The Stew Reporting on government and politics

Caught in the middle

Politics | Detained migrants endure deplorable conditions as Congress debates funding
by Kyle Ziemnick
Posted 6/27/19, 03:28 pm

WASHINGTON—Three months ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., sent a Dear Colleague letter to Democrats in Congress that called out President Donald Trump for trying to propose “a fake crisis at the border.” But that was before they saw a viral photo of a Salvadoran father and daughter who drowned in each other’s arms Monday attempting to cross the Rio Grande, before they heard of children detained in squalid conditions in a Border Patrol facility near El Paso.

Now, almost no one is denying a crisis at the southern U.S. border. As the Border Patrol found itself stretched past its limit this week, congressional Democrats and Republicans tussled over policy packages, leaving those most vulnerable caught in the middle. In response to overwhelming pressure, House Democrats on Thursday reluctantly agreed to pass a Senate-endorsed bill allocating $4.6 billion to improving border security and caring for detained migrants.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported earlier this month that the combined number of people detained at the southern border for illegal crossing or lack of proper admission documents at a U.S. point of entry was almost 150,000 in May. Over the previous five fiscal years, the record for that same number in a month was just under 70,000 in 2014. There have been more detentions at the border in the past four months than in the entirety of 2017.

The flood caught the Border Patrol off-guard. John Sanders, who recently announced his resignation as acting head of CBP, said the agency could handle about 4,000 migrants in holding. They’ve now been forced to hold 15,000.

Trump has been calling for Congress to increase funding for immigration enforcement for a long time. He referenced a border “crisis” on Twitter in 2014, criticizing President Barack Obama for his handling of the situation. He then made battling illegal immigration a key component of his campaign and his presidency. A stalemate between the White House and Congress over funding for border security led to the 35-day government shutdown this past winter, after which Trump declared a national emergency at the southern border.

Finally, after long debates, Congress has agreed on a funding bill to begin to adress the crisis. The House version, passed earlier this week by the Democratic majority, avoided funding anything besides medical care for migrants. It did not give any additional dollars to border security or immigration courts and added requirements for border agencies as conditions for their funding.

The Senate version, passed Wednesday with an 84-8 bipartisan vote, gives some funding to the military for border security and adds judges for immigration hearings, but the $4.6 billion package focuses almost entirely on creating better care for those migrants who are already in custody. That version passed in the House late Thursday.

“At the end of the day, we have to make sure that the resources needed to protect the children are available,” Pelosi wrote in a Dear Colleague letter to her fellow Democrats. “In order to get resources to the children fastest, we will reluctantly pass the Senate bill.”

Meanwhile, detained migrants are suffering in overcrowded, dirty facilities. This week, about 100 migrant children were returned to the holding facility in Clint, Texas, where a group of lawyers reported seeing more than 250 dirty, hungry, and sick kids during a recent inspection. They said they saw children as young as eight taking care of strangers’ babies, toddlers who did not have diapers, and kids who hadn’t been allowed to shower in a month.

Customs and Border Patrol transferred all children out of Clint on Monday but later moved about 100 back in. Journalists who toured the facility Wednesday said the children appeared clean and fed, eating mostly instant foods such as noodles and oatmeal.

“Not ideal, but what we had to do,” Matt Harris, the Border Patrol agent in charge of the facility, said about adapting the kitchen-less site that was originally designed to hold adults for short periods.

The overrun conditions in Clint are consistent with reports from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) about another processing center in El Paso. In May, the DHS Office of the Inspector General, reported that the center, which had a maximum capacity of 125, housed 900 migrants. There are pictures of a room designed to hold 35 people at most that contained 155.

The report posed a concern that the conditions were “an immediate risk to the health and safety not just of the detainees, but also DHS agents and officers.”

WORLD has updated this report to reflect that Congress passed a bipartisan border funding bill Thursday afternoon.

Associated Press/Photo by Craig Ruttle Associated Press/Photo by Craig Ruttle E. Jean Carroll

Accusation against Trump met with skepticism, fatigue

A new sexual assault accusation against President Donald Trump based on an alleged incident 25 years ago caused a minimal surge in the overlapping circuits of news, social media, and politics late last week.

