559 forgotten children

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559 forgotten children

In June, a federal judge ordered that all children separated from their parents by the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” be reunited by July 26. Twenty days after the deadline, approximately 559 children remain separated, including 369 children whose parents were already deported without them.

The federal government’s position is that this is someone else’s problem.

In its most recent filing with the court, dated August 10, the government stated that it was up to the ACLU to find the deported parents, talk to them and determine whether they want to be reunited with their children.

The government’s position is that the ACLU should “contact class members and ascertain their wishes regarding reunification, and then to work with agency partners and foreign government officials to develop a safe and efficient plan for returning the children of class members to their home countries to be reunified with their parents.”

Left unsaid: The government has no plans to reunite these families and does not intend to develop one.

This is a moral atrocity of historic proportions but, after a short burst of attention in June, has mostly faded from the headlines and the public consciousness.

Kids, not numbers

The raw numbers show progress. Since the initiation of the ACLU lawsuit, 1992 children have been reunited with their parent or to “other appropriate circumstances.”

But there are still hundreds of children who remain separated from their families. They are kids, not numbers.

José Galvez traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border in May with his 16-year-old daughter, Kenia. He was hoping to find work. Two weeks ago, he was deported back to Honduras. Kenia, he says, remains in the United States in ICE custody.

Here is a photo of José in Honduras with the rest of his family, including his wife Rosalina, posted by WBUR reporter Shannon Dooling.

Rosalina has been in touch with an immigration advocate in Boston who is trying to help them find their daughter. The family says they have not heard from U.S. or Honduran officials.

Planned chaos

It’s difficult for parents to contact the U.S. officials who took custody of their children -- and that doesn’t seem to be an accident.

A page on the website for the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), the agency responsible for children separated from their parents, “contained detailed contact information for 22 different staffers, including ORR Director Scott Lloyd.” An investigation by the Sunlight Foundation’s Web Integrity Project found that in late 2017, just before the implementation of Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, that page was removed.

As the child separation crisis grew, lawyers and advocates seeking to reunite families have “expressed frustration with ORR’s inability to provide them with timely answers through the [established] channels of communication.”

Eventually, a hotline was established to replace the directory, but the Texas Civil Rights Project reported that “legal counsel found that government representatives often deliberately hung up on them after they disclosed that they were calling to inquire about the location of a parent separated from a child at the border.”

In at least one detention facility, parents were charged a fee to call the ORR hotline.

The ORR acknowledge the page was removed but denied “that there was a correlation between this action and the ‘zero tolerance’ policy.”

Omarosa versus the kids

The Trump administration has been able to get away with its disinterested approach to reunification by taking advantage of the short attention spans of the public and the media.

Interest in separated children peaked on June 23, when Trump signed an executive order which he falsely claimed solved the issue. (The order did nothing to reunify the families that had already been separated.)

Since then, interest in the children who remain detained without their parents has dwindled to near zero.

This week, for example, the focus has been on a new book in which a former White House aide, Omarosa Manigault, claims that Trump is a racist. As proof, she claims there is a secret tape of Trump using the n-word on The Apprentice.

Interest in the Omarosa story far exceeds interest in the child separation story, even at its June peak. This week, despite hundreds of kids still in limbo, child separation barely registers.

This chart, from Google Trends, tracks interest in the two stories over the last 90 days.

It’s unclear why, even if the tape exists, it would reveal crucial new information about Trump.

In a 1991 book, Trump was quoted saying, “Black guys counting my money! I hate it… laziness is a trait in blacks.” For years Trump insisted Barack Obama was born in Kenya, not the United States. Trump launched his campaign by describing Mexican immigrants as “rapists.” Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Trump retweeted white nationalists and never apologized. Trump said a United States federal judge was biased against him because of his Mexican heritage. Trump called participants in a white supremacist march “very fine people.” Trump said 15,000 recent immigrants from Haiti “all have AIDS” and that immigrants from Nigeria would “never go back to their huts” after seeing the United States. Trump later called Haiti a “shithole” country.

