WASHINGTON — Puerto Rico’s non-voting representative in Congress is introducing a bill that seeks to make the U.S. territory a state by 2021.
By Luis Alonso Lugo | AP
Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez said Wednesday that 14 Democrats and 20 Republicans currently sponsor the bill among the 435 members in the House of Representatives.
“This is the first step to open a serious discussion regarding the ultimate status for the island,” Gonzalez said.
The Republican sponsors include the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah who’s committee has oversight over Puerto Rico and the chairman of the Indian and insular affairs subcommittee, Rep. Doug Lamalfa of California.
However, the chances for the passage of the bill are not clear.
The bill calls for the creation of a bipartisan, nine-member task force that would submit a report to Congress and to the president identifying laws that would need to be amended or repealed so Puerto Rico could become a state. The panel would also be instructed to recommend temporary economic measures to help the island Rico in the transition to statehood.
Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory since 1898. Its inhabitants are U.S. citizens, though they are barred from voting in presidential elections and have only one congressional representative with limited voting powers.
Gov. Ricardo Rossello said the island’s unequal status is the cause for 5.4 million Puerto Ricans to currently reside in the continental U.S., a trend exacerbated by the damage inflicted in September by Hurricane Maria.
“In the past this issue has been very hard to move forward,” Rossello said. “No longer do we want ambiguity. We want clarity. Either here in Congress you are with us or you are against the people of Puerto Rico.”
William Renaldo, 30 year Buffalo Fire Department (BFD) veteran and former battalion chief, to lead Buffalo’s Bravest
Buffalo, NY – Mayor Byron W. Brown on June 27, 2018 named former Buffalo Fire Department (BFD) Battalion Chief William Renaldo to lead the BFD, building on his Administration’s continued commitment to further strengthen public safety citywide to meet the demands of a growing Buffalo. Renaldo has more than 30 years of experience in the Fire Service and is a retired Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, with 40 years of military experience.
“Keeping our City safe is among my Administration’s top priorities and I know that our new Fire Commissioner has what it takes to bring the Department into its next chapter of excellence,” said Mayor Brown. “His unwavering commitment to fire service and public safety distinguishes him as a remarkable leader. I am pleased that he has accepted this appointment and look forward to working with him to continue to keep Buffalo safe.”
A well-respected leader in the BFD, Renaldo returns to the Department with decades of first-hand knowledge, deep operational familiarity, and extensive leadership experience from his time with BFD and in the U.S. Armed Forces. Fire Commissioner Renaldo is a 30 year veteran of the Buffalo Fire Department and a former Buffalo Fire Battalion Chief, employed from 1982-2012. He served on active duty in the United States Army for four years (1975-1979), before serving in the United States Army Reserve until 2014. During his tenure as Battalion Chief, he distinguished himself with hard work, dedication to duty and a strong record of performing complex emergency service and administrative work with a broad range of responsibilities from the direction of emergency operations, to review of administrative reports and payroll to ensure accuracy and completeness, to the coordination of overall training, including all aspects of emergency response, disaster planning and fire prevention and education.
During his military career, Renaldo has received numerous individual awards and decorations for meritorious acts of bravery, including a Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Combat Action Badge
Cancer center’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion receives Lighthouse of Partners Award
BUFFALO, N.Y. — David Scott of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center was recognized with a special award at the FruitBelt Coalition’s 8th Annual Recognition Banquet earlier this month. Scott, who serves as Director of Diversity and Inclusion at the Buffalo-based cancer center, was surprised with the Lighthouse of Partners Award at the event.
The FruitBelt Coalition, whose focus is “Planting seeds to grow communities,” is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving quality of life for those who live in and around the Fruit Belt, a residential neighborhood with a rich history and located near Roswell Park’s main campus.
By partnering with such organizations as the FruitBelt Coalition, Buffalo Urban League, Buffalo Employment and Training Center (BETC), Black Chamber of Commerce of Western New York and Belle Center to offer numerous career-development workshops and job fairs, Scott has led efforts to not only build and retain a diverse workforce and increase supplier diversity at Roswell Park, but to help expand good job opportunities for all Western New Yorkers. In selecting him to receive this distinction, the Coalition highlighted his dedication and valued partnership in support of the organization’s mission.
