Report: Agencies blindsided by Trump immigration order
By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR
Wednesday, October 24
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal immigration and health officials were blindsided by President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy on migrants crossing the southwest border, triggering a cascade of problems as agencies struggled with the fallout from family separations, congressional investigators said in a critical report issued Wednesday.
The investigation by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office dissects the consequences of launching a major policy change without consulting with the agencies that have to carry it out. The report makes no recommendations as it reconstructs a turbulent episode for the Trump administration.
With the White House considering tougher immigration measures as a caravan of migrants slowly heads north from Central America, the GAO report stands as a cautionary tale.
“Officials told us that the agencies did not take specific planning steps because they did not have advance notice,” the GAO found. “Officials we interviewed stated that they became aware of the April 2018 (‘zero-tolerance’) memo when it was announced publicly.”
On April 6, Trump issued an executive order directing an end to “catch and release” at the border, a practice whereby migrants could be admitted into the country temporarily while their immigration claims were pending. That day, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to adopt a “zero tolerance policy” for border crossers. Parents placed into criminal custody could not keep their children with them, so families were split.
The report focuses on Homeland Security agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol, part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, along with the Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement, or ORR, which traditionally has had responsibility for providing shelter for unaccompanied minors detained at the border.
The HHS agency had a far different task this time because the children were deemed “unaccompanied minors” after the government had separated them from their parents. Previously the refugee office was used to dealing with minors who arrived at the border alone. There was another important difference: Many children who were separated from their parents were considerably younger than the teens and pre-teens ORR normally attended to.
“Shelters converted space previously used for classrooms for older children to be space for children under age 5, with one shelter adding cribs, smaller tables and chairs, and toys appropriate for younger children,” the report noted.
The GAO found at least 103 children under the age of 4.
Under blistering political pressure, Trump ultimately rescinded family separation. A federal court ordered the government to reunite families and provide regular progress reports.
But the agencies still had a problem: Their computer systems often did not flag when a child was separated from his or her parents. As a result, it wasn’t always possible to verify that crucial fact. ORR said that Homeland Security sometimes did not provide the information.
Before the agencies made changes “data systems did not include a designated field to indicate that a child was unaccompanied as a result of being separated from his or her parent,” the GAO found.
The GAO said administration officials as of Sept. 10 identified 2,654 children who were covered by the court order reuniting families. However, that number doesn’t include all the children affected, because not all families were covered by the court order.
The report found that 2,217 children who were part of the court case had been released from federal custody as of Sept. 10. About 90 percent of them reunited with a parent, although some were placed with sponsors.
According to a recent report from the American Civil Liberties Union about 250 children are still in government custody.
In a formal response to the GAO report, Homeland Security highlighted progress reuniting families, improvements to its computer systems and better coordination with health officials. HHS did not provide a formal response.
Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., who requested the GAO investigation, said in a statement that it paints a picture of chaos and lack of internal communication within the Republican president’s administration.
“The gross failures detailed in this report will be long remembered, but hopefully never repeated,” Pallone said.
Online: GAO report: https://tinyurl.com/y87g4oam
Trump continues to tweet about migrant caravan
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is tweeting about the caravan of Central American migrants moving toward the U.S. southern border, though his White House rejects the suggestion that he is fearmongering.
Trump tweeted Wednesday that the U.S. “will never accept people coming into our Country illegally!” He also argued that Europe is a “total mess” due to illegal immigration.
Trump has targeted the caravan to highlight his hardline immigration policies before the midterms.
A day earlier Trump acknowledged there was “no proof” to back up a claim that people of Middle Eastern descent were in the group of migrants. He also denied he was using the caravan to stoke fear
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway pushed back Wednesday on whether Trump was fearmongering, calling the caravan a “very serious issue.”
