because of its impact on mammals. The lawmakers also cited a lawsuit filed by CBD that aimed to block the relocation of a Marine Corps air station in Japan because of its potential harm to a marine mammal, the Okinawa dugong. A court hearing on that case is scheduled for June 28.

“We can defend our country and protect our oceans at the same time — in fact, that’s what the law requires,” Bob Deans, director of strategic engagement for NRDC, said in response to Bishop’s letter to Mattis. “The agreements we’ve reached with the U.S. Navy help to ensure the security and readiness of our naval forces in ways that protect marine mammals from needless harm.”

The House Natural Resources Committee said it has been monitoring several environmental groups; thus far, NRDC and CBD are the only ones that have received letters from the committee questioning their work overseas. “The investigation will go where the evidence leads,” a committee spokesperson said in response to the letter sent to NRDC.

Bishop said his committee is concerned that CBD’s opposition to the relocation of a U.S. Marine Corps station on Okinawa “may require compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act.”

“The Committee seeks clarification about the nature of CBD’s advocacy work to influence U.S. environmental and natural resources policy in light of CBD’s close relationship with Okinawan government officials and foreign environmental groups,” Bishop’s letter states, referring to a lawsuit CBD filed in 2003 over the relocation of the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

Since its founding in 1989, the Center for Biological Diversity has been one of the most effective environmental groups at protecting ecosystems and endangered species. Bishop’s claims against the organization come after the group targeted him as one of the worst members of Congress on issues related to public lands and the environment.

In March 2017, the group ranked Bishop as No. 2 on its list of “public lands enemies” — members of Congress who are “backed by fossil fuel corporations and other extractive industries that already squeeze massive profits out of America’s public lands and only want more.” Bishop’s Republican colleague from Utah, Sen. Mike Lee, was the named the greatest enemy of public lands.

Source: Center for Biological Diversity

In November 2015, a delegation of 27 political and community leaders from Okinawa visited the United States to seek support for its efforts to stop the U.S. military from building a large new base in what CBD described as the “biologically rich and sensitive” Henoko and Oura Bay.

That new base is strongly opposed by residents of the island, which has had a huge U.S. military presence since the end of World War II.

“Okinawa dugongs are facing extinction, a sad fact that the approval process for this project ignored. We stand with the Okinawan people in calling for a real environmental review and respect for local concerns,” Peter Galvin, CBD’s director of programs, said in a statement issued during the visit by the Okinawa officials. “We shouldn’t let the U.S. military continue to trash this biologically important region,” he said.

In an attempt at “red-baiting,” a tactic used by politicians during the Cold War to discredit groups and individuals opposed to U.S. policies, Bishop wrote in his letter that “many of the political parties and activist groups most vocally opposed to, and willing to take direction action against, the U.S. military presence in Okinawa are ‘radical’ groups like the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) and Okinawan independence movement.”

Trump’s environmental assault met with immediate legal challenges

Basav Sen, director of the climate justice project at the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, said he believes Bishop is abusing his position and that his fishing expedition against environmental groups is “starting to look like McCarthyism.”

By questioning CBD’s contacts with foreign environmental groups, “the likes of Rob Bishop are quite intentionally using raw intimidation to try to undermine the necessary linking of global struggles for justice,” Sen told ThinkProgress.

“The Trump administration and its congressional enablers are aware that a powerful international movement can reverse their push for more fossil fuels, hence their desperation to try to bully and silence the environmental movement,” he said.

Bishop asked CBD to submit documents related to whether it has registered as a foreign agent. He also wants any documents from the group that identifies any transaction or payment it has received from any Japanese official, national, or business interest.

The committee chairman gave the environmental group until June 27 to submit the requested documents.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Border agents will stop referring migrant parents for prosecution because ICE lacks holding capacity

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 11:09am

Trump administration officials quickly disputed a Washington Post story Thursday, which reported they would stop prosecuting migrant parents who cross the border unauthorized with their children, the latest confusing development relating to the president’s zero-tolerance immigration policy.

“We’re suspending prosecutions of adults who are members of family units until ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) can accelerate resource capability to allow us to maintain custody,” an official told the Post initially.

Little more than an hour after the story was first posted, the outlet was forced to update its story, clarifying that the Trump administration was not actually suspending prosecutions for parents of migrant children, but rather instructing Border Patrol agents to stop sending parents with children to federal courthouses for prosecution. Decisions about prosecutions are up to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Post noted.

The official clarified Thursday that because ICE lacks the detention capacity to increase the number of families it holds in detention, many migrant parents and children will likely be released from custody while they await court hearings.

A spokeswoman for the Justice Department, Sarah Isgur Flores, confirmed prosecutions will continue.

“There has been no change to the Department’s zero tolerance policy to prosecute adults who cross our border illegally instead of claiming asylum at any port of entry at the border,” she told the outlet.

Within minutes of the story’s initial posting, DOJ and the White House were scrambling to deny the Post report. The DOJ spokeswoman told BuzzFeed and The Los Angeles Times that the story wasn’t accurate, and a White House official told another BuzzFeed reporter that they didn’t know anything about the report and weren’t aware of any breaking news on the subject.

“The Washington Post never reached out to the Department,” Flores tweeted. “Their story is not accurate. There has been no change to the Department’s zero tolerance policy to prosecute adults who cross our border illegally instead of claiming asylum at any port of entry at the border.”

Conflicting messages continue:
DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Flores says parents crossing the border with children are still being charged under "zero tolerance" policy.
“Not accurate, on the record," she says of below report.

— Noah Bierman (@Noahbierman) June 21, 2018

DOJ spox response to when asked about the WaPo story that the administration is suspending prosecutions of migrant parents: "Not accurate"

— Zoe Tillman (@ZoeTillman) June 21, 2018

The Washington Post never reached out to the Department. Their story is not accurate. There has been no change to the Department’s zero tolerance policy to prosecute adults who cross our border illegally instead of claiming asylum at any port of entry at the border.

— Sarah Isgur Flores (@SarahFloresDOJ) June 21, 2018

The heightened confusion comes one day after President Trump signed an unnecessary executive order ending the family separation policy he created. Wednesday’s order did not end the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy and instead attempts to replace family separation with indefinite family detention.

BREAKING: According to a source in federal court in McCallen, 17 people who were going to be charged with misdemeanor entry this morning are now *not* being charged because they are “heads of households” aka, came with kids.

— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) June 21, 2018

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes reported Thursday morning that, according to a source in federal court, 17 people charged with entering the country illegally were not being charged because they were “heads of households” and crossed the border with children.

It’s unclear whether those families are part of the group referenced in the Washington Post report.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

The data point that destroys Trump’s argument for detaining immigrants

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 10:07am

The Trump administration has regularly claimed that families seeking asylum who get released within the United States while they wait for their interviews and court dates do not show up.

“Not surprisingly, many of those who are released into the United States after their credible fear determination from DHS simply disappear and never show up at their immigration hearings,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in an October 2017 speech.

White House legislative director Marc Short told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Monday, “Eighty percent of those that are coming here illegally never show up for court and are never deported.”

And as President Trump cited different numbers in a speech on Tuesday, arguing that people “never” come back or “like 3 percent” do — and for those who fail to report for legal proceedings, the result is either that the immigrants are “in your system” or commit murder.

