What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White
Know Anyone Who Thinks Racial Profiling Is Exaggerated? Watch This, And Tell Me When Your Jaw Drops.
This video clearly demonstrates how racist America is as a country and how far we have to go to become a country that is civilized and actually values equal justice. We must not rest until this goal is achieved. I do not want my great grandchildren to live in a country like we have today. I wish for them to live in a country where differences of race and culture are not ignored but valued as a part of what makes America great.
Saturday, October 23, 2021
Friday, October 22, 2021
Next Friday, the United States Supreme Court is scheduled to meet to consider whether to hear appeals from two libel cases in which the plaintiffs seek to persuade the justices to reconsider the single greatest First Amendment victory for the press in American history.
Two of the court’s justices, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, already have expressed a readiness to do just that, a disturbing turn that could weaken speech protections and threaten the country’s free and robust press.
Their focus is the court’s unanimous 1964 decision in the case of New York Times v. Sullivan, won by the paper in the midst of the civil rights revolution. The purported libel appeared in a full-page advertisement in The Times titled “Heed Their Rising Voices,” which criticized a “wave of terror” against civil rights demonstrators in the South led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Most of the assertions in the advertisement were accurate; a few were not. The police commissioner of Montgomery, Ala., L.B. Sullivan, who was not named in the ad, sued The Times, claiming it had in effect falsely accused him of misconduct. He was awarded $500,000 by an all-white jury, a verdict upheld by Alabama’s highest court.
For news organizations, the threat the case presented was not only sizable if not crippling libel judgments. It was also that such a result would deter reporting critical of government and public officials.
When the case reached the Supreme Court, the justices applied the First Amendment for the first time in a libel case. The core of the court’s ruling in reversing the Alabama judgment was that the First Amendment barred public officials from recovering damages for a “defamatory falsehood relating to his official conduct” in the absence of clear and convincing evidence that the statement was made with what the justices called “‘actual malice”— that it was made “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”
Such sweepingly broad protection was required, the court concluded, because the First Amendment embodied a “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attack on government and public officials.”
“Erroneous statement is inevitable in free debate,” the court added, and “must be protected if the freedoms of expression are to have the ‘breathing space’ that they need to survive.”
Later decisions by the court expanded the “actual malice” standard to apply to public figures outside government.
If Sullivan is reversed, defendants in libel cases will lose constitutional protections they now have, and the United States could well return to a libel regime akin to England’s.
England is the mother country of the United States, a democracy from which America has learned much. But its libel law is at war with First Amendment principles. English law does not provide anything close to the protections of the Sullivan decision. Inaccurate statements about even the most powerful individuals in society receive little legal protection in England; a defendant could be liable for a false statement even if he was unaware that it was false. Moreover, the burden of proof is on the defendant; the defendant must prove that what he said was true. In the United States, the plaintiff must prove it was false.
A return by the Supreme Court to anything like the English approach could significantly chill speech of the most important sort. That has happened disturbingly often in England. In 2014, Cambridge University Press declined to publish a book about connections between President Vladimir Putin of Russia and organized crime because of England’s strict libel laws. In a letter to the author, Karen Dawisha, an executive for the publisher, wrote: “The decision has nothing to do with the quality of your research or your scholarly credibility. It is simply a question of risk tolerance in light of our limited resources.” The book was ultimately published in the United States. No libel action was filed.
A recent example of the potentially chilling impact of English libel law can be seen in libel litigations brought this year by supporters of Mr. Putin in courts in London against the journalist Catherine Belton and her publisher, HarperCollins, for her widely lauded book, “Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took On the West.”
The “ruinous” legal action, according to Toomas Hendrik Ilves, a former president of Estonia and a journalist before that, is intended “not just to crush her, but to deter anyone else who dares to investigate the nexus of intelligence, business, organized crime and state power that gave birth to and sustains Russia’s ruling elite.”
That is, of course, precisely the sort of threat that the Sullivan decision seeks to protect against.
The stark difference in approach between American and English libel law led Congress to unanimously pass legislation, signed by President Barack Obama in 2010, barring state or federal courts from enforcing foreign libel judgments against U.S. defendants that are not consistent with First Amendment protections as set forth in the Sullivan decision.
That law, the Speech Act, was adopted partly in response to a libel suit brought in London by a Saudi billionaire against an American author, Rachel Ehrenfeld, whose book “Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is Financed and How to Stop It” alleged that he had funded terrorism.
