NYMHM for 30 June

We think readers might be missing the news of children in detention camps not because the headlines aren’t there but because the news is so hard to read. If you read the news here, you’ll also see the ways you can intervene in it–and get a glimpse of the many others who are acting as well.

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. Children kept in detention beyond legal time limits.

Half of the 2,300 children kept in a “temporary” tent shelter in Homestead, Florida have been there longer than the 20 days permitted by law. Many have been in the crowded, chaotic facility for months, according to the New York Times. As the Times explains, because it is temporary, it “is not subject to state regulations and inspections intended to guarantee child welfare — only to a loose set of Department of Health and Human Services guidelines. ” RLS

2. Children returned to troubled detention center

Over the night of June 23-24 some 270 children were removed from the Clint, Texas Border Patrol Station where they had been housed for weeks in inhumane conditions, as we noted last week. On Monday, approximately two hundred and fifty of these children were placed in a shelter network run by the Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement shelter, the AP reported.. The remainder were moved to a Custom and Border Patrol “tent city.” By June 25 over one hundred of those children had been returned to Clint because the “overcrowding situation” had been “relieved.” No information is available on the locations of individual children, the conditions at those sites, how soon they will be shipped to yet another facility and what is being done to re-unite them with their parents. Also on June 25, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Acting Commissioner, John Sanders, tendered his resignation. It is now being reported that Mark Morgan will become Acting Commissioner. Morgan is a favorite of Steve Miller (more or less Trump’s chief-cooking-up-ways-to-abuse-asylum-seekers guy), and had been previously suggested for the acting Commissioner position, but his appointment had been blocked at that time by Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan. S-HP

3. Federal judge gives government two weeks to “remediate” conditions at detention centers

Judge Dolly Gee has directed the monitor she appointed last year to act quickly to address conditions in detention centers, in response to a motion from lawyers who visited the centers. She has also insisted that doctors be permitted in the facility, according to CNN. Monitors from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General also reported significant problems due to overcrowding, according to the New York Times. In May, Reuters ran pictures from above of a make-shift detention camp in McAllen, Texas, where people were sleeping on the ground and the overcrowding is evident.

As the Times reported, “the conditions under which children are being held ‘could be compared to torture facilities,’ Dolly Lucio Sevier, a pediatrician who visited the Clint facility, said in her declaration. ‘That is, extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water, or adequate food.'”

A seven-year-old girl being held in the Clint facility is showing signs of severe trauma; she is allowed to call her parents, who live and work in the U.S., but she can only sob uncontrollably on the telephone, according to an AP story. RLS

Yes magazine has a list of 20 ways to help immigrants. See Rogan’s list for other options.

4. 60,000 asylum-seeking children entered the U.S. in the last 40 days.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan reported that 60,000 refugee children had been detained at the border in the last 40 days, according to the BBC. Some arrived along with their families; others came alone. The BBC did not provide further details. RLS

5. Asylum officers’ union protests “remain in Mexico” policy

The union representing asylum officers, whose job it is to enforce the policy formally called “Migrant Protection Protocols which requires asylym seekers to remain in Mexico until their cases can be heard, says that the policy threatens asylum-seekers’ lives and “creates a conflict between their professional responsibility and the president’s directives,” NPR reported.
“[The Migrant Protection Protocols program] violates our Nation’s longstanding tradition and international treaty and domestic obligation not to return those fleeing persecution to a territory where they will be persecuted,” the union wrote in its filing to the 9th Circuit Court, according to NPR. RLS

6. Advocating for refugees

Two important pieces of legislation that would protect asylum-seekers from unreasonable detention have been languishing in the Senate Judiciary Committee since February. S.397, the Shut Down Child Prison Camps Act, introduced by Jeff Merkley, would prohibit Health and Human Services from operating unlicensed temporary shelters for the detention of asylum-seeking children. S.388, the Families Not Facilities Act, introduced by Kamala Harris, would prohibit civil immigration actions that harm unaccompanied children and set guidelines for ensuring their safety and welfare S-HP

Last week we gave you a list of organizations that are helping asylum-seekers. You can see that list here. This week, we offer you some points to consider when writing legislators.

7. Tillerson testified, Mueller scheduled to testify

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whom Trump fired in 2018, testified before Congress last month that Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner left him out of various diplomatic initiatives, according to the Washington Post. In the transcript recently made available, the Post reports that Tillerson testified that “Kushner ‘met often’ with Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.”

Robert Mueller will be testifying before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees in July. In an opinion piece for NBC, Mimi Rocah explains why Mueller’s testimony matters. We should be familiar by now with the way much testimony before Congressional committees is conducted. Each committee member is allotted time for posing her/his questions of the person being interviewed—and quite frequently the Congressmember uses the bulk of that time to pontificate on her/his views, rather than to ask questions that might provide new, important information on the topic of the testimony. The last thing we need when Mueller testifies is for that time to be eaten up by commentary by those hostile to the investigation. S-HP

If you want to speak up about the grandstanding that might prevent Mueller from being heard, write the Judiciary and Intelligence Committee Chairs.