Now we are supposed to be interested in a secret tape that shows Trump says racist things?

Why was Peter Strzok fired?

Peter Strzok, a longtime FBI agent, was fired from his job this week.

Strzok had an affair with another FBI agent, Lisa Page. Neither Strzok nor Page liked Trump, and they privately texted each other about it. (They also had some unflattering things to say about Hillary Clinton.) At the same time, Strzok was working on the FBI investigations into Hillary Clinton's emails and the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign’s potential conspiracy with Russia.

At one point Strzok texted Page that they would “stop” Trump from being elected, but the FBI Inspector General found no evidence Strzok’s views impacted “specific investigative decisions.”

The Inspector General did conclude Strzok’s actions damaged the “FBI’s reputation for neutral factfinding and political independence.”

Strzok’s core mistake was using a government phone to text Page his private thoughts. It’s not clear that this is against any rule, however. The Inspector General said that “FBI employees who sent these messages are entitled to their own political views” but “using FBI devices to send the messages… potentially implicate provisions in the FBI’s Offense Code and Penalty Guidelines.”

Strzok also forwarded a draft search warrant to his personal email, which is against protocol.

The official recommendation: A 60-day suspension

Strzok’s conduct was reviewed by the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility who concluded that Strzok “should be suspended for 60 days and demoted.”

This recommendation, however, was overruled by David Bowdich, the deputy director of the FBI, who fired Stozok. The FBI did not explain why Strzok was fired instead of suspended.

The Trump factor

Trump has been railing against Strzok for months, claiming his “bias” taints the entire Russia investigation, which is now under the auspices of special counsel Robert Mueller. He has tweeted about Strzok 24 times. A small sampling:

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

Agent Peter Strzok was just fired from the FBI - finally. The list of bad players in the FBI & DOJ gets longer & longer. Based on the fact that Strzok was in charge of the Witch Hunt, will it be dropped? It is a total Hoax. No Collusion, No Obstruction - I just fight back!

August 13, 2018
Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

Why was the FBI’s sick loser, Peter Strzok, working on the totally discredited Mueller team of 13 Angry & Conflicted Democrats, when Strzok was giving Crooked Hillary a free pass yet telling his lover, lawyer Lisa Page, that “we’ll stop” Trump from becoming President? Witch Hunt!

June 18, 2018
Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

How can the Rigged Witch Hunt proceed when it was started, influenced and worked on, for an extended period of time, by former FBI Agent/Lover Peter Strzok? Read his hate filled and totally biased Emails and the answer is clear!

July 11, 2018
Sean Hannity also lambastes Strzok and Page on a nightly basis. Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani said in June that “Strzok should be in jail by the end of next week.”

The big problem with this whole theory

Trump presents Strzok as the mastermind behind a massive anti-Trump conspiracy. There is a problem with this line of thinking, and it was explained succinctly by Strzok himself during his Congressional testimony:

In the summer of 2016, I was one of a handful of people who knew the details of Russian election interference and its possible connections with members of the Trump campaign. This information had the potential to derail, and quite possibly defeat, Mr. Trump. But the thought of exposing that information never crossed my mind.

News of the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign did not become public until long after the election.

The Manafort Email

Last week, I detailed how the Paul Manafort trial, which Trump and the White House have described as separate from his role in the campaign, was tightly linked to the Trump campaign and the broader Russia investigation.

Prosecutors have just released an email that underscores this point. In November 2016, Manafort sent an email to Jared Kushner recommending Stephen Calk for Secretary of the Army. Calk was Manafort’s banker and pushed through $16 million in loans to Manafort that, according to bank officials, should have been rejected.

“On it!” Kushner responded just a few hours later.

Calk did not receive the job but was appointed to Trump’s “National Economic Policy Advisory Committee” on Manafort’s recommendation.

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