On Friday, New York magazine published an excerpt from advice columnist E. Jean Carroll’s upcoming book in which she said Trump attacked her in a New York City department store dressing room. She said the encounter, which happened in either late 1995 or early 1996, started off friendly when they ran into each other and he asked for help picking out a gift for an unnamed “girl.” (Trump was married to his second wife, Marla Maples, at the time.) Later, Carroll said, he held her against a dressing room wall and violated her.

Trump said in a statement issued to the White House press pool that he didn’t know Carroll and the incident never happened. “I’ll say it with great respect: Number one, she’s not my type. Number two, it never happened,” Trump said in an interview with The Hill.

Carroll’s book, titled What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal, tells of encounters throughout her life with what she calls “hideous men.” If her descriptions are true, the men, who also include disgraced former CBS CEO Les Moonves, were not only hideous but also abusive and in some cases psychopathic. The weekend after the excerpt was published, the story was not mentioned on the Sunday morning talk shows, and most major newspapers left it off their front pages.

Since the Times and the New Yorker kicked off the #MeToo movement with bombshell reporting on movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s alleged serial abuse, journalistic standards for reporting rape and sexual assault have evolved. Until #MeToo, most news outlets would not report a rape accusation without corroborating evidence from law enforcement. Now they use other methods of verification such as texts, emails, accounts from close friends and relatives, and fact-checking other details of the story.

Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times, said reporters initially attempted to verify Carroll’s story with outside, on-the-record sources and couldn’t. He told the Times’ Reader Center blog that, in retrospect, he wished they had played the story bigger.

The Times eventually got two of Carroll’s friends to go on the record, and on Thursday, it aired an interview with all three women on The Daily podcast. The women, Carol Martin and Lisa Birnbach, both said Carroll told them about the alleged assault shortly after it happened. Their interview could lead more media outlets to give the accusation more attention, but it’s possible that after almost a week, the story has exceeded its shelf life in the 24-hour news cycle.

Trump’s opponents, specifically the candidates hoping to run against him for the presidency in 2020, did not pounce on the story right away, either. When asked over the weekend by journalists about the accusation, most of them called it serious and said law enforcement should investigate but stopped short of saying they thought it was true.

Along with concerns about veracity, another more haunting possibility exists for why Carroll’s story hasn’t dominated the headlines. After hearing accusations of infidelity, harassment, or assault from more than a dozen women against Trump—along with remarks he made to Access Hollywood host Billy Bush in 2005 about forcibly kissing and groping women—the public might be desensitized to them and to allegations of sexual assault against powerful men in general.

“One of the reasons that some of the media coverage might have been stifled is around this question of whether America has reached #MeToo fatigue,” Laura Palumbo, communications director at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, told USA Today. “#MeToo has been about [us] as a society coming to the realization that sexual harassment and abuse are commonplace experiences for women. ... The challenge is the more that sexual harassment and assault is normalized, the more it can take away some of the outrage, and that may be what’s diluting some of the response.” —Lynde Langdon

Associated Press/Photo by Matt Slocum (file) Associated Press/Photo by Matt Slocum (file) Joe Sestak, his wife, Susan (left), and daughter, Alex, in Media, Pa., in 2016

2020 update

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania on Sunday became the latest contender to jump into the crowded Democratic field. Sestak, 67, is a retired Navy admiral who represented Pennsylvania from 2007 to 2011 and worked in the Clinton administration on the National Security Council. In his announcement video, Sestak framed himself as a leader who would be accountable to working-class Americans. He said his late announcement is due to supporting his daughter in her battle against resurgent brain cancer, which she has since overcome.

Meanwhile, 10 qualifying candidates fought to distinguish themselves in the first debate of primary season Wednesday night. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and her progressive policies landed center stage as moderators asked candidates their positions on abolishing private health insurance, free higher education, and decriminalizing border crossings.