The administration has used this rational as justification for its new “zero-tolerance policy” of detaining families and, until Wednesday, separating children from adults. To the Trump administration, the policy may be extreme, but it is necessary to solve the problem of asylum-seekers failing to show up for their court dates, receiving “in absentia removal orders,” and staying in the country undocumented.

The trouble with this logic is that most people do in fact show up for their court dates.

The Justice Department’s data from FY 2016 puts “in absentia” cases — immigration cases for which there are no defendants — at just 25 percent, not the 97 percent the president estimated. So just one in four immigrants failed to show up for their hearings. This was a drop from 28 percent in FY 2015.

Only 25 percent of immigration court cases were decided without defendants in FY 2016. CREDIT: JUSTICE DEPARTMENT STATISTICS YEARBOOK

If someone has passed their “credible fear” screening, which means they have a credible fear of persecution or torture, and they have not been found to be a security or flight risk, they are often released on the condition they appear in court at a future date. In 2015, according to a Washington Office on Latin America analysis of the data from the Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), the overall appearance rate in 2015 for all individuals released from ICE custody was 77 percent. Many who do fail to show for their hearings do so because they missed notices sent to old addresses, or because they lack legal representation — not, as the president suggested, because they are off murdering people.

According to an analysis by the group Human Rights First using the Syracuse TRAC data through December 2017, 97 percent of mothers who had legal representation and whose cases were initiated in FY 2014 were actually in full compliance with their court hearing obligations. The same is true for 98 percent of children.

The TRAC data showed, according to Human Rights First, that 44 percent of mothers did not have legal representation, nor did 36 percent of children. Counsel is expensive, and federal funds for court-appointed attorneys are scarce. The system is byzantine and complex, and there are not many options when it comes to pro bono lawyers who can do this work.

It is hard enough to get access to legal counsel in these circumstances. It is close to impossible for families held in detention centers in remote locations, often barred from speaking with family members and social circles who could directly help them obtain the legal advice and resources they need to effectively fight for their asylum cases.

There are also systems that can ensure perfect compliance with court responsibilities. Over a year ago, the White House ended a program called the Family Case Management Program pilot system, which matched nearly 1,000 asylum-seeking families in several metropolitan areas with social workers. The program had an overall compliance rate of 99 percent.

Philip Wolgin, the managing director of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, stressed that these are “people who are exercising their legal right to claim asylum.” (Editor’s Note: ThinkProgress is an editorially independent news site housed at the Center for American Progress.) “It’s also not surprising that the administration has ended proven alternatives such as the Family Case Management Program, which cost a fraction of what it takes to incarcerate someone and work well. Instead they would rather lock up as many people as they can.”

Categories: SCCDP Allies

4 things you need to know about Trump’s new immigration order

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 4:03pm

After mounting pressure from activists and concerned Americans, President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday hoping to find an end to the family separation policy his own administration implemented.

“I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated,” Trump told reporters. “I think anybody with a heart would feel strongly about it. We don’t like to see families separated.”

In a tweet shortly after the president signed the executive order, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi described the action as just “replac[ing] one form of child abuse with another.”

Trump’s reversal on family separation doesn’t put an end to the humanitarian crisis. In fact, his new order contains several provisions with disturbing implications. Here’s what you need to know.

Indefinite family detention takes the place of separation

While the order states the administration’s policy is to now “maintain family unity, including by detaining alien families together,” the language is exceedingly broad, allowing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to detain families together.

Under the order, families will be kept in DHS custody until both the criminal case against the parent and the immigration case against the family are completed. For a family seeking asylum, as many who cross the border or entry through a port of entry are, that can take weeks or months.

The Obama administration attempted to detain families in 2014 to disastrous results immigration lawyers have described as a “shit show.”

The order also doesn’t explicitly end family separation at the border. Families will be reunited “to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations,” effectively giving the administration an out.

The only way to solve the current crisis is to end the zero tolerance policy and stop prosecuting the act of migration. The administration, however, has made it clear the zero tolerance approach to immigration will not stop.

The administration knows what it is doing is illegal

The Trump administration is calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to ask the courts to change their stance on the Flores settlement and make indefinite detainment of families legal.

The president addresses this in a portion of the executive order that reads: “The Attorney General shall promptly file a request with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to modify the Settlement Agreement in Flores v. Sessions, CV 85-4544 (‘Flores settlement’), in a manner that would permit the Secretary, under present resource constraints, to detain alien families together throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings for improper entry or any removal or other immigration proceedings.”

As it was interpreted by courts under President Obama, the Flores settlement prevents the federal government from keeping children in immigration detention for longer than 20 days. Most asylum cases, however, take much longer than 20 days. As a result, it is highly likely that this executive order will lead the government to violate the Flores settlement as it stands now.

Senior Justice Department officials have confirmed since Trump signed the executive order that the Flores settlement still takes precedent.

JUST IN: Senior Justice Department official Gene Hamilton confirms the Flores settlement still controls, and that unless Congress or the court acts, the government can only detain families together for "up to 20 days."

— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) June 20, 2018

There is the possibility courts won’t accept Sessions’ request, leaving it up to Congress to pass legislation that would overrule Flores.

It’s unclear whether there are facilities suitable for families available

With Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) increasingly running out of space to house adults, where will these thousands of children be housed? The administration believes the answer is housing families in federal prisons or requiring the military to provide the space.

One of the problems with “detaining and maintaining” immigrant families, as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) puts it, is that in some cases, the children are put in even more danger. Recently it was revealed that a Texas sheriff’s deputy at a family shelter sexually assaulted a 4-year-old migrant child. The mother, an undocumented immigrant, was being blackmailed to stay silent about the abuse or face deportation.

According to Trump’s new order, the Secretary of Defense will be responsible for the construction of the facilities.

“The Secretary of Defense shall take all legally available measures to provide to the Secretary, upon request, any existing facilities available for the housing and care of alien families, and shall construct such facilities if necessary and consistent with law,” the order reads. “The Secretary, to the extent permitted by law, shall be responsible for reimbursement for the use of these facilities.”

The government doesn’t have a stellar track record with constructing facilities that house children. According to an investigation from Reveal, the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement paid $3.4 billion dollars to private companies that house migrant children from 2014 to 2018. Of that amount, 44 percent of the funds went to companies facing serious allegations of child mistreatment.

The damage has been done

Trump’s executive order does not address what will happen to the more than 2,300 children who were separated from their families at the border as a result of the administration’s policy.

Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed Wednesday that the government will not make any special efforts to help these children find their families.

An HHS official tells @weijia that there will NOT be special efforts made to reunite children who have already been separated from their families bc of the Zero Tolerance Policy, despite Trumps EO. Process will proceed for minors currently in the unaccompanied children program.

— Jacqueline Alemany (@JaxAlemany) June 20, 2018

And what’s more, the government currently has no clear plan for how to reunite families either.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

The facilities where things go from bad to worse for children separated from their parents

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 2:52pm

The Trump administration has placed children who were separated from their families at the border in secure psychiatric facilities, according to organizations that work with migrant children.

In the past, children have accused similar facilities of forcing them to take powerful psychiatric drugs, abusing and neglecting them, and detaining them for months on end.

The administration has moved a small number of children who were separated from their families to secure psychiatric centers, said Ashley Feasley, policy director with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, during a call with reporters Wednesday.