Ms. Ehrenfeld had credible sources for her assertions. But she declined to appear in court and submit to English jurisdiction, noting, as she later explained, that her book “was neither published nor marketed in Britain.” Libel law in England “chills free speech through the award of disproportionate damages” and leaves defendants with “a lack of viable defenses,” she wrote in The Times.
Should the court agree to hear one or both of the libel cases does not mean, of course, that either or both would be reversed. (The Times joined in an amicus brief in support of the defendant in one of those cases when it was before an appeals court.) But it is troubling that two of the court’s nine justices have criticized Sullivan and seem ready to reverse it. Only four votes are required for the full court to take up cases, and if it does so, a fifth would be needed for any ruling.
When the Supreme Court decided the Sullivan case 57 years ago, Alexander Meiklejohn, a leading First Amendment scholar, exclaimed that it was “an occasion for dancing in the street.” If the court agrees to hear one or both of the libel cases before it, that would be an occasion for us all to hold our breath.
Floyd Abrams is a prominent First Amendment lawyer whose many clients have included The New York Times, which he successfully represented in the Pentagon Papers case. His firm represents The Times on occasion.“
C.D.C. Recommends Covid Booster Shots for Millions of Americans Recipients of the Moderna and the J.&J. vaccines may receive extra doses, although the shots continue to prevent illness and death.
“Recipients of the Moderna and the J.&J. vaccines may receive extra doses, although the shots continue to prevent illness and death.
In a sweeping victory for the Biden administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday endorsed booster shots of the Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines for tens of millions of Americans.
The decision follows an agency endorsement last month of booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and opens the door for many Americans to seek out a booster shot as early as Friday.
The coronavirus vaccines “are all highly effective in reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, even in the midst of the widely circulating Delta variant,” Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the C.D.C., said in a statement.
Her approval brings the country closer to fulfilling President Biden’s promise in August to offer boosters to all adults. The pandemic is now retreating in most parts of the country, but there are still about 75,000 new cases every day, and about 1,500 Covid deaths.
That pledge angered many experts, including some advising the Food and Drug Administration and the C.D.C., who said that scientists had not yet had a chance to determine whether boosters were actually necessary.
Studies showed that the vaccines remained very effective against severe disease and death, although their effectiveness might have waned against milder infections, particularly as the Delta variant spread across the nation this summer.
The purpose of the vaccines is to prevent illness severe enough to require medical attention, not to prevent infection, Dr. Wilbur Chen, an infectious disease physician at the University of Maryland and a member of the C.D.C. panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, said during the deliberations on Thursday.
“It might be too much to ask for a vaccine, either a primary series or the booster, to prevent all forms of infections,” Dr. Chen said.
The C.D.C.’s advisers last month tried to narrow the number of Americans who should receive a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, saying that research did not support boosters for people whose jobs exposed them to the coronavirus, as the F.D.A. had indicated.
But in a highly unusual move, Dr. Walensky overturned their decision, aligning the agency’s advice with the criteria laid out by the F.D.A.
On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration authorized booster shots for millions of people who received the Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson vaccines, just as it did for recipients of Pfizer-BioNTech shots last month. The F.D.A. also gave the green light for people eligible for booster shots to get a dose of a different brand.
But in practice, who will get the shots and when depends greatly on the C.D.C.’s final guidance. Though the agency’s recommendations do not bind state and local officials, they hold great sway in the medical community.
On Thursday, members of the C.D.C.’s panel endorsed the so-called mix-and-match strategy, saying people fully immunized with one company’s vaccine should be allowed to receive a different vaccine for their booster shot.
Limited evidence strongly suggests that booster doses of one of the two mRNA vaccines — Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech — more effectively raise antibody levels than a booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The committee advised that recipients of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine should receive a booster shot at least two months after their first dose.
Among Americans initially immunized with an mRNA vaccine, adults over 65, adults who are 50 to 65 with certain medical conditions, and those who reside in long-term care settings should receive a single booster dose six months or longer after their second dose, the committee decided.
For adults ages 18 to 49 with certain medical conditions and adults whose jobs regularly expose them to the virus, the panel opted for softer language, saying they may choose to get a booster after considering their individual risk.
The experts emphasized that people who have received two mRNA vaccine doses or a single Johnson & Johnson dose should still consider themselves fully vaccinated. Federal health officials said they would continue to study whether those who had weak immune systems and had already received a third dose of a vaccine should go on to get a fourth dose.
Some advisers were concerned that young and healthy Americans who don’t need a booster might choose to get one anyway. Side effects are uncommon, but in younger Americans they may outweigh the potential benefits of booster doses, the scientists said.