On Thursday night, voters will see how Democratic front-runner former Vice President Joe Biden fares alongside other leading candidates, including Sen. Bernie Sanders and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Buttigieg recently returned to the presidential campaign trail after a short hiatus. He went back to South Bend after a police officer fatally shot an African American man the weekend before, a crisis that has threatened to roil his campaign. The officer was responding to a report of a man breaking into cars and did not activate his body camera at the time of the shooting. The officer claimed he was reacting in self-defense and that Eric Logan, 54, had wielded a knife.

At a contentious town hall meeting, Buttigieg fielded questions from tearful and angry citizens, including Logan’s mother. Buttigieg acknowledged that his administration should have done more to implement body cameras and recruit minority officers. The skepticism toward the mayor from the black community may be deeper than a single incident. In 2012, Buttigieg demoted the city’s first African American police chief, Darryl Boykins, after a scandal involving the surreptitious recording of police officers’ phone conversations. Boykins sued the city, alleging that the tapes were a pretext to oust him due to racial discrimination. Litigation has tied up the tapes, which allegedly contain officers making racist comments, and the case ever since, though a ruling could come soon. —H.P.

YouTube/NowThis News YouTube/NowThis News Former Vice President Joe Biden at the Planned Parenthood forum in South Carolina

Homage to Planned Parenthood

Twenty Democratic presidential candidates attended a Planned Parenthood forum in Columbia, S.C., on Saturday to pledge their support for abortion under nearly any circumstance.

Each candidate had 15 minutes to answer questions and convince voters he or she would offer the most pro-abortion ticket. They decried recent pro-life bills passed by Republican-controlled states around the country, villainized attempts to overturn the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision that led to the legalization of abortion nationwide, and boasted of their pro-abortion policies.

Sen. Kamala Harris of California said she would create a “preclearance” system that would force states passing any laws protecting the unborn to undergo federal review.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, meanwhile, denied that he had a “mixed record” on abortion despite his recent flip-flop on abolishing the Hyde Amendment, which prevents taxpayer money from directly funding abortions.

Outside the forum, pro-life protesters toted signs reading ,“I am the Pro-life Generation,” and, “Defund Planned Parenthood.”

“In what is many of these Democrats’ first visit to South Carolina, it’s amazing to see that their first stop is to go pay homage to the radical pro-abortion lobby at Planned Parenthood,” state Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick said in a statement. —H.P.

Associated Press/Photo by Carolyn Kaster Associated Press/Photo by Carolyn Kaster President Donald Trump at the signing ceremony for the healthcare information executive order

Simplifying healthcare

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday aimed at making it easier for Americans to understand their healthcare bills and make informed choices.

The executive order calls for insurers, doctors, and other healthcare providers to give patients information about the price of their services to make it easier to choose the most competitive rates. The order also requires insurers and providers to tell patients ahead of time about any out-of-pocket costs in the form of deductibles and copays.

The Trump administration says arming consumers with more information will dramatically cut healthcare costs. But some insurers say the idea could backfire if hospitals that now give deep discounts try to raise their own negotiated prices in response.

The change will not occur soon. The order calls for federal agencies first to issue regulations and guidance to the healthcare industry on how to implement pricing transparency, and the process is expected to take months or even years. —H.P.

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Kyle Ziemnick

Kyle is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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  • OldMike
    Posted: Wed, 07/03/2019 01:18 pm

    1). Migrants. Yes, conditions in detention facilities are not great. But the people just keep coming, hoping to penetrate our borders illegally.  One might even say their misery is self-inflicted. One might also suspect those migrants are being encouraged by many who want to see our borders erased. Some of those are fellow Americans. Shame for manipulating the suffering of those migrants to make political gain!

    2). E. Jean Carroll.  A self promoter. Probably somewhat mentally ill. Probably a liar. 

    3).  Democratic Presidential candidates. I DO NOT CARE how “moderate” or “reasonable” or “decent” some of them may appear. They ALL totally sign on to allowing the murder of human infants.  Some even go further, and PROMOTE abortion. The blood cries out for justice!

    4). Healthcare insurance. It’s a mess, and there are a great number of selfish interests who are benefiting from keeping it confusing, obscure, and highly profitable.