A class-action lawsuit over the treatment of teenage migrants detained in Virginia is adding more pressure for immigration reform. Under the microscope after reports of immigrant children separated from their parents at the border, lawmakers are at odds as to how to address the issue. The president told them Friday to just give up until after the November midterm elections when he anticipates a “Red Wave.”
A look at the latest developments:
Virginia Dems demand answers after abuse claims
Two Democratic senators from Virginia are demanding an explanation after six Latino teens made sworn statements claiming they were physically abused at an immigrant detention facility in the state.
Lawyers for the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center have denied the allegations.
Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine on Friday asked the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement whether regulators had received any other complaints about the facility near Staunton, Virginia.
Young immigrants participating in a federal class-action lawsuit said they were beaten while handcuffed and locked up for long periods in solitary confinement, left nude and shivering in concrete cells. Children as young as 14 also said the guards stripped them of their clothes and strapped them to chairs with bags placed over their heads.
Federal officials have refused to comment on the allegations. Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered state officials to investigate. Some of the young detainees have found solace in poetry .
Border confusion endures
Immigrants entering the U.S. and federal officials alike appear uncertain as to what they can do since President Donald Trump reversed the federal policy that detained thousands of migrant children and separated them from their parents.
Congress has failed so far to approve measures aimed at reforming the nation’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. The president tweeted Friday that the Senate and House should abandon the issue until after November elections.
Nonetheless, there are signs of softening policy. In McAllen, Texas, federal prosecutors unexpectedly did not pursue charges against 17 immigrants. And federal official indicated agencies are working to set up a centralized reunification process for the remaining separated children and their families at a Texas detention center.
Ever Castillo and Diva Funes from Hondurus said they arrived at the border Thursday and presented themselves for asylum with their five children, ages 1 to 12 years. Castillo said Border Patrol agents told them they would be separated if they entered the U.S., so they opted to walk back across the international bridge into Reynosa, Mexico, rather than be separated from the children.
Religious objects and pro-family silence
Prominent religious groups have come out strongly in opposition to the separation of immigrant children and parents at the border, including the detention of babies and the very young in “tender age ” facilities as well as teens in metal cages.
The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, called the policy “immoral ” and, in an interview with Reuters, Pope Francis agreed. Meanwhile, some of the more vocal advocates of family values _ in particular those who oppose abortion rights _ have refused to step into the fray, saying they can’t be distracted from the abortion debate.
Military bases to house immigrants
The Trump administration is drawing up plans to house as many as 20,000 migrants on U.S. military bases. Officials have given differing accounts as to whether those beds would be for children or for entire families.
A Pentagon memo to members of Congress, obtained by the AP, said the military has been asked to make the facilities available as early as July, through the end of the year.
A Brazilian father detained at an immigrant facility in Milan, New Mexico, says he fears for his 9-year-old son, who was taken from him at the border and sent to a refugee resettlement center 1,400 miles (2,250 kilometers) away in Chicago.
The man, who asked The Associated Press to not reveal his name because he fears for his life if he is sent back to Brazil, said he was able to speak briefly with his son by phone and that the boy _ who can only speak Portuguese _ was very scared and upset.