Scott has often been recognized for his professional accomplishments and community involvement. This latest distinction follows previous awards from 1490 Enterprises Inc., Utopian Euphoria and the World HRD Congress.
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WASHINGTON — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., reading for the majority on Tuesday morning, spoke clinically. Justice Stephen G. Breyer followed, working his way through his dissent mildly and analytically.
Then it was Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s turn.
Steely and unwavering, she began: “The United States of America is a nation built upon the promise of religious liberty. Our founders honored that core promise by embedding the principle of religious neutrality in the First Amendment.”
The crowded courthouse fell silent.
In upholding President Trump’s ban on travel from several predominantly Muslim countries, Justice Sotomayor continued, the Supreme Court had failed to “safeguard that fundamental principle.”
For the next 20 minutes, she remained resolute as she delivered an extraordinarily scorching dissent, skewering the court’s decision and condemning the ban as “harrowing” and “motivated by hostility and animus toward the Muslim faith.”
The remarkable dissent was delivered by a woman who has championed her own upbringing as an example of the American dream. Justice Sotomayor, whose parents moved from Puerto Rico during World War II, was raised in a housing project in the Bronx. Her father did not speak English and her first language was Spanish. But determined to become a judge, she would go on to attend Princeton University and become the Supreme Court’s first Latina justice.
Justice Sotomayor once said that “personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see.” She again drew upon that idea in her dissent on Tuesday, in which she accused the majority of “ignoring the facts, misconstruing our legal precedent and turning a blind eye to the pain and suffering the proclamation inflicts upon countless families and individuals, many of whom are United States citizens.”
That was the crux of the Justice Sotomayor’s damning conclusion: The president’s ban is “inexplicable by anything but animus,” and to argue anything else is to divorce oneself from the facts.
The court voted 5 to 4, with the more conservative justices in the majority and with Justice Breyer writing his own dissent. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined Justice Sotomayor’s.
Justice Sotomayor chose her words carefully and sharply, at one point charging that Mr. Trump’s policy “now masquerades behind a facade of national security concerns.”
But one of her most striking decisions was to repeat the words of the president himself. Citing more than a dozen instances in which Mr. Trump tweeted or issued anti-Muslim sentiments, it was his words, not her own, that rang out from the bench.
She continued down the list for minutes, reading one example after another.
“On Dec. 21, 2016, President-elect Trump was asked whether he would ‘rethink’ his previous ‘plans to create a Muslim registry or ban Muslim immigration,’” Justice Sotomayor said. “He replied: ‘You know my plans. All along, I’ve proven to be right.’”
“‘People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!’” she read, recounting the president’s 2017 tweet.
“Islam hates us,” she read, citing another example, and added another: “We’re having problems with Muslims coming into the country.”
The conservative justices, staring unblinkingly ahead, remained stone-faced.
She continued that Mr. Trump had never disavowed any of his statements regarding Islam, and thus had failed “to correct the reasonable perception of his apparent hostility toward the Islamic faith.”
In another powerful passage, Justice Sotomayor drew parallels between the decision and Korematsu v. United States, the 1944 ruling that upheld the detention of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
“As here, the government invoked an ill-defined national security threat to justify an exclusionary policy of sweeping proportion,” she said. “As here, the exclusion was rooted in dangerous stereotypes about, inter alia, a particular group’s supposed inability to assimilate and desire to harm the United States.”
Justice Sotomayor continued that “our nation has done much to leave its sordid legacy behind” in the years since Korematsu. But, she reasoned, “it does not make the majority’s decision here acceptable or right.”
“By blindly accepting the government’s misguided invitation to sanction a discriminatory policy motivated by animosity toward a disfavored group, all in the name of a superficial claim of national security,” she said, “the court redeploys the same dangerous logic underlying Korematsu and merely replaces one ‘gravely wrong’ decision with another.”