The Anchor House, a Licensed Residential Facility & Care Program for Minor Male Victims of Sex Trafficking, to Accept Applications in Greenville, NC, October 2018
Greenville, NC, October 24, 2018 – The Anchor House, a licensed non-profit residential care program and facility in Greenville, North Carolina, has opened its doors and is accepting referral applications. A project of Restore One, The Anchor House is designed and built to provide lodging, nurture and education needs of boys who are victims of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking, ages 12-18. The Anchor Academy, also registered and licensed by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, is an on-site and program integrated school environment that provides age-appropriate education for resident boys. Application forms are available on-line at the Restore One website – http://www.restoreonelife.org/.
“Health and law enforcement professionals have failed to recognize how many boys are abused and exploited across our nation,” said Chris Smith, Restore One co-founder (along with wife, Anna Smith) and Director of Engagement. Both were interviewed by NBC News in 2016 prior to project damage, caused by Hurricane Matthew flooding. “Recent studies estimate the percentage of affected boys may be as high as 50 percent.” Restore One seeks to open safe residential homes that are free of cost to male victims of domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) and Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE). Restore One also counteracts human trafficking and human exploitation by community awareness, education, outreach and partnerships.
Research indicates that boys are as likely to be victims of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking as girls. In a 2013 ECPAT-USA research report, a leading policy organization in the United States focused on commercial sexual exploitation of children, concluded that the commercial sexual exploitation of boys was greatly under reported, and cited the need for more services designed specifically for boys. In 2008, research conducted by the John Jay School of Criminal Justice reported that boys account for about 45 percent of child trafficking victims in New York City. The UN’s International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that 24.9 million men, women, and children are victims of human trafficking around the globe, in a July, 2018 report.
Chris and Anna Smith founded the Christian ministry, Restore One, in Greenville, North Carolina in 2012, initially planning to build a safe house for girls who had been sex trafficked. However, their minds were changed after learning that there were no residential care centers in the United States dedicated to recovering boys. “We learned that boys were neglected and forgotten,” said Anna Smith. “Across America, boys, just like girls, are abused and enslaved into sex trafficking by individuals and organized cartels. While we were met with resistance and even ridicule because we are helping boys, we knew they deserve the same level of care as girls.”
The Anchor House is one of the first and few places in the US providing specialized, holistic care for exploited boys. After searching for available houses and building lots, a 10-acre plot in rural North Carolina was acquired in 2014 that offered an attractive landscape and needed privacy. “Part of the vision for opening Anchor House, in this type of rural area, is to provide boys first with safety and security as well as some degree of outdoor freedom in a natural and beautiful setting,” said Anna Smith, co-founder (with her husband, Chris) of Restore One ministry.
“Chris and Anna Smith’s vision to restore boys out of slavery has finally become a reality,” said Restore One President, Mike Eggleston, who assumed executive leadership for the organization in June 2018, and was previously a Board Member. The process of obtaining state licensing and hiring a team of dedicated healthcare professionals were recently accomplished by Executive Director, Linda Royster, MA. At the opening of The Anchor House, Royster said, “I am very proud of my staff, a team of men and women who have signed up to run toward the wounded. I am both excited and humbled by the privilege of managing a program designed to care for boys who have experienced unthinkable darkness.”
Construction leading up to opening The Anchor House was delayed by multiple challenges. However, despite community resistance, the daunting task to fully fund the project (which is presently debt-free) and repair flood damage caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, the two-building campus is completed and fully furnished. The main facility includes a communal, kitchen and dining space, class/study and consultation rooms, and a residence cottage.
Restore One, is a 501(C)3 nonprofit, that seeks to open safe homes that are free of cost to male victims of domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) and commercial sexual exploitation (CSE). As of 2012, according to a Shared Hope International Shelter Report there were no long-term recovery safe homes within the United States designated solely for male DMST and CSE victims. Shared Hope International has provided a partner grant to help defray the operational costs of the facility. The Anchor House is one of the first residential facilities to provide refuge and restoration to adolescent boys, ages 12-18. The vision of Restore One is to continue to open counseling and residential facilities to restore the safety and well-being of boys.