8. Trump withholding information

The Trump administration continues to withhold information regarding five meetings Trump has had with Vladimir Putin. For months, the Chairs of three House committees—Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight and Government Reform—have been trying to obtain documentation from these meetings, which should be preserved under the Presidential Records Act. White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has twice failed to respond to written Congressional inquiries regarding these materials. The Washington Post quotes Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Elijah E. Cummings as explaining, “The Presidential Records Act is at the core of the Oversight Committee’s legislative and oversight jurisdiction… the White House has disregarded these legitimate congressional inquiries and dissembled about basic facts. These actions do not serve the interests of the American people, and they obstruct and frustrate the Committee’s review.” Now a pair of progressive nonprofits—American Oversight and Democracy Forward—have filed suit against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in hoped of gaining the release of these materials. The lawsuit argues that under the Federal Records Act, Pompeo is required to preserve any meeting notes prepared by State Department employees. S-HP

If you want to speak up about the withholding of documents, here is where to write.

9. Ensuring Election Security

The House has passed H.R.1946, the Securing American’s Elections Act. H.R.1946 would allocate $600 million for improved state-level election security and would provide an addition $175 million every two years for continued maintenance and improvement of state election systems. It also requires specific cybersecurity measures, including a ban on wireless communication devices in election systems. Republicans are claiming that this legislation is a form of federal overreach and that election security should be a state-level issue, despite the number of failures we’ve seen in state elections over the past few years. Now that this legislation has been passed by the House, it needs to be taken up by the Senate, where Mitch McConnell seems determined to prevent serious consideration of any election security legislation, Salon points out. S-HP

If you would like to tell your senators that election security matters to you, the information you need is here.

10. Avoiding war with Iran

“That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.” This is the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, passed three days after 9/11, which the Trump administration could use to launch an attack on Iran without seeking Congressional approval, the New Yorker points out. RLS

Nonetheless, Congress has some options for trying to end this war before it is launched. Senators can refuse to support the National Defense Authorization Act until it includes the bipartisan Udall-Paul amendment to prohibit unauthorized military operations in or against Iran. Senators can also support S.1039, which explicitly denies the administration authorization to go to war with Iran—Feinstein and Harris have both done this. S.1039 is currently with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Representatives can insist on a similar House amendment to the Defense Authorization Act and co-sponsor H.R.2354, the House companion to S.1039. H.R.2354 is currently with the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees. Both Senators and Representatives can issue public statements making clear that Congress has not authorized the use of any military force against Iran. S-HP

If you want to speak up about a possible war on Iran, you can find the names and addresses of people to write here.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

11. Canada resettled the most refugees–but still not enough

Of the 92,400 refugees who were resettled last year, 28,100 were received by Canada, according to the U.N. The United States resettled 22,900. The UN High Commissioner on refugees attributes Canada’s success in resettling refugees and moving them toward citizenship to the system of private sponsorship, which gives them more opportunities to integrate into Canadian society, according to the CBC.

However, some 70 million people worldwide have been displaced from their homes due to persecution or conflict.. Most of them are hosted in temporary arrangements outside North America,: “Turkey hosted the largest number of refugees worldwide, with 3.7 million people in 2018, while Pakistan hosted 1.4 million and Uganda 1.2 million,” according to the CBC. RLS

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

12. Agriculture

The Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is known globally for the abilities of its scientists and the quality of research it produces. This research is unique in that, while it is peer-reviewed, it is aimed directly at farmers and consumers, instead of being limited to appearing in scientific journals. In a “normal” administration, the Department of Agriculture would be publicizing the findings of government-funded studies by ARS. But at the moment, there are significant gaps in what the Department of Agriculture does and doesn’t choose to bring to public attention—with at least 45 completed studies not receiving the promotion that would usually accompany their release. An investigation by Politico has documented this change in Department of Agriculture practice and has found a common factor among the unpublicized findings: they all address the effects of climate change. These are studies looking at the likely impact of rising temperatures, volatile weather, and increased carbon dioxide levels—which most certainly are occurring, even if the administration insists that scientists remain silent on the causes of these.

The findings of these studies include the following:
–Rice, which is the basis of the diet of over 800 million people, loses vitamins in a carbon-rich environment;
–The quality of grasses used in raising cattle is reduced by climate warming;
–Warm temperatures boost pollen counts, creating longer and worsen allergy seasons;
–Agriculture pollution and nutrient runoff, which are responsible for the growing dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, will increase with warming, but could be avoided with specific conservation practices;
–Coffee is a useful plant for studying interactions among plants, pests, and our changing environment.

Bottom line: these are studies with important implications for farming and public health, but ordinary Americans may miss much of this information because of what the Department of Agriculture now leaves out. S-HP

If you want to speak up about omissions in Department of Agriculture reports, you can write officials at the addresses here.

RESOURCES

  • The Americas of Conscience Checklist is focusing on voter empowerment for the month of June. See their site for an explanation and easy actions you can take.
  • Some of the items from Sarah-Hope’s list are integrated with the stories above; see the full list for more opportunities to be heard.
  • Martha’s list  provides opportunities to comment for the public record. This week she covers natural gas drilling in Alaska, toxins in drinking water, relaxed requirements for transporting nuclear weapons, protections for LGBTQ health, and many other issues–in particular proposals to redefine how the government measures things – poverty rates, pollution.
  • Rogan’s list has ways to speak up about the need to investigate Kavanaugh for perjury, multiple options for addressing the crisis of children in detention, the importance of pressing Democratic presidential candidates on climate change–and more.

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