Feasley declined to go into more detail about where the children have been placed, citing their confidentiality. A separate legal organization that works with migrant children also confirmed Wednesday that the government has placed at least one child who was separated from their family at the border in one of these more jail-like psychiatric facilities.

Newsday reported Wednesday that the administration has placed eight separated children at MercyFirst, in Syosset, New York, which operates a secure treatment facility. It wasn’t immediately clear if those children were spending their days in the center’s secure section.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and MercyFirst did not respond to requests for comment on whether separated children had been placed in these more secure facilities.

These types of facilities have faced intense scrutiny in federal courts, and lawyers who spoke with ThinkProgress say they violate the federal government’s legal requirement to keep migrant children in the “least restrictive conditions.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a law enforcement conference on Monday that HHS is taking good care of children it takes in due to a new Trump administration policy to separate children from parents who cross the border illegally so that the parents can be criminally prosecuted.

“They’re not put in jail, of course,” Sessions said of the children. “They’re taken care of. They remain in the country, even though they don’t have a lawful process to be here.”

That’s not entirely true, according to immigration lawyers who spoke with ThinkProgress. Migrant children in HHS custody can land in jail-like settings, including juvenile detention halls, for a host of reasons. Once there, immigration lawyers say, the children can be detained for months and have little recourse to challenge their detention. Many of the facilities where they’re placed have come under heavy criticism for inhumane treatment and poor living conditions.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday that he said would stop family separations at the border until Congress can take more permanent action, but it wasn’t immediately clear what impact the order would have.

In the meantime, HHS has charge of around 12,000 migrant children, of whom over 2,000 were separated from their families. The agency does not distinguish between the two groups once a child is in its custody.

Before Trump’s order, the number had been growing quickly, experts said, with Customs and Border Protection separating as many 65 children a day from their parents.

Horror stories

In a motion filed in federal court in April challenging HHS’ secure detention practices, several migrant children and their lawyers described their experiences in these more secure facilities. Several described semi-secure facilities where children have to wear uniforms, where internal and external doors are constantly locked, and where they live under 24-hour surveillance.

“The conditions of Paso are very different from those of the shelter in Kansas City,” one migrant child, identified in the motion only as Nicolás C., said in a declaration. “Everything has a key… I always have to wear a uniform, which makes me feel like a prisoner.”

The secure detention facilities, which are housed within juvenile jails, are even more restrictive. In the motion, migrant children who have been in these facilities report living in locked jail cells, being handcuffed and shackled, only getting one hour outside a day, and even being pepper sprayed by guards.

“If a child has a mental health issue in addition to behavioral concerns or criminal history warranting placement into a restrictive level of care, ORR may place the youth in a residential treatment center or other therapeutic setting,” according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Some of the most harrowing stories, however, come from HHS’ residential treatment centers, or RTCs. Shiloh Treatment Center, in Manvel, Texas, is especially notorious for its poor treatment of migrant children.

In the April court motion, children reported being forced to take powerful psychiatric drugs by staff at the facility, who sometimes held children down and forced the medicine into their mouths or told them they would stay in detention longer if they refused medication. The motion also alleges HHS did not seek appropriate parental approval before medicating children in its care.

“Nobody asked me for my permission to give medications to my daughter, even though the staff at Shiloh has always had my telephone number and address,” a woman identified only as the mother of a girl named Isabella M. said.

In exhibits in the same court case, which were first reported by Reveal, children reported being forcibly injected with antipsychotic drugs, slammed against a door, and choked by Shiloh staff.

The eight separated children at the MercyFirst secure psychiatric center in New York are from Central America and range from six to 12 years old, Gerard McCaffery, president and CEO, told local reporters.  

That facility has also faced accusations of forcing medication on children. One unnamed 15-year-old Mexican migrant said in an exhibit in the April 2018 filing that MercyFirst staff forced him to take psychiatric medications. When he tried to refuse, staff put him on the “red level,” which meant he couldn’t leave the unit.

This boy had an especially turbulent time, moving through the detention pipeline for a year and nine months after first arriving in the U.S. Before MercyFirst, he was at Shenandoah Juvenile Detention Center for seven months, where he said “staff members would say ugly things about [his] mother and [his] family members.”

“I think they did that to try to make me mad and to act out,” the court filing says. For this, he was sent to solitary confinement, sometimes for as long as three and a half weeks.

Shiloh directed requests for comment to HHS.

The practice of forcing psychiatric medication on young migrant children isn’t isolated to the Shiloh and Mercy treatment centers, according to Nithya Nathan-Pineau, an immigration lawyer who represents migrant children at two secure detention facilities in Virginia.

“We’ve heard children in secure detention and staff-secure detention taking medication and not knowing the names of the medication or what they’re for, and also being told that if they don’t take the medication, that will be counted against their behavior,” she told ThinkProgress. “So that’s pretty consistent with what children have reported to us.”

A broken system

After initial processing, CBP turns children over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), an arm of HHS. The vast majority of these kids spend roughly a month in a licensed, ORR-contracted shelter until they are placed with a relative, sponsor, or foster care agency.

But HHS also contracts with three secure detention centers and several semi-secure facilities and psychiatric treatment centers spread across the country. These facilities hold a small fraction of migrant children HHS deems dangerous or disruptive — anything from a fight to a suspected gang affiliation to a mental health crisis.

“We’ve seen a number of children who have tried to run away from shelter facilities being moved to the secure detention facilities because they tried to abscond,” said Nathan-Pineau. “We see children who have pretty significant trauma and who are living with mental illness and so may have some behavioral issues because of the trauma that they’ve survived.”

She and two other lawyers who work with clients at the two secure Virginia facilities said they have not seen any children there who were separated from their families at the border — all of their clients are children who came to the U.S. alone.

The third secure facility, in Yolo County, California, said in a statement that it has not received any separated children from HHS. The county contracts 24 beds in its juvenile detention center to HHS for migrant children who usually range between 15 and 17 years old, and it can decline to accept children it thinks may not meet HHS’ secure placement criteria.

“The County does not, and has no interest in, operating a de facto federal prison for forcibly separated youth,” the statement read.

But Nathan-Pineau and other lawyers who spoke with ThinkProgress worry it’s just a matter of time before more separated children wind up in these jail-like settings.

“We haven’t seen any of the family separation cases yet — probably just because I don’t know if any of them have made their way to Virginia,” said Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg of the Legal Aid Justice Center, who also works with kids at the two Virginia facilities. “But I’m sure we will any day now.”

The National Center for Youth Law works with children at semi-secure, secure, and psychiatric facilities across the country. Jesse Hahnel, its executive director, said children separated from their families at the border are at acute risk for being “stepped up,” in HHS’ terminology, to a secure facility where they could be detained for months.

“Undoubtedly, children that are ripped away from their parents at the border are experiencing an extreme form of trauma that they are not equipped to handle,” Hahnel told ThinkProgress in an email. “This trauma may lead to intense mental health distress that paves the path to their being stepped up to more secure facilities.”

HHS places kids in a more secure facility when they pose a danger to themselves or others, or if they’ve been charged with a criminal offense, according to information on its website. But the reasons for making that determination can vary widely, from suicidal feelings to fighting and acting out to suspected gang affiliation, according to court filings and lawyers who spoke with ThinkProgress.

“We had a case in which a kid felt guilty about failing to prevent his friend’s murder and expressed that to the social worker… who was at the shelter when he was first doing intake,” said Sandoval-Moshenberg. That was enough for the kid to be tagged as gang-involved because his friend was killed by gang members. The two-year odyssey of trying to get him out only ended after a federal judge ordered him released.