Story by: Catie Edmondson -NY Times
Donald Trump and Communist leader Vladimir Putin will hold their first official summit in Helsinki on 16 July, the Kremlin and the White House have announced, scheduling an encounter that is certain to generate fresh controversy for the White House.
By: Andrew Roth
The optics of the meeting are likely to be as important to the leaders as its results. Moscow is keen to show it is not isolated on the world stage, while Trump has ignored criticism at home to plot a course towards closer relations with Putin.
“I’ve said it from day one, getting along with Russia and with China and with everybody is a very good thing,” Trump said, adding that Syria, Ukraine and “many other subjects” would be discussed at the summit. “It’s good for the world, it’s good for us, it’s good for everybody.”
Ahead of the announcement on Thursday, Trump sent out an early-morning tweet once more calling into question the conclusion of the US intelligence agencies that Russia was involved in the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails during the election.
Arms control and other security issues are likely to be among the main topics of discussion, although both sides have already played down the potential for the meeting to deliver concrete results.
The format reflects Trump’s recent preference for high-profile summits, such as the one he held in Singapore this month with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.
The announcement of the meeting – only the third time the two leaders will have met face to face – was made simultaneously by the two governments on Thursday as part of a carefully choreographed rollout.
The Trump administration has been embarrassed several times when Russia has released information about conversations that Washington had either omitted or tried to downplay. Last year Russian state media ran photos of Trump meeting senior Russian officials in the Oval Office, and in March it emerged that Trump had congratulated Putin on his victory in Russia’s presidential election.
During a visit to Moscow on Wednesday, the US national security adviser, John Bolton, defended the planned summit, blaming opponents of Trump for trying to score points by creating “political noise”. He said Trump would go ahead with the meeting “regardless of political criticism”.
Nevertheless, the encounter is likely to generate controversy in the US, where establishment politicians have questioned Trump’s motivations and the optics of holding a meeting with a power accused of meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
Russia and the US have clashed over a number of issues, including the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, nuclear arms treaties, Nato policy and cybersecurity. Relations between the countries are widely seen as at their lowest point since the cold war.
On Wednesday Putin told Bolton that while relations between the two countries were bad, “your arrival in Moscow has given us hope that we can make the first steps to reviving full relations between our governments”.
Trump and Putin have met twice before. The first time was during the Hamburg G7 meeting in 2017, ending in a dinner chat between the two leaders with only a Russian translator present. Trump said afterwards they had discussed adoption policy. The two also proposed a joint cybersecurity unit, and a ceasefire in south-west Syria. The cyber unit was immediately dismissed in US as ridiculous as Russia was one of the main aggressors in that field, and the Syria ceasefire has been bulldozed in recent days by a Russian-backed Assad offensive.
The pair also greeted each other at a leaders’ summit in Vietnam in November.
Federal ruling also prevents officials splitting up families who crossed the US-Mexico border illegally
US immigration agents can no longer separate immigrant parents and children caught crossing the border from Mexico illegally and must work to reunite those families that had been split up in custody, a federal judge has ruled.
The US district court judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego on Tuesday granted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed over family separations.
Sabraw ordered US border authorities to reunite separated families within 30 days, setting a deadline in a process that has so far yielded uncertainty about when children might again see their parents.
If children are younger than five, they must be reunified within 14 days.
The move – which came after the supreme court’s ruling upholding the travel ban targeting Muslim-majority countries – could open up a legal battle with the justice department which did not immediately respond to a request for a comment on the multistate lawsuit.
Sabraw, an appointee of President George W Bush, also issued a nationwide injunction on future family separations, unless the parent is deemed unfit or does not want to be with the child. His ruling requires the government provide phone contact between parents and their children within 10 days.
More than 2,300 migrant children were separated from their parents after the Trump administration began a zero-tolerance policy in early May, seeking to prosecute all adults who crossed the border illegally, including those travelling with children.
