Headlines: July 3, 2019
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The Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General on Tuesday released a report on the squalid and disturbing conditions inside migrant detention centers, confirming what members of Congress, lawyers, and journalists have said in recent days. The report, titled, “DHS Needs to Address Dangerous Overcrowding and Prolonged Detention of Children and Adults in the Rio Grande Valley,” includes numerous photos of the insides of detention centers holding men, women, and children packed inside small cells barely big enough to hold them all.
The report stated, “Senior managers at several facilities raised security concerns for their agents and the detainees. For example, one called the situation ‘a ticking time bomb.’ Moreover, we ended our site visit at one Border Patrol facility early because our presence was agitating an already difficult situation. Specifically, when detainees observed us, they banged on the cell windows, shouted, pressed notes to the window with their time in custody, and gestured to evidence of their time in custody.”
A federal judge has blocked an order by Attorney General William Barr to keep asylum seekers detained indefinitely until their asylum cases are processed, in a blow to President Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda. Judge Marsha J. Pechman said that those applying for a bond hearing must have their request met within 7 days or released from custody. Barr’s order has exacerbated the overcrowding situation in detention facilities. The White House predictably blasted the ruling with Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham saying, “No single district judge has legitimate authority to impose his or her open borders views on the country.”
Reports emerged on Tuesday that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has begun sending out notices for extremely hefty fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars to those people who received deportation orders but did not abide by them. One undocumented woman who has sought sanctuary in a church in North Carolina has received a notice for a $300,000 fine. According to the Washington Post, “ICE’s headquarters issued the notices days after President Trump postponed immigration raids that would have targeted parents and children with outstanding deportation orders.”
Meanwhile the House Oversight and Reform Committee has scheduled a hearing next week into the recent ProPublica report of a secret FaceBook group of current and former Customs and Border Patrol agents who shared extremist, racist, anti-immigrant, and misogynist content. And on Tuesday the Trump administration finally backed off on imposing a question about citizenship on the 2020 Census questionnaire.
President Trump’s ambitious demand for a militarized celebration of Independence Day has irked some generals. The President has insisted on flyovers by a stealth fighter and the display of armored tanks. But CNN reported that some military chiefs voiced concerns privately about the politicization of the military on the Fourth of July. According to CNN, “In early June, former acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan issued an internal memo to all Pentagon personnel, service members and civilian employees calling on leaders to “reinforce the apolitical nature” of the US military,” Several chiefs will not be attending.
Trump has been found to be using $2.5 million of park service fees to pay for part of his July 4th extravaganza. The fees were paid by park attendees and intended for park maintenance and improvement, not nationalist displays of military might. Thursday’s events in Washington DC are also being criticized for sounding like a political rally for Trump’s reelection as major Republican Party donors and political appointees were given VIP tickets to attend the tax-payer funded festivities. Senator Tom Udall, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee told the Washington Post, “We’ve never seen anything like this…No ticketed political event should be paid for with taxpayer dollars.”
Meanwhile progressive activists are planning their own Independence Day festivities in Washington DC with, “a flag burning, a senior citizens’ singalong and the unveiling of ‘Baby Trump,’ a scowling, orange-faced balloon best known for its flights over London protests,” as per the Post. And on Saturday, a white supremacist gathering by the group Proud Boys on the Freedom Plaza, will be met with counter protests.
A new poll of Democratic Presidential candidates Washington Post-ABC News released on Wednesday found former Vice President Joe Biden is managing to hold on to his lead with 29% support. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders remains steady in 2nd place with 23%. But both Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren have picked up support and are tied for third place at 11% each. Biden is seen as the most “electable,” while Sanders and Warren are tied at the top for having the most new ideas. A second poll also released on Wednesday by Reuters and Ipsos shows Biden’s support having dropped by half among black voters after the recent debates. Black voters appear to have turned to Harris instead.
A military jury in San Diego, California has acquitted a Navy Seal in a murder case over the death of a teenage ISIS fighter. Edward Gallagher, whose case President Trump took a great interest in, was found guilty of posing with the victim’s body, but not of killing him. According to Associated Press, “Gallagher was also charged with attempted murder in the shootings of two civilians — an old man and a young girl — and four other charges: unlawfully discharging his firearm by shooting at noncombatants, impeding an investigation by discouraging platoon members from reporting his criminal actions, retaliating against those who did, and wrongfully posing with a casualty.” After the jury’s verdict, Gallagher took the unusual step of thanking Fox News and Trump.
In international news, an air strike hit a migrant detention center in Tripoli, Libya on Tuesday killing 44 people inside. The Libyan government called the airstrike a war crime and blamed the Libyan National Army led by General Khalifa Hifter. The rebel group has been trying to take control of Tripoli by force. The United Nations on Wednesday said that the strike, “clearly could constitute a war crime.” The European Union has also denounced it and called for an investigation. However, according to the New York Times, “thousands of migrants [are] held in squalid detention centers, often at the behest of European countries seeking to halt migration across the Mediterranean.”
A United Nations investigator has said that Myanmar is once more committing atrocities that could amount to war crimes. Yanghee Lee, the U.N. independent expert on human rights in Myanmar made the announcement saying that Myanmar’s authorities and insurgent groups appear to be violating human rights while a mobile phone black out is put into place.
And finally Moody’s Analytics released a new climate change report on Wednesday and estimated that planetary warming to the tune of 2 degrees Celsius could cost the global economy about $69 trillion by the year 2100. If global warming raised temperatures by 1.5 degrees, the damage would be about $54 trillion. Climate change, according to the report will, “universally hurt worker health and productivity” and that more frequent extreme weather events “will increasingly disrupt and damage critical infrastructure and property.”