According to lawyers and court filings, the government does not give children enough notice before moving them to a secure facility or afford them a real chance to challenge that decision before they’re already in the secure-placement system.

“They may be given a written notice of why they’re being stepped up, but they often, they don’t totally understand it,” Nathan-Pineau said. “Or it’s not something that’s very clear to them. The process isn’t very clear.”

Once a migrant child is in secure placement, it can be months before they get out. In court filings, children describe not knowing whether they had a right to challenge their placement in secure facilities or how to get “stepped down” out of the secure-placement system.

“The way the system is set up right now, once you get tagged there’s literally no process to challenge that, contest that, to get untagged, to say ‘No, I’m not actually a bad kid. You got me wrong,’” Sandoval-Moshenberg told ThinkProgress.

In May, the Legal Aid Justice Center helped a 16-year-old boy who crossed over the U.S. border alone get out of a Virginia juvenile center where HHS had detained him for nine months. The agency only released him into the custody of his uncle, who lives in the U.S., after the family threatened to sue.

Kids in Need of Defense views the administration’s new policy of separating families as just another roll back of protections for children in federal custody. After DHS first reportedly began separating families in March 2017, ICE also began to target sponsors for deportation and criminal prosecution. In June 2017, they also began to slow down the process of when kids can be released from secure facilities by requiring the ORR Children’s Services Director approve the release of kids there.

“Nearly all of these kids have some other relatives who would be more than happy to take care of them,” Sandoval-Moshenberg said. “And the government is just making that impossible these days.”

Have you lived or worked in an HHS facility for migrant children? Contact reporters Amanda Gomez at or Joshua Eaton at You can also reach them on the secure messaging app Signal at 202-684-1030.


Categories: SCCDP Allies

Feds send immigrant children to foster company with history of abuse

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 2:37pm

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has spent billions since 2013 placing minors who cross the border into foster and shelter facilities throughout the country, many of which have a history of abuse and lax oversight, according to multiple reports.

One organization, San Antonio-based BCFS, has received over $800 million from the federal agency to care for thousands of kids detained by immigration officers since 2009 through the “Unaccompanied Alien Children’s Program.” Children who crossed the border unaccompanied and those who were taken from their parents when they crossed together are described as “unaccompanied alien children” by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

BCFS contracts include providing shelter and transitional and long-term foster care for immigrant children that are under ORR care, and post-release and “home study” services for those kids. Texas foster home inspectors have found a number of disturbing cases of neglect and abuse in BCSF foster facilities over the past three years. This includes foster parents physically beating kids, calling them by derogatory names, allowing unreported people to visit the home, and allowing pregnant foster kids who couldn’t tolerate a meal provided to simply go hungry.

“Children continued to bathe together despite having two prior incidents of inappropriate behavior with each other,” read findings from a Texas Health and Human Services inspection contained in a July 18, 2017 report.

“During the course of the investigation it was reported that a child witnessed another child being physically disciplined,” read another report from September 5, 2017.

“The caregiver admitted to holding the child in a prone restraint for 2-3 minutes. The incident report states that the child was in the restraint for 4 minutes,” Texas investigators wrote in April 2016.

Trump administration holding immigrant babies in prison camps

According to the Texas Observer, in response to the Trump administration’s policy to separate children from their families, Texas officials have allowed BCFS and other facilities to expand their capacity by as much as 50 percent — more than their child-care licenses would allow. President Donald Trump’s new executive order, which he signed Wednesday, would detain families and kids together, but would not prevent children from being placed into foster care if they cross the border alone or if they are removed from their parents by officials for any reason. 

Since 2003, undocumented immigrant children who crossed the border without a guardian and were detained by U.S. Homeland Security agents have been put under the care of the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Thousands of kids have been placed in ORR custody, where many end up in privately run shelters and foster care homes throughout the country.

The Obama administration expanded the program in 2014 after more than 68,000 unaccompanied children from Central America and Mexico crossed into the United States.

According to the Texas Tribune and Reveal, federal officials placed children under the care of multiple organizations after they have been cited by state inspectors with deficiencies and abuse.

According to a ThinkProgress review of records, Texas investigators cited BCFS with 18 violations since June 15, 2015. Of those, 11 were given standard risk levels of high, four as medium-high, and three as medium. The reports did not identify impacted children, so it was not immediately clear whether or not immigrant children were harmed in these specific instances.

Some of the other violations pinned to BCFS sounded minor at first, and included unsafe living conditions for the children, like an expired fire extinguisher in 2017 and an extinguisher not being placed in the kitchen in 2016. There was also a lot of incomplete paperwork: one caregiver didn’t report a frequent visitor of their home to regulators, another didn’t report the name of a foster parent to the FBI, and one did not properly complete the allergy section on a pair of child records.

Religions condemn family separations but are their charities helping implement them?

Other allegations sounded far more serious. In November 2017, for instance, investigators found that six foster homes simply filled out domestic violence forms following incidents instead of calling the police as they were required.

There were also instances of kids not receiving basic living necessities; in 2016, a child was not given “appropriate” supplies to care for their hair, children at a home did not have undergarments, and one didn’t have the correct-sized clothes.

And there were situations where caretakers failed to properly watch their kids. In 2017, one foster parent and her adult daughter left their nine-year-old unsupervised, allowing the child to leave the home. In another situation, a child on a safety plan was left in a room alone with another child. And on one occasion, two teenage foster children went to a neighborhood swimming pool without their foster parent, who was unaware that one of the teens almost drowned.

But a number of other violations also cited grave physical and emotional abuse. A July 20, 2015 report found foster parents referred to children in their care with “pet names that have a derogatory connotation.”

In 2017, investigators also found cases where a child witnessed another child being “physically disciplined.” 

In one 2016 case, a child was held in a prone restraint by a caregiver for four minutes. In 2015, it was learned that foster children were forced to kneel on the floor while facing the wall for 30 minutes at a time, as a form of discipline. And on January 7, 2016, investigators wrote: “When a child in-care. who was pregnant, could not tolerate the meal offered the caregiver did not provide an alternate meal to meet the child’s health needs.”

BCFS Spokesperson Krista Piferrer said in a statement emailed to ThinkProgress that its system “has never been involved in making immigration policy,” and that it “has provided professional compassionate care to the hurting, disenfranchised and vulnerable who have been affected by life circumstances and disasters.”

“Similarly, over the years when there has been a humanitarian need, we’ve responded by providing outstanding, high quality care for unaccompanied minors,” the statement read. “We will continue to provide services to these young victims because we recognize an obligation that someone needs to care for them.” BCFS also noted that it believes “children should remain with their families, unless they are victims of abuse, neglect or harm.”

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Kansas secretary of state defies court order, won’t register eligible voters

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 1:38pm

Two days after a federal judge overturned his documentary proof-of-citizenship law and ordered him to register eligible voters, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is openly defying the court’s order.

According to the Topeka Capital Journal, Kobach’s elections director instructed county clerks to continue demanding proof-of-citizenship from anyone registering to vote until they receive written instruction otherwise. A spokeswoman for Kobach said his office is still reviewing the 118-page ruling, which clearly finds the law unconstitutional and orders Kobach to attend six hours of legal classes for violating rules of civil procedure.