Trump awaits briefing from CIA director in Khashoggi case
By MATTHEW LEE and SUSANNAH GEORGE
Wednesday, October 24
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says the killing of a Saudi journalist was a botched operation and a “bad original concept” as his administration has taken its first steps in punishing the Saudis by deciding to revoke the visas of the suspects.
Trump awaited a briefing Thursday from CIA Director Gina Haspel, who has been in Turkey.
He had told reporters at the White House on Tuesday that the operation was a fiasco.
“They had a very bad original concept,” Trump said. “It was carried out poorly, and the cover-up was one of the worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups. Somebody really messed up, and they had the worst cover-up ever.”
Even in the face of gruesome details of Jamal Khashoggi’s slaying, Trump has resisted calls to cut off arms sales to the kingdom and has been reluctant to antagonize the Saudi rulers. Trump considers the Saudis vital allies in his Mideast agenda.
Members of Congress have demanded that sanctions be imposed on Saudi Arabia over the killing of Khashoggi, who lived in self-imposed exile in the U.S. and wrote critically about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The writer, who was a contributor to The Washington Post, vanished Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey, where he went to pick up documents for his marriage to his Turkish fiancee.
Turkish officials say that a Saudi team of 15 men tortured, killed and dismembered the writer and that Saudi officials had planned the killing for days. Saudi officials — after weeks of denials — now concede that he died, but they say it happened accidentally in a fight at the consulate.
“It was a total fiasco,” Trump said. “The process was no good. The execution was no good. And the cover-up, if you want to call it that, was certainly no good.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the move to revoke visas was just a first step.
Visa records are confidential and Pompeo was not more specific about who the revocations would affect, but the State Department later said 21 “Saudi suspects” would have visas revoked or would be declared ineligible to enter the U.S.
“These penalties will not be the last word on this matter,” Pompeo told reporters at the State Department.
The administration “will continue to hold those responsible accountable. We’re making very clear that the United States does not tolerate this kind of ruthless action to silence Mr. Khashoggi, a journalist, with violence,” he said. “Neither the president or I am happy with this situation.”
Still, Pompeo stressed the strategic importance of the U.S.-Saudi relationship.
“We continue to view as achievable the twin imperative of protecting America and holding accountable those responsible for the killing of Mr. Khashoggi,” Pompeo said.
Opinion: Trump Should Stop Coddling Misbehaving Dictators
By Ivan Eland
The brazen potential kidnapping, or even murder, of Saudi journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, should be a wake-up call in the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia — much as the suspected Russian use of a chemical weapon on British soil to attempt to murder a former Russian spy should have been in the case of Russia.
Yet in both cases, President Trump continues to play footsy with such dictators.
Although in both cases, the U.S. foreign policy and defense establishment has mitigated Trump’s inclinations with a more nuanced policy, the overall administration policy is still too chummy. Similar to his destruction of important political norms at home, Trump only tepidly responded in the face of Saudi Arabia’s violation of international diplomatic norms by likely committing nefarious deeds under the shelter of the immunity of its own consulate.
Although the Trump administration kicked out some Russian diplomats in solidarity with Britain after the chemical poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter with the powerful nerve agent Novichok, that didn’t stop Trump from obsequiously kowtowing to Russian President Vladimir Putin a few months later at the Helsinki summit.
Both Saudi Arabia and Russia have abysmal human rights records and have committed other even more important transgressions. Back in 2001, the Saudi government had mysterious links to the al-Qaeda terrorists who committed the 9/11 attacks — 15 of 19 of which were Saudi nationals.