The ACLU had sued on behalf of a mother and her then six-year-old daughter, who were separated after arriving last November in the US to seek asylum and escape religious persecution in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
While they were reunited in March, the ACLU is pursuing class-action claims on behalf of other immigrants.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is set to vote on Wednesday on a immigration proposal designed as a compromise between moderate and conservative factions of the Republican caucus.
The bill would provide $25bn for a wall on the Mexican border. It would also limit legal immigration, provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and end family separations.
“We’ve made it extremely clear we want to keep families together and we want to secure the border and enforce our laws,” the House speaker, Paul Ryan, said.
Donald Trump issued an executive order to end the family separations on 20 June, but the government has yet to reunite about 2,000 children with their parents. A Department of Homeland Security statement over the weekend on reuniting families seemed only to sow further confusion.
Before the preliminary injunction ruling, the government urged Sabraw not to rule that it stop separating and quickly reunite migrant families after they illegally cross the US-Mexico border, saying Trump’s executive order last week largelyaddressed those goals. But the judge disagreed. “The facts set forth before the court portray reactive governance responses to address a chaotic circumstance of the government’s own making,” Sabraw wrote. “They belie measured and ordered governance, which is central to the concept of due process enshrined in our constitution.”
The ruling is a win for the ACLU, which filed the lawsuit in March involving a girl who was separated from her Congolese mother and a 14-year-old boy who was separated from his Brazilian mother.
“Tears will be flowing in detention centres across the country when the families learn they will be reunited,” said the ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt.
It is not clear how border authorities will meet the deadline. The health and human services secretary, Alex Azar, told Congress on Tuesday that his department still had custody of 2,047 children separated from their parents at the border. That is only six fewer children than the number in HHS custody from last Wednesday. Democratic senators said that was not nearly enough progress.
Azar refused to say how long it would take to reunite familiesadding that his department undertook extensive vetting of parents to make sure they were not child traffickers.
Also challenging will be the requirement the judge set on phone contact. At a Texas detention facility, immigrant advocates complained that parents got no answers from a freephone number provided by federal authorities to get information about their children.
Attorneys have spoken to about 200 immigrants at the Port Isabel detention facility near Los Fresnos, Texas, since last week, and only a few knew where their children were being held, said Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg of the Legal Aid Justice Center in Virginia.
“The US government never had any plan to reunite these families that were separated,” he said, and it was now “scrambling to undo this terrible thing that they have done”.
Many children in shelters in southern Texas have not had contact with their parents, though some have reported being allowed to speak with them in recent days, said Meghan Johnson Perez, the director of the children’s project for the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project, which provides free legal services to minors.
“Things might be changing now. The agencies are trying to coordinate better,” she said. “But the kids we have been seeing have not been in contact with the parents. They don’t know where the parent is. They’re just distraught. Their urgent need is just trying to figure out, ‘Where is my parent?’”
The judges’ decision came as 17 states, including New York and California, sued the Trump administration on Tuesday to force it to reunite children and parents. The states, all led by Democratic attorneys general, joined Washington DC, in filing the lawsuit in federal court in Seattle, arguing that they are being forced to shoulder increased child welfare, education and social services costs.
In a speech before the conservative Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Los Angeles, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, defended the administration for taking a hardline stand on illegal immigration and said the voters elected Trump to do just that.
“This is the Trump era,” he said. “We are enforcing our laws again. We know whose side we are on … and we’re on the side of police, and we’re on the side of the public safety of the American people.”
Outraged by the family separations, immigrant supporters have led protests in recent days in states including Florida and Texas. In Los Angeles, police arrested 25 demonstrators at a rally on Tuesday before Sessions’ address.
Outside the US attorney’s office, protesters carried signs reading, “Free the children!” and “Stop caging families.” Clergy members who blocked the street by forming a human chain were handcuffed by police and led away.
Later, protesters gathered outside the hotel where Sessions gave his speech. As his motorcade arrived, the crowd chanted, “Nazi, go home.”
Their mothers are missing, their fathers far away. They get pizza, maybe cold cuts. They are exhausted; they cannot sleep. There are other children around, but they had never seen those kids before, and those kids are crying or screaming or rocking or spreading the feeling that everything is not okay.