Danedri Herbert, the spokesperson for Kobach, said the judge was not clear when she instructed the secretary of state to accept voter registration applications without a document like a passport or birth certificate.

“I think ‘immediately’ is kind of open to interpretation,” Herbert said.

Kris Kobach ordered to attend legal classes for violating basic legal concepts

Dale Ho, the lead attorney for the ACLU, said Kobach’s defiance of the order did not appear to warrant emergency legal action.

“We are still reviewing and confirming the facts,” he told ThinkProgress. “To me, it looks like there are still some compliance problems but they do not appear to be emergency issues.  We’ll continue reviewing.”

Ho also told the Capital Journal that Kobach’s decision to continue enforcing the law is “outrageous.”

In April, Judge Julie Robinson found Kobach in contempt of court for disobeying court orders “when he failed to ensure that voter registration applications covered by the preliminary injunction order became fully registered.”

Kobach, an experienced attorney, has repeatedly violated the law throughout the trial. Robinson sanctioned him on multiple occasions for violating rules of evidence. At trial, she had to explain to him and his staff attorneys basic rules of civil procedure.

“I’m not going to allow anybody to testify to a document that’s not in evidence,” she said at one point. “Evidence 101. I’m not going to do it.”

In Monday’s order, she took that discipline to a new level when she ordered him to attend additional continuing legal education classes.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Republican lawmakers’ proposal to end family separation is going to hurt immigrant families

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 1:34pm

Republican lawmakers keep introducing bills that claim to address concerns about separating families at the border, but in reality will simply take away more protections for immigrants and fail to address zero tolerance policies.

The latest bill — the Keep Families Together and Enforce the Law Act — was introduced on Wednesday by Sens. Thom Tillis, Marco Rubio (R-FL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Tom Cotton (R-AR), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Ted Cruz (R-TX). It was also cosponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

The legislation is very similar to a bill introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Tuesday. It would allow the U.S. government to keep families together so long as the kids aren’t in danger, but it would also require asylum seekers to be deported at a faster pace and keep minors in detention for greater lengths of time. The Cruz bill would require the hiring of thousands of new immigration judges to hear cases 14 days after they cross the border at most and thus, give immigrants a lot less time to make their bids for asylum.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats have introduced legislation that would tackle the issue of family separation — and no Republicans have signed onTwo other House bills tackling immigration that will be considered this week fail to address the issue of family separation or detention conditions in any meaningful way. There are also still a lot of questions about what the executive order Trump signed on Wednesday would actually do.

Although Republicans in Congress say they’re taking action to improve the experiences of immigrants, that is not really what these bills would do.

A rushed timeline to make a case for asylum

Immigration lawyers and policy experts say that by accelerating the asylum process to 14 days, as is proposed by the Cruz bill, families are being set up for failure.

Kara Lynum, immigration attorney and owner of Lynum Law Office calls it a “nightmare scenario.”

“You’re required to have all corroborating documents and your real ID at the time of the application,” she said. “Only having 14 days for someone in custody in the middle of nowhere, Texas, with only a volunteer lawyer…it’s almost impossible to put together a case like that. I think that rule will definitely lead to increased denial, create detention during appeals, and balloon out to more immigration detention.”

Philip Wolgin, managing director of Immigration Policy at Center for American Progress, said it’s “kind of insane” to have the entire process take 14 days.

“You have to marshal together a significant number of resources showing that you’re being persecuted and documentation. These are things you need to get together over time and they’re asking people to prove credible fear in 24 hours and if that doesn’t work, appeal to immigration judge who only has five days to consider your case,” Wolgin said. “There is no way that those families are going to be able to get the documentation together that they need. What this will do is ensure that even people with the strongest cases will be sent back to harm and potentially even death.”

Wolgin said that an increase in the number of judges won’t be of much help to immigrant families either if there isn’t time to put together the documentation for their case. Tillis’ bill would authorize 225 new immigration judges “to prioritize timely adjudication of family cases.”

Amalia Wille, an immigration attorney whose practice focuses on removal proceedings and detention, family-based immigration, waivers and asylum, said asylum seekers need documentations from their home country such as police reports and statements from family members, and their lawmakers need time to collect evidence. She added judges should not be put in a position to make decisions under these circumstances.

“Judges should not be rushed by political pressure to make rulings under extreme time pressure, especially when the consequences are life and death for asylum seekers,” she told ThinkProgress over email. “Our country should not be deporting asylum seekers to their death because we did not give them a fair opportunity to make their legal claims to a judge.”

Making conditions in family detention centers worse

Lynum is concerned that without Flores, conditions in family detention centers could get even worse, and they’re already pretty poor.

Flores v. Reno is a 1997 Ninth Circuit case that limits the detention of minors and was settled as a consent decree. That decree was clarified almost a decade later to say that the decree applied to both accompanied and unaccompanied minors, who can’t be held for more than 20 days. Minors in federal custody are supposed to placed in the least restrictive environment and should receive information, treatment, and services. All the GOP legislation that has been proposed so far would overrule the Flores settlement since it would keep families in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody for long periods of time. 

Lynum said of a Dilley, Texas detention center, “It’s hard to get a doctor’s attention and once you do, you get subpar medical care. You get told to drink water or are refused medical care altogether. The food is bad. There is definitely an issue with safety in drinking water. And they’re being held in custody, so there are still children in jail but they happen to be be with their parents or their mom at least.”

In 2014, the Women’s Refugee Commission released a report called Locking Up Family Values, Again on the conditions in family immigration detention facilities that said large-scale family detention results in “egregious violations of our country’s obligations under international law, undercuts individual due process rights, and sets a poor example for the rest of the world.”

Lynum said she is concerned about anything that would chip away at or end Flores.

“My understanding is that kids would end up being held even longer because that settlement has such great language on how to get kids out of custody,” she said.

Lynum said the solution to the issue of family separation is not keeping families in custody.

“If we’re talking about getting these kids out of custody, the solution is not keeping them in custody with their parents,” she said. “The solution is saying both mom and dad and child can go fight their case in non-detention. The solution is not family detention. The solution is a notice to appear at a court date in the future and they’re on their way.”

Families will still be separated

Last but not least, families will still be separated so long as the House doesn’t choose to pick this up as a cause. And House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said he doesn’t want to pursue a narrow bill addressing family separation, according to the Hill.

Wolgin said, “Under the zero tolerance policy, if you get prosecuted, kids can’t be in criminal jails so parents get sent to jail and kids get separated. Under the Ryan bill, it says okay, if you are just being prosecuted for illegal entry, so a misdemeanor under federal law, we will process [everyone] in family detention and keep kids with their parents in these completely inadequate facilities.”

Wolgin said this means Republicans are not saying they will stop prosecuting people or stop their current zero tolerance policy and families are only being kept together when they are being prosecuted for illegal entry.

“It doesn’t even end family separation because at least in the Ryan bill, the only time a family stays together is only if they’re being prosecuted for only illegal entry offenses so if they’re being prosecuted for anything else — even if its illegal re-entry  and even if they]re claiming asylum — they’re still going to be separated. The bill doesn’t actually solve the problem.”

Still, House Republicans aren’t even sure what they are voting on on Thursday.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

WHO declassifies being transgender as a mental illness, undermines Trump’s trans military ban

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 1:31pm

The World Health Organization (WHO) has made an historic change, ending the era in which being transgender was considered a mental illness. In doing so, it has significantly undermined the Trump administration’s purported rationale for banning transgender people from military service.

