Hundreds of children wait in Border Patrol facility in Texas

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A Mission Police Dept. officer (L), and a US Border Patrol agent watch over a group of Central American asylum seekers before taking them into custody on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas. (AFP)
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A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. (AFP)
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Central American asylum seekers, including a Honduran girl, 2, and her mother, are taken into custody near the US-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. (AFP)
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In this file photo taken on September 8, 2014 women and children sit in a holding cell at a US Border Patrol processing center after being detained by agents near the US-Mexico border near McAllen, Texas. (AFP)
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A US Border Patrol spotlight shines on a terrified mother and son from Honduras as they are found in the dark near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. (AFP)
Updated 18 June 2018
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Hundreds of children wait in Border Patrol facility in Texas

  • Nearly 2,000 children have been taken from their parents since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy
  • Stories have spread of children being torn from their parents’ arms, and parents not being able to find where their kids have gone

McALLEN, Texas: Inside an old warehouse in South Texas, hundreds of children wait in a series of cages created by metal fencing. One cage had 20 children inside. Scattered about are bottles of water, bags of chips and large foil sheets intended to serve as blankets.
One teenager told an advocate who visited that she was helping care for a young child she didn’t know because the child’s aunt was somewhere else in the facility. She said she had to show others in her cell how to change the girl’s diaper.
The US Border Patrol on Sunday allowed reporters to briefly visit the facility where it holds families arrested at the southern US border, responding to new criticism and protests over the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy and resulting separation of families.
More than 1,100 people were inside the large, dark facility that’s divided into separate wings for unaccompanied children, adults on their own, and mothers and fathers with children. The cages in each wing open out into common areas to use portable restrooms. The overhead lighting in the warehouse stays on around the clock.
The Border Patrol said close to 200 people inside the facility were minors unaccompanied by a parent. Another 500 were “family units,” parents and children. Many adults who crossed the border without legal permission could be charged with illegal entry and placed in jail, away from their children.
Reporters were not allowed by agents to interview any of the detainees or take photos.
Nearly 2,000 children have been taken from their parents since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy, which directs Homeland Security officials to refer all cases of illegal entry into the United States for prosecution. Church groups and human rights advocates have sharply criticized the policy, calling it inhumane.
Stories have spread of children being torn from their parents’ arms, and parents not being able to find where their kids have gone. A group of congressional lawmakers visited the same facility Sunday and were set to visit a longer-term shelter holding around 1,500 children — many of whom were separated from their parents.
“Those kids inside who have been separated from their parents are already being traumatized,” said Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, who was denied entry earlier this month to children’s shelter. “It doesn’t matter whether the floor is swept and the bedsheets tucked in tight.”
In Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for people trying to enter the US, Border Patrol officials argue that they have to crack down on migrants and separate adults from children as a deterrent to others.
“When you exempt a group of people from the law ... that creates a draw,” said Manuel Padilla, the Border Patrol’s chief agent here. “That creates the trends right here.”
Agents running the holding facility — generally known as “Ursula” for the name of the street it’s on — said everyone detained is given adequate food, access to showers and laundered clothes, and medical care. People are supposed to move through the facility quickly. Under US law, children are required to be turned over within three days to shelters funded by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Padilla said agents in the Rio Grande Valley have allowed families with children under the age of 5 to stay together in most cases.
An advocate who spent several hours in the facility Friday said she was deeply troubled by what she found.
Michelle Brane, director of migrant rights at the Women’s Refugee Commission, met with a 16-year-old girl who had been taking care of a young girl for three days. The teen and others in their cage thought the girl was 2 years old.
“She had to teach other kids in the cell to change her diaper,” Brane said.
Brane said that after an attorney started to ask questions, agents found the girl’s aunt and reunited the two. It turned out that the girl was actually 4 years old. Part of the problem was that she didn’t speak Spanish, but K’iche, a language indigenous to Guatemala.
“She was so traumatized that she wasn’t talking,” Brane said. “She was just curled up in a little ball.”
Brane said she also saw officials at the facility scold a group of 5-year-olds for playing around in their cage, telling them to settle down. There are no toys or books.
But one boy nearby wasn’t playing with the rest. According to Brane, he was quiet, clutching a piece of paper that was a photocopy of his mother’s ID card.
“The government is literally taking kids away from their parents and leaving them in inappropriate conditions,” Brane said. “If a parent left a child in a cage with no supervision with other 5-year-olds, they’d be held accountable.”
Dr. Colleen Kraft, the head of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said that she visited a small shelter in Texas recently, which she declined to identity. A toddler inside the 60-bed facility caught her eye — she was crying uncontrollably and pounding her little fists on mat.
Staff members tried to console the child, who looked to be about 2 years old, Kraft said. She had been taken from her mother the night before and brought to the shelter.
The staff gave her books and toys — but they weren’t allowed to pick her up, to hold her or hug her to try to calm her. As a rule, staff aren’t allowed to touch the children there, she said.
“The stress is overwhelming,” she said. “The focus needs to be on the welfare of these children, absent of politics.”