The children who were forcibly separated from their parents at the border by the United States government are all over the country now, in Michigan and Maryland, in foster homes in California and shelters in Virginia, in cold, institutional settings with adults who are not permitted to touch them or with foster parents who do not speak Spanish but who hug them when they cry.
The separations have stopped and the Trump administration has said that it is executing a plan to reunify the children with their parents before deporting them. Still, more than 2,000 children remain spread around the United States, far from their parents — many of whom have no idea where their sons and daughters have been taken.
The children have been through hell. They are babies who were carried across rivers and toddlers who rode for hours in trucks and buses and older kids who were told that a better place was just beyond the horizon.
And now they live and wait in unfamiliar places: big American suburban houses where no one speaks their language; a locked shelter on a dusty road where they spend little time outside; a converted Walmart where each morning they are required to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, in English, to the country that holds them apart from their parents.
Why must they say those words, some of the children ask at the shelter in Brownsville, on the Mexican border in Texas?
“We tell them, ‘It’s out of respect,’ ” said one employee of the facility, known as Casa Padre, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing their job.
U.S. authorities are compiling mug shots of the children in detention. Immigration lawyers who have seen the pictures say some of them show children in tears.
At a facility in Crofton, Md., run by Bethany Christian Services, 10 children separated from their parents arrived in recent days. Half were younger than 5, according to Tawnya Brown, a regional director of the organization. Most appeared to be from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Each child got a drawstring “arrival bag” containing a change of clothes and other necessities. The little ones got a teddy bear, too. They got to leave the shelter promptly, going to a new home with foster parents who speak to the children in “love language,” Brown said.
In Bristow, Va., about 15 boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 17 arrived in recent weeks after being separated from their parents. Now they stay in some of the 10 modern, $600,000 single-family houses on the sprawling green campus of Youth for Tomorrow, a residential facility for at-risk children.
At some facilities, there are so many children that the staff conduct prison-style head counts. In Brownsville, where the wings of the sprawling building are named for U.S. presidents, that can take hours. A few days ago, a frantic search ensued when one child appeared to be missing from the Reagan wing. He was later found in the Truman wing.
These are the places where the children wait. All around them, and all around the country, people are doing things for them. Caseworkers, lawyers and volunteers work the phones, searching for parents and other relatives.
At first, the kids believe they will soon be back with their families.
“One of them said: ‘I’m not crying anymore. Tomorrow, I’ll be with my dad,’ recalled an employee at the Brownsville shelter. But as it became clear that their release was not imminent, the children continued their routines — karaoke on Monday, cake for those celebrating a birthday, occasional group discussions about their future.
“Some say, ‘I’m going to be the most famous singer’ and others say, ‘I’m going to be a soccer star,’ ” the employee said. Others share a different expectation: “Remember that we don’t have papers,” an older child said. “We’ll probably work in construction.”
The people who devote their work lives to helping immigrant children at shelters are mostly low-level employees, working 12-hour shifts at $12 an hour. They are accustomed to young people arriving unaccompanied, mostly teens who knew that they would be on their own and came at least somewhat prepared. They might have had crucial bits of information pinned to their clothing or in their pockets or backpacks — birth certificates, names and phone numbers of relatives in the United States.
The forcibly separated children, in contrast, usually arrive with nothing. And the younger ones often know nothing.
“It was never anticipated that they were going to be totally on their own,” said Nithya Nathan-Pineau, director of the children’s program at the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition.
But mostly, from the children’s perspective, people do things to them. At Bethany Christian Services in Maryland, for example, the children get vaccinations and treatment for their physical ailments — “Stomach issues, skin issues, things of that nature,” Brown said. Vigilant for lice, Bethany dispenses shampoo and combs. It also has teachers who instruct the kids in English, colors, letters, numbers. There’s “playtime, nap time, snack, recess,” Brown said.
Antar Davidson, who worked at Southwest Key’s Estrella del Norte shelter in Tucson from February until he quit in early June, described a tense environment that grew worse as the number of separated kids soared.