In a new revision to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) — the first since 1992 — the language to describe transgender identities has been changed and moved. Instead of using the term “transsexualism,” the manual now refers to “gender incongruence,” and it is now listed among sexual health conditions — not mental disorders.

The WHO explained in a press statement that the “evidence is now clear that it is not a mental disorder” and listing it as such “can cause enormous stigma for people who are transgender.” It remains listed elsewhere in the manual because the WHO recognizes that “there remain significant health care needs that can best be met if the condition is coded under the ICD.”

Dr. Lale Say, coordinator for the WHO’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research, explained in an accompanying video that by reducing stigma, the change may increase access to care for transgender people. She also preemptively countered a common talking point about conservatives that this was just a political decision. “In this case, the decision was not only based on the advocacy or feedback from the concerned communities,” she explained. “All available evidence was reviewed and discussed by an external advisory group, and [that evidence] — together with the scientific basis of this condition and the feedback from the professional community and concerned communities — formed the basis of this decision.”

The ICD is used worldwide, offering a universal model for comparing health systems country to country, meaning the implications could be far-reaching. It is even the official system for the United States, despite the prominence of the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual (DSM) developed by the American Psychiatric Association, which means it has implications here as well.

These changes were forecasted by the medical experts who consulted on President Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military last fall. This is how the minutes from the November 9th committee meeting describe the conversation they had:

When asked if Gender Incongruence was in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the medical experts stated that it was not. It will, however, be included in the next update to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) codes when ICD version 11 is released. Gender incongruence is, however, currently included in the latest version of the Endocrine Society Guidelines.

When asked why the military medical specialists previously stated that transgenderism is not a medical condition, none of the medical experts could explain why that would be true. Transgenderism is the incongruence between one’s body and how that person sees themselves. There is no need to have a mental health concern in order to have medical procedures to facilitate a transition. The evolution to ICD 11 will make gender incongruence a sexual health issue.

In the rationale issued in March, the Trump administration explained that transgender people could not serve because of doubts about their mental health outcomes. But the doubts are not substantiated by the research, as evidenced by the WHO’s change to the ICD.

As a result, the trans ban is now flagrantly out of sync with even the diagnostic health manual the U.S. government uses. The administration is using its rationale to defend the ban in four different court battles, and the ICD change makes their case all the weaker.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Atlantic cover story is a loud dog whistle for anti-transgender parents

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 1:27pm

In his new cover story for The Atlantic, New York Magazine contributing writer Jesse Singal claims to cover all angles of the controversy around how best to support transgender and gender nonconforming kids. But consistent with his extensive record as a “concern troll” on this issue, the article’s lopsided perspectives and dearth of citations demonstrate that it’s actually a very elaborate dog whistle for parents looking to justify any doubts they have about their own transgender children.

Hailed as “balanced” and 12,000 words long, Singal never actually mentions the thing he’s clearly talking about throughout the piece: “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” (ROGD). ROGD is a fake diagnosis that was recently invented by groups of parents who advocate against affirming transgender youth. The premise is that teenagers who were assigned female at birth are being influenced by social media to suddenly decide that they are transgender boys, but that they are not legitimately transgender.

As the group Transgender Trend described it in an anti-trans booklet that it peddled to British schools:

Some professionals have noted a new presentation of gender dysphoria which appears after the start of puberty with no previous indication of gender confusion or unhappiness. This recent development has been termed Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria and it affects mostly teenage girls.

There is, however, no such thing as “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria.” The one study mentioning ROGD was conducted by Lisa L. Littman of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and only surveyed the anti-trans parent groups that invented the concept:,, and The study didn’t actually survey any teenagers who had supposedly experienced the phenomenon.

Another such collective,, makes clear that it believes “identifying as the opposite gender is not normal.” Despite being junk science, many conservatives have latched onto the theory to justify their anti-trans policies in schools and to convince parents to reject their children.

In his Atlantic feature, Singal never mentions ROGD by name, but references many of these groups’ talking points — several of which appear to be borrowed directly from advocates for ex-gay conversion therapy.

Parents may be “convinced that their child is in pain,” he writes, “but also concerned that physical transition is not the solution, at least not for a young person still in the throes of adolescence.” At another point, he refers to “when parents discuss the reasons they question their children’s desire to transition.”

Whether a parent doubts the legitimacy of a child’s transition has zero relevance to whether transitioning is best for their child. Humoring this doubt is exactly what makes the story so harmful.

Singal also insists that gender identity is so fluid in children that it may be impossible to tell whether a child’s gender is just a phase. “What does it mean to be affirming while acknowledging that kids and teenagers can have an understanding of gender that changes over a short span?” he asks at one point.

Not only does this approach undermine the validity of what young people say about their own gender, it’s another nod to parents who might not approve of what they hear. Conspicuously, the piece never references the refrain “insistent, persistent, and consistent” — shorthand for how psychiatrists identify when children are expressing gender dysphoria — perhaps because it would directly contradict his assertion that gender is impossibly fluid.

Singal also highlights the supposed “causes” of transgender identities frequently referenced by the parental groups. “Trauma, particularly sexual trauma, can contribute to or exacerbate dysphoria in some patients, but again, no one yet knows exactly why,” he claims with no citation.

There are zero studies supporting that claim, but it’s a common justification among proponents of ROGD for rejecting trans kids. If the trauma can somehow be healed, parents believe the kid will end up not being trans. Singal simply asserts it as truth.

Toward the end of the piece, Singal is even less subtle about his allusions to ROGD, directly referencing parents’ concerns about “social contagion” and the possibility their kids are somehow being “influenced by the gender-identity exploration they’re seeing online and perhaps at school or in other social settings, rather than experiencing gender dysphoria.”

Attributing the phenomenon only to “some anecdotal evidence,” he tells the story of Delta, an Oregon teen whose social circle was hit with “a wave of gender-identity experimentation.” Delta ultimately met with a therapist who helped her address some other mental health issues, Singal writes, following which her “gender dysphoria subsequently dissipated, though it’s unclear why.” His retelling of her experiences, however, suggests she was never actually diagnosed with “gender dysphoria,” making this another baseless claim.

Incidentally, Singal does not reveal that Delta’s mom, “Jenny,” is a part of 4thWaveNow, one of the anti-trans parent groups. On Twitter, she described the site as her “lifeline in supporting my dysphoric teen” and expressed disappointment that he didn’t mention the group in the story.

Singal insists that stories like Delta’s indicate some children who say they’re transgender may not actually be transgender, thereby justifying his skepticism:

In vast swaths of the United States, kids coming out as trans are much more likely to be met with hostility than with enhanced social status or recognition, and their parents are more likely to lack the willingness — or the resources — to find them care. But to deny the possibility of a connection between social influences and gender-identity exploration among adolescents would require ignoring a lot of what we know about the developing teenage brain — which is more susceptible to peer influence, more impulsive, and less adept at weighing long-term outcomes and consequences than fully developed adult brains — as well as individual stories like Delta’s.

As he does throughout most of the piece, Singal fails to reference any research supporting this theory. He asserts in his conclusion, “Some teenagers, in the years ahead, are going to rush into physically transitioning and may regret it.” He provides no citation for this claim.