In addition, the Saudi government, with U.S. support, is conducting a brutal war in Yemen that is wantonly killing civilians. Putin’s government in Russia hacked the U.S. election in 2016 and distributed information on Trump’s opponent to help him win and is accused by U.S. intelligence agencies of continuing to attack the 2018 electoral contest. Putin has also meddled in European elections; intervened in Syria’s civil war to rescue Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad; destabilized Ukraine; and invaded and annexed Crimea.
The United States has always trod carefully around Saudi Arabia because the U.S. government has always believed — erroneously — that the country controlled, through the OPEC cartel, world oil supplies and prices. Yet economists note that resource cartels, including OPEC, have been unsuccessful in controlling the price of their product over the long term. That’s because when the market price of the commodity goes up, countries in any cartel, to make more money, have an incentive to cheat by overproducing their quota, thus lowering the price.
Also, there may exist — as in the oil market — non-cartel producers that also erode the cartel’s power. For example, since the petroleum fracking boom in America, the United States has again become the world’s largest oil producer. Thus, the United State no longer has any reason to pander to Saudi Arabia, if it ever did. Trump may be doing so simply because Saudi Arabia, knowing Trump’s susceptibility to flattery, threw him an extravagant bash when he toured there after becoming president.
Trump’s pandering to Russia — against the inclinations of the U.S. foreign policy and defense establishment and in the face of continuing Russian election meddling — is perplexing. As a businessman, many buyers into Trump real estate projects seemed to have Russian links, some shady. Even more important, a company linked to Russian intelligence — BayrockGroup — had offices in Trump Tower and provided funding for Trump’s projects after banks refused to lend him money in the wake of his casino bankruptcies in Atlantic City.
The United States need not be intrinsically hostile to Saudi Arabia or Russia, but neither should Trump pander to either country, as he has done. He should loudly protest Khashoggi’s disappearance from the Saudi Arabian consulate and urge a thorough investigation; also, he should take greater measures to safeguard U.S. elections from future meddling by Russia and other nations and develop enhanced offensive cyber tools to deter such interference.
Although the United States should not advocate or attempt regime change in any foreign nation, it has no need to coddle such dictators and human rights abusers either.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Ivan Eland is senior fellow at the Independent Institute. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Explosive devices sent to Obama, Clintons; CNN evacuated
By MICHAEL BALSAMO
Wednesday, October 24
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Secret Service has intercepted a bomb that was addressed to Hillary Clinton and also discovered a possible explosive that was sent to former President Barack Obama.
Also Wednesday, a police bomb squad was sent to CNN’s offices in New York City and the newsroom was evacuated because of a suspicious package.
A U.S. official told The Associated Press that investigators believe the explosive that was discovered near the Clintons’ home in Chappaqua, New York, is linked to one found Monday at the compound of liberal billionaire George Soros.
The official wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss an ongoing investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The official said one of the packages had the return address of Rep. Deborah Wasserman Schultz, an ironic reference to the former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.
The package addressed to Obama was intercepted Wednesday by Secret Service agents in Washington.
Neither Clinton nor Obama received the packages, and neither was at risk of receiving them because of screening procedures, the Secret Service said in a statement.
The White House condemned “the attempted violent attacks recently made against President Obama, President Clinton, Secretary Clinton, and other public figures.”
“These terrorizing acts are despicable, and anyone responsible will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that that referred to the senders as “these cowards.”
Hillary Clinton was attending campaign events for Democrats in Florida on Tuesday and Wednesday and was not at the family’s New York residence at the time. She is headlining a fundraising reception on Wednesday for former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, who is running for Congress in South Florida.
Bill Clinton was at the family’s Chappaqua home at the time the package was intercepted at a Westchester County facility, said a person familiar with his schedule. The person said the device was screened at the facility — not in proximity to their residence — and never reached the Clintons’ home.
A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that the package discovered at Soros’ home appeared to be a pipe bomb and was in a package placed in a mailbox outside the gates of the compound. A Soros employee opened it just inside the gates, not near Soros’ quarters, the official said.
Associated Press writer Ken Thomas contributed to this report.