“People were yelling at the kids all the time” in Spanish, said Davidson, 32. He said supplies were rationed so tightly that kids were given hair gel one spoonful at a time.
“It really wears on these kids, the level of institutionalization,” he said.
Youth-care workers were told to discourage children from speaking their indigenous Central American languages, he said, before the policy was reversed. And when the number of separated kids rose from a handful to more than 50 in the 300-person shelter, employees were given a “refresher” course in how to use physical holds on kids, Davidson said.
Lawyers show up at the centers, sometimes bringing toys or stress balls for the children to play with. Some lawyers try to teach the kids about their predicament, offering “Know Your Rights” presentations, explaining the U.S. legal system to older kids, drawing stick-figure sketches of courtrooms for younger ones.
“You draw someone and say, ‘Okay, this is going to be the government attorney,” said one lawyer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of some of her cases.
Some kids engage. Some remain silent. Some have not spoken for weeks.
The children clung to their parents through the terrifying journey north. They rode flimsy rafts across the rain-swollen Rio Grande. They hiked sun-bleached paths under the broiling sun. They were transported in “trucks, on top of railroad trains, in buses,” and on foot, said Gary Jones, chief executive of Youth for Tomorrow.
They crossed the border and were picked up by federal agents and placed in cavernous holding centers. In many cases, that’s where the separation happened. Parents were put in one cell, children in another.
At Customs and Border Protection stations, such as the massive Central Processing Center on Ursula Avenue in McAllen, Tex., some families were divided immediately, especially fathers and daughters, because girls can’t be detained with men. Children were often sorted by country, gender and age, to keep older and younger ones apart.
For some, the separation did not come until the morning they were brought to court on big silver buses. Border officials told parents they’d see their children when they got back from court.
But when they returned, their children were gone, taken to federal shelters. Some parents were told that their children were being taken for a bath, but then the kids did not come back.
At a shelter in McAllen, as word spread that children were being pulled from their parents, some mothers and fathers took to sleeping with their legs wrapped around their children so they couldn’t be snatched.
Sometimes, it fell to lawyers from the Texas Civil Rights Project to break the news, said Efrén Olivares, a lawyer with the organization, which has interviewed 381 immigrant parents who were separated from more than 400 children.
The parents who did know the separations were coming had to tell their kids something. A father from El Salvador said goodbye to his daughter before she was taken to a shelter by telling her that she was going to summer camp.
The scenes of trauma take a toll on everyone — parents and children, but also guards and advocates. Olivares came to the United States legally from Mexico at age 13. He knew no English. His mother stayed at home and his father drove a school bus. Olivares became valedictorian of his high school class and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and Yale Law School. Now, he’s 36, running on coffee and adrenaline to meet parents and try to reunite families.
“I’m going to crash sooner or later,” he said.
Last week, he had his own taste of the trauma of separation. His wife took their toddler to summer camp. There were tears. After an hour, she had to return because the child couldn’t be without her.
“An hour they lasted without one another,” Olivares said. He had tears in his eyes.
At a shelter for the tender-aged near Los Angeles, one little child, overwhelmed, panicked. The hysteria set off the rest of the group, unleashing a contagion of crying that left the staff at a loss.
“The trauma for these children is significant,” said Brown, of Bethany Christian Services in Maryland. “You don’t always see the trauma. You don’t always see it in their faces. But you can see it in their physical reactions.”
At some facilities, there are mental health counselors who try to talk to the kids. But some immigration lawyers caution the children against disclosing too much to the therapists, worried that information might get passed on to the government, possibly affecting the child’s asylum claim.
At the cavernous Central Processing Center in McAllen, known as the “dog kennel” for its rooms made of chain-link fencing, children slept on mats on the concrete ground. With no parents around, some children suddenly found themselves changing the diapers of strangers.
The children sometimes don’t know their parents’ names or don’t know their own birth dates or how to spell their names.
“There’s just a lot of disconnect,” said Nathan-Pineau of the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, which has two centers in Maryland and four in Virginia serving as shelters for migrant children. Some kids can’t communicate the “basic information that the staff would need to even start looking for their parents.”