Much of Singal’s piece focuses on people who have detransitioned, having expressed regret about the steps they took to transition. Accompanying the story is a video profile of Carey Callahan, a writer and activist who has talked about her experiences detransitioning on YouTube and in other places.

Singal notes, “The detransitioners who have spoken out thus far are mostly people who were assigned female at birth,” consistent with the assumption that ROGD is more common among teenage girls. In fact, not a single kid who was assigned male at birth even appears in the story.

‘I was enraged to see my story distorted and used’: Detransitioners object to anti-transgender book

Singal defends the “desistance myth,” the claim that some 80 percent of transgender children will “desist” in their gender identity. In several other articles for New York Magazine, Singal has insisted upon the legitimacy of this claim and efforts to help correct children’s gender accordingly — despite the fact that the research fails to support it.

While he notes there are some “credible critiques,” Singal argues that “the evidence that desistance occurs is overwhelming.” He provides no new research to support this “overwhelming” evidence, however, instead relying upon statements several organizations have made based on studies that don’t actually support the claim.

Singal does provide stories of two teens for whom transitioning was the right decision, but juxtaposes them to show that one was clear-cut and the other wasn’t. In the case of the second teen, a trans boy named Orion Foss, his mother was not on board for many years, which led to his hormone treatment being delayed.

The purpose of sharing the anecdotes appears to be convincing the reader that making kids wait to receive treatment isn’t a big deal. However, research has shown, in stark contradiction, that family rejection of trans identity is one of the most significant factors contributing to trans kids’ mental health concerns.

In short, Singal’s article is perhaps an elaborate form of “concern trolling” and nothing more. Though he claims to care about transgender youth, his thesis throughout is nevertheless to cast doubt on the legitimacy of their experiences.

What Singal gets right

Singal’s article gets one major concept right, though it’s a bit lost in his framing. There are definitely young people who might be experiencing feelings they personally believe to be gender dysphoria that are actually the result of other mental health issues. This is a common theme among detransitioners, who often discover underlying mental health issues only after they’ve taken steps to transition.

There is a troubled history of “gatekeeping” in psychiatric care for transgender people, and, as Singal notes, the pendulum may have swung too far in the opposite direction. A therapist prescribing hormones after two or three visits probably isn’t taking the proper time to work with clients to assess their mental health needs.

But this doesn’t justify the kind of skepticism Singal calls for, because that’s not what’s actually happening. It’s a myth perpetuated by anti-trans groups that kids with gender dysphoria are rushed into any kind of medical treatment. In the very exceptional cases when it does happen, as in some of the detransitioners’ stories, it’s actually not in keeping with the standards of care that medical providers are supposed to be following. Indeed, even the most trans-affirming therapists recognize that counseling is an important step before any transition occurs to properly establish a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

According to Daniel Shumer, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Michigan, a diagnosis of gender dysphoria in children “must be made carefully by skilled mental health professionals.” Parents may be skeptical or cautious when their kids come out as transgender, but it’s often the case that the children have experienced feelings of gender identity difference for years.

“In these situations, we encourage families to work together, allow for a safe space for gender exploration, and take medical decisions slowly,” he explained to ThinkProgress. Shumer also noted that the diagnostic criteria for gender dysphoria require that it’s been present for at least six months, contradicting the very premise of ROGD.

As a family therapist who has studied families with gender nonconforming children, Arlene Lev is familiar with the fear parents may have about what being trans might mean for their children. “When a teenager who never seemed to struggle with their gender comes out to a parent, they may worry that this is peer-influenced and that the teen is making a life-altering decision that they may come to regret,” she told ThinkProgress. She noted that gender dysphoria at any pace “can be destabilizing” for families, “which is why therapists must support families while they affirm children, an often complex balance.”

That’s why Lev, like Shumer, believes in working with a family as a team to carefully plan out a course of treatment. “In my experience, experienced therapists should recommend medical or surgical procedures to young people after careful assessment,” she said. “Medical transition requires consistent, insistent, and persistent gender dysphoria, and by definition that assumes that time is a factor in the assessment process.”

Dan Karasic, a psychiatrist at the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health, told ThinkProgress that he doesn’t think anyone believes that “transition is always the answer, though it often is.” The affirmative approach is about “supporting the young person in having an opportunity to explore what they are experiencing and understanding the risks and benefits of any medical or surgical treatment option.”

Karasic also dismissed ROGD and Singal’s allusions to the fake diagnosis. Some adolescents may suddenly announce to their parents that they’re trans, he acknowledged. but “most often they have had symptoms of gender dysphoria that have been persistent.” It’s just that they reach a point where they are “able to put a name to what they are experiencing and have worked up the courage to tell their parents.”

Parents might perceive the onset as sudden, but that doesn’t mean it was. Likewise, “It is not social contagion that makes youth trans, but peer support might help them feel able to come out to family,” Karasic said.

Singal actually interviewed Karasic, but didn’t include him in the article. Karasic had the impression that Singal had “started with an interest in understanding those for whom transition was not helpful.” Though it didn’t appear by name in the article, Karasic said Singal asked him about ROGD as well.

One other important point Singal glosses over is the reality that many young people might end up identifying as gender-nonbinary. They may experience some degree of gender dysphoria, but may find ways to resolve that dysphoria that don’t require medical interventions as part of a transition. But that doesn’t mean nonbinary teens in any way justify Singal’s skepticism of transitioning. The solution in either case is affirmation and allowing young people to be who they say they are.

Reactions tell the story

Rumors that Singal was working on a story for The Atlantic about transgender kids started circulating as far back as February. Several transgender activists called on The Atlantic and its owner, Emerson Collective, not to trust Singal with such a topic because of his past posts defending the desistance myth and those who are skeptical of letting kids transition. They received no response.

We hear @TheAtlantic is considering publishing more of Jesse Singal's anti-trans concern trolling. @emcollective should be aware that Singal lies a lot re: trans issues. For the sake of children, BE SURE YOU FACT CHECK before publishing misinformation:

— transadvocate (@transadvocate) February 18, 2018

In addition to the anti-trans bias in Singal’s writing, several transgender women have expressed concern about the unprofessional — allegedly harassing — way he has interacted with them. The prolific transgender writer Julia Serano, who has countered Singal’s talking points herself, has publicly written about negative experiences she and other trans women have had with Singal. (He has responded to some, but not all, of these accusations on his Medium page.) Since his story was published, two more trans women have spoken out about similar interactions:

…Singal has purposefully slut-shamed & lied about me, + sicced social media mobs on me – he has a history of adding GG-hastags to his critiques of trans women (receipts in comments section). I know several other trans women who've had similarly bad experiences with him…

— Julia Serano (@JuliaSerano) June 18, 2018

So here goes. Here's an email he sent me almost a year ago, swearing a storm at me because I tweeted something he disliked that he felt was untrue. The screencap of my tweet there was his; we're mutually blocked, for reference.

— Katherine Cross (@Quinnae_Moon) June 18, 2018

Jesse Singal regularly harasses trans people by email/text message. He once threatened to sue because I disagreed with him politely. Grapevine gossip about his bad behavior is intense. Hiring him to write this is like hiring Bill O'Reilly to write about #metoo WTF?

— Cat Fitzpatrick (@intermittentcat) June 19, 2018

Transgender people thus had reason to oppose giving Singal a platform to espouse more of his anti-transgender perspectives long before the article was published. Since it went live Monday, reactions from transgender people and their allies have been harsh.