British PM fights rebellion over Brexit deal

Updated 16 November 2018
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British PM fights rebellion over Brexit deal

  • Members of parliament on all sides warned her there was no way the plan could win their approval
  • The 585-page draft aims to ensure a smooth divorce from the EU after more than four decades of membership

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May battled to salvage a draft Brexit deal and her political future on Thursday, as ministers resigned and members of her own party plotted to oust her.
The Conservative leader said she believed with “every fiber of my being” in the Brexit course she had set, hours after facing a hostile parliament and seeing four ministers, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, quit the government.
Members of parliament on all sides warned her there was no way the plan could win their approval, but she dismissed calls to quit, saying: “Am I going to see this through? Yes!”
The Daily Telegraph newspaper said Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), whose 10 MPs help May command a slim majority, would vote against the deal.
Their alliance with the Tories is over unless the prime minister is replaced, the paper said, citing sources close to DUP leader Arlene Foster.
The prime minister admitted “concerns about the backstop” solution to the Irish border question within the deal, which Brexit supporters fear would keep Britain tied indefinitely into a customs union.
Critics also believe May has conceded too much to Brussels in other key areas, while EU supporters are calling for a second referendum on a final deal.
May, however, said there would be no second vote “as far as I’m concerned.”
The 585-page draft aims to ensure a smooth divorce from the EU after more than four decades of membership and outlines a transition period for both sides to adjust to the break.
Key provisions seek to avoid a hard border between EU member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland, protect citizens’ rights and settle Britain’s last bill.
Amid the political turmoil, the pound dropped by 2 percent against the dollar to a one-month low and a similar amount against the euro.
Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the Brexit hardline European Research Group, submitted a letter of no-confidence in the prime minister saying: “It would be in the interest of the party and the country if she were to stand aside.”
At least 48 letters from Conservative MPs are required to trigger a vote of no-confidence in the party leader, but a majority of the party’s 315 lawmakers would have to vote against May in order for her to be ousted.
Although other MPs have already sent letters, all eyes were on Rees-Mogg given his influence over Brexit supporting MPs.
The MP told reporters that a challenge could be launched within weeks.
But veteran MP Kenneth Clarke, an arch-europhile, told Sky News that May would win any confidence vote, saying “there isn’t an alternative.”
EU leaders will hold an extraordinary Brexit summit on November 25.
If they approve the agreement, the British parliament is scheduled to vote on it in early December.
Raab said there would be a devastating impact on public trust in the government unless it changed course on Brexit.
“I cannot reconcile the terms of the proposed deal with the promises we made to the country in our manifesto,” he said in his resignation letter.
Brexit hard-liner Esther McVey also quit her work and pensions secretary post.
Suella Braverman resigned as a junior Brexit minister and Shailesh Vara quit as a junior Northern Ireland minister.
In parliament, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, told May: “The government must now withdraw this half-baked deal.
“This is not the deal the country was promised.”
Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, later led a rally in Parliament Square over the “botched deal,” with protesters carrying placards reading “Brexit is failing” and “We need a people’s vote.”
“It’s total chaos. She’s never going to get anything through parliament. The whole house of cards is collapsing,” said writer Emma Roper-Evans, 53.
May had secured her cabinet’s “collective” approval for the agreement during a stormy five-hour meeting on Wednesday and European leaders hailed the tentative deal.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “very happy” that the EU and Britain had reached a draft agreement but French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe warned the prospect of Britain crashing out without a deal was “still on the table.”
In Brussels, EU President Donald Tusk said member states would have until Tuesday to examine the deal and to agree the wording of a parallel political statement setting out goals for the bloc’s future relations with London.
The agreement was also welcomed along the Irish border.
“If Theresa May has got any sort of a deal I think it’s a miracle,” said businessman Patrick Hughes, owner of an animal feed business in the border village of Jonesborough.
“I think she was fed to the lions a bit,” he said.