Meanwhile, outside the shelter network, along the country’s southern border, lawyers working on behalf of bereft parents struggle to locate their clients’ children.
Rochelle Garza, an immigration lawyer in Brownsville, tried a toll-free phone number for the Office of Refugee Resettlement on Friday afternoon.
“We are experiencing high call volume,” said a recorded message. “Please stay on the line for the next available case manager.”
The man who finally answered told Garza that he could offer nothing more than an email address, the same generic one listed on the flier distributed to some parents.
“Right now,” the man said, “with the high volume of minors entering the United States, it’s a little complicated for them.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Saturday that it is doing what it can, “bringing to bear all the relevant resources of the department in order to assist in the reunification or placement of unaccompanied alien children and teenagers with a parent or appropriate sponsor.”
Michelle Ortiz, a lawyer with Americans for Immigrant Justice in Miami, represents a 3-year-old girl who was separated from her father at the New Mexico border. The father was deported, but the details of the case are not clear, Ortiz said, because “she’s 3. She can’t tell us exactly what happened. She can hold up her fingers to tell us how old she is, but not much more.” The girl is living with extended family in South Florida, her future uncertain.
The kids have come mainly from Central America. In the past year, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, based in Baltimore, has found temporary places for 148 children who had been separated from their parents. Half of the children were younger than 5, the youngest 18 months, according to spokeswoman Danielle Bernard. About two-thirds were from Guatemala, a quarter were from Honduras, and the rest came from El Salvador or Mexico.
In a residential section of Harlingen, Tex., a man in a gold pickup truck guarded the front gate of a shelter for young children run under a federal contract by Southwest Key. The shelter is a white frame house with a spacious yard covered with a thick layer of grass.
A worker leaving the shelter in her truck is asked how the kids inside are faring.
“They’re eating better than you,” she said Friday. “For lunch, they had fish, carrots, broccoli, a dinner roll. They’re being treated very well.”
A colorful jungle gym and a volleyball net sit in the front yard, which is shaded by tall trees. Neighbors said the facility has an indoor pool. One neighbor recently saw several little girls dressed in pink tops and shorts playing on the swings in the front yard. There are small basketball courts and two red tricycles for little kids.
Several neighbors expressed concern that the children are rarely outside. Neighbors said the children at Southwest Key can watch television and are taught arts and crafts, such as creating paper flowers.
“As a mother, I don’t like it,” said neighbor Liliana Barajas, 36. “They don’t bring them out enough. They’re kids. The last thing you want is for them to feel what they are in. It’s like a home prison to them. It’s heartbreaking.”
Sacchetti and Sieff reported from Texas; Fisher from Washington. Michael Miller in Arizona; Nick Anderson, Theresa Vargas, Abigail Hauslohner and Nick Miroff in Washington; Trevor Bach in Detroit; Marissa Lang in Bristow, Va.; Jahi Chikwendiu in Harlingen, Tex.; Rob Kuznia in Temecula, Calif.; and
Lori Rozsa in Homestead, Fla., contributed to this report.
NEW YORK —AP Tennis legend Billie Jean King will be one of the grand marshals of New York City’s gay pride march as cities around the world hold LGBT pride events.
The marches commemorate the riots that erupted in response to a police raid at a New York gay bar called the Stonewall Inn in June 1969. A park across the street from the Stonewall was designated a national monument in 2016.
New York’s march will pass by the Stonewall National Monument in the Greenwich Village on Sunday before heading up Fifth Avenue.
The march will be both a celebration of the diversity of LGBT culture and a protest against anti-LGBT policies promoted by Republican President Donald Trump, such as Trump’s attempt to ban all transgender people from serving in the military.
The theme of this year’s march is “Defiantly Different.” Eighty floats and tens of thousands of marchers are expected.
In addition to King, the grand marshals include transgender advocate Tyler Ford and civil rights organization Lambda Legal.
March organizers plan to honor “community heroes” including Parkland, Florida, school shooting survivor Emma Gonzales.