Some called out his misrepresentations of what treatment looks like for transgender kids and the harm those distortions could do.

The last thing I wanted to have to deal with today was another scaremongering anti-trans diatribe from Jesse Singal, so I'll just comment briefly on the blatant lie that's straight on the cover.


— LGBT Sloth Month (@CaseyExplosion) June 18, 2018

Don't be misled. Most #trans kids have a stable gender identity after puberty. A small number have dynamic gender identities; we must treat them with compassion & respect. Right now it's difficult to predict who those few kids will be.

— Jack Turban MD (@jack_turban) June 20, 2018

So @jessesingal uses a case where a child was never officially diagnosed with gender dysphoria by a specialist as his fucking lede on this story about how sometimes gender dysphoria in kids is just a phase and needs professional intervention?

— Katelyn Burns (@transscribe) June 18, 2018

the atlantic's story perpetuates the notion that trans people are at fault for navigating the hardships of our identity when, in fact, it's cis people that make existing impossibly challenging.

and despite all of that? we're still here.

— Robyn Kanner (@robynkanner) June 18, 2018

Serano even “livetweeted” a reading of the article, critiquing its many flaws.

One of those flaws was the fact that the main image on the story appeared to show someone who may identify as a transgender boy or as nonbinary, but the headline read, “Your child says she’s trans. She wants hormones and surgery. She’s 13 years old.” In a tacit admission it had heard at least some of the negative feedback, The Atlantic later conspicuously changed the headline to read, “When Children Say They’re Trans.”

Others pointed out that trans writers rarely have the opportunity to write on such a platform. They questioned The Atlantic’s decision to elevate a writer with a known anti-trans bias who is not trusted by trans people to be the one writing on trans issues.

jesse singal getting paid to write so much as one single word on trans issues while competent and knowledgeable trans writers remain underemployed is all the proof you need that there's no such thing as meritocracy

— moth dad (@innesmck) June 18, 2018

Look, I'm an old goofy-ass cis person. And I'm not saying that X can only write about X. But I look at the opportunity Jesse Singal received from the Atlantic. And I look at how rare the opportunities are for trans women and men to receive the same shots and how that leads…

— Cheryl Lynn Eaton (@cheryllynneaton) June 19, 2018

Hey Atlantic, here’s a thought: Instead of paying Jesse Singal to write transphobic thinkpieces, pay trans writers to write about trans issues.

— Son Goku Stan (@JimGood13) June 19, 2018

In contrast, many of the people defending Singal’s piece are themselves opponents of transgender equality, including — unsurprisingly — the very parent groups that invented ROGD.

Good to see this balanced piece by @jessesingal in @TheAtlantic. What jumps out is that this is a story of teenage girls. The M/F ratio of those transitioning seems to be matched by the ratio of those who regret transition from what we see online and in detrans surveys.

— TransgenderTrend (@Transgendertrd) June 18, 2018

Whether you like this piece; even if you're disappointed, please support the free press & @TheAtlantic for daring to publish it. We live in a time when self-appointed censors & public scolds work to squelch free inquiry and reasoned debate. #Resist

— 4thWaveNow (@4th_WaveNow) June 19, 2018

I read ⁦@jessesingal⁩’s cover story on kids and teens who struggle with their gender or who may identify as transgender. ⁦It is truly courageous that @TheAtlantic⁩ published a piece that questions the dogma of transgender activism.

— Andrew T. Walker (@andrewtwalk) June 19, 2018

Trans Advocates Lose Their Minds Over Balanced Atlantic Cover Story @FDRLST @BlueBoxDave

— Ryan T. Anderson (@RyanTAnd) June 19, 2018

The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher — who wrote a whole book encouraging conservative Christians to isolate themselves from society to avoid the advance of LGBTQ equality — also lavished praise on the story, calling Singal “a brave man.”

It would appear that opponents of transgender equality heard Singal’s anti-trans dog whistle, loud and clear. Though some might try to credit the story for having a “balanced” approach, the harmful rejection it enables will be its legacy.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Why is the lobbyist for a sanctioned Russian oligarch visiting Julian Assange?

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 1:21pm

The lobbyist for a sanctioned Russian oligarch visited Julian Assange, the Wikileaks head currently holed up in London’s Ecuadorian embassy, numerous times last year.

But no one knows why.

The Guardian reported Wednesday that visitor logs at the Ecuadorian embassy  show that Adam Waldman, the longtime lobbyist for sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, stopped by to visit Assange a total of nine times last year, more than nearly anyone else.

Waldman’s visits bookended Trump’s 2017 inauguration, with the most recent stop by the embassy coming last November.

Neither Waldman nor Deripaska responded to the Guardian’s questions about the nature of Waldman’s visits. Assange, who recently had his Twitter access revoked by the Ecuadorian government, has also not commented.

Wow. Adam Waldman, a lobbyist for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, visited Julian Assange nine times at the Ecuadorian embassy in London last year. To discuss what? (When I worked at State, Waldman regularly shilled for Deripaska to try to get him a visa).

— Michael Carpenter (@mikercarpenter) June 20, 2018

While it’s unclear what Assange and Waldman — or potentially Assange and Deripaska — may have discussed during these frequent visits, Deripaska has featured prominently in questions about potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Deripaska, an aluminum magnate who had previously said that he does not consider himself separate from the Russian government, had extensive business dealings with former Trump campaign adviser Paul Manafort, who is currently in solitary confinement and facing numerous charges of witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

In April, the Treasury Department sanctioned Deripaska, who had previously been denied a U.S. visa on account of suspected ties to organized crime. “There are also allegations that Deripaska bribed a government official, ordered the murder of a businessman, and had links to a Russian organized crime group,” the Treasury Department release noted.

As The Guardian’s report added, Waldman has also worked in the past for Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in efforts to get Deripaska a visa.

As part of Waldman’s attempts to improve Deripaska’s image, he recently wrote a conspiracy-laden op-ed for The Daily Caller about the so-called “Russia narrative” in the U.S. Rather than identify Deripaska as a Russian tycoon close to the Kremlin, The Daily Caller simply referred to him as “the founder of UC Rusal, a large Russian aluminum company.” Sources indicated to The Guardian that Waldman, who received over a half-million dollars from Deripaska last year, helped get the op-ed published.

Both Assange and Wikileaks have been a font of pro-Russian conspiracies of their own over the past few years, such as pushing Moscow’s line when it comes to who actually shot down flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014. Both Wikileaks and Assange have also been widely accused of collaborating with Russian hackers who stole emails pertaining to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

A new angle on MH17: Rebels fired at Ukraine fighter jet which was using MH17 as decoy and

— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 23, 2014

Assange’s numerous meetings with Deripaska’s lobbyists will only add to the questions surrounding Assange’s motivations.

Nor is Deripaska the only figure in the ongoing investigation into potential collusion whose new ties to Assange have recently surfaced. Emails from longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone indicate Stone had prior knowledge of Wikileaks’ 2016 release of the stolen emails — with one email revealing Stone even shared a meal with Assange.

The most damning thing in Roger Stone’s newly released email about Assange

Stone, who refused to divulge any information about his contacts with Wikileaks during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee last fall, has repeatedly lied about the content of both emails and tweets he sent. But as he noted in one email when discussing Clinton’s lead in an August 2016 poll, “enjoy it while u can. I dined with my new pal Julian Assange last nite.”

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