“Those that are not at high risk should really be thoughtful about getting that dose,” said Dr. Helen Talbot, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University.
The committee’s final votes contrasted sharply with discussions earlier in the day. The panel heard that in adults under 65, even those with chronic conditions, the Moderna vaccine remained highly protective against severe illness and showed only a small decline in effectiveness over time, if any at all.
What to Know About Covid-19 Booster Shots
The F.D.A. has authorized booster shots for millions of recipients of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Pfizer and Moderna recipients who are eligible for a booster include people 65 and older, and younger adults at high risk of severe Covid-19 because of medical conditions or where they work. Eligible Pfizer and Moderna recipients can get a booster at least six months after their second dose. All Johnson & Johnson recipients will be eligible for a second shot at least two months after the first.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine showed less efficacy than the Moderna vaccine overall, but the data were too limited to determine whether there might be a decline over time.
Having already authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech booster, however, some advisers said in interviews that they felt compelled to do the same for the other two vaccines, adding that it was only fair to people who had received those vaccines.
Just over 11 million people have opted for an additional shot so far, and up to three million make up those with weak immune systems who were approved to receive a third dose to prop up their immune response. Only 6 percent of people who are fully vaccinated, and about 15 percent of adults over 65, have received a booster dose so far.
Moderna’s booster shot will not be the same as its initial shot. The dose will be 50 micrograms, which is half the dose given in the initial rounds of immunization. Scientists from Moderna presented data indicating that the smaller dose is enough to rouse the immune system.
But the smaller dose may need to be delivered from the same vials now used for initial immunization. Some committee members noted that this may increase the risk of contamination and incorrect dosing. (Moderna has been testing vials that deliver smaller volumes of vaccine to alleviate this problem, according to a former government official.)
C.D.C. scientists said at the meeting that the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines are generally safe, with the exception of uncommon and mostly mild heart problems in young men. The risk of the condition — called myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle — is higher after the second shot of an mRNA vaccine, and highest in males 18 to 24 years old.
In those under 20, the condition may affect more than 100 males in every million immunized with an mRNA vaccine. Studies have shown that the risk of heart problems after a bout of Covid-19 is much higher.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine carries a small risk of blood clots in young women. The company’s representatives said they had estimated the rate of blood clots at 15.1 cases per million after the first dose and 1.9 cases per million after the second.
Some panelists said they worried about the risk of blood clots in young women who get a second booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and the risk of myocarditis in young men after a third dose of an mRNA vaccine.
Perhaps young women should be directed to mRNA vaccines and young men to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Dr. Talbot said.
“We’re in a different place in the pandemic than we were earlier,” she said. The opportunities to mix and match vaccines “are priceless.”
Thursday, October 21, 2021
Inaction on climate change imperils millions of lives, doctors say Top medical journal warns that rising temperatures will worsen heat and respiratory illness and spread infectious disease
Top medical journal warns that rising temperatures will worsen heat and respiratory illness and spread infectious disease
In its annual “Countdown on health and climate change,” the Lancet provides a sobering assessment of the dangers posed by a warming planet. More than a dozen measures of humanity’s exposure to health-threatening weather extremes have climbed since last year’s report.
“Humanity faces a crucial turning point,” the doctors say, with nations poised to spend trillions of dollars on economic recovery from the pandemic and world leaders set to meet in Glasgow for a major U.N. climate conference in less than two weeks. The United States is working to assemble a set of climate policies to help coax bigger commitments from other top emitters at that conference, even as the Biden administration is scaling back its climate legislation, given opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who represents a coal-producing state.
Rising temperatures have led to higher rates of heat illness, causing farmworkers to collapse in fields and elderly people to die in their apartments. Insects carrying tropical diseases have multiplied and spread toward the poles. The amount of plant pollen in the air is increasing, worsening asthma and other respiratory conditions. Extreme floods and catastrophic storms have boosted the risk of cholera and other waterborne diseases. Smoke from fires in California infiltrates the lungs and then the bloodstreams of people as far away as Texas, Ohio and New York. Droughts intensify, crops fail, hunger stalks millions of the world’s most vulnerable people.
“If nothing else will drive the message home about the present threat that climate change poses to our global society, this should,” said Lachlan McIver, a Doctors Without Borders physician who was not involved in writing the Lancet report. “Your health, my health, the health of our parents and our children are at stake.”
The Lancet study is just the latest salvo from health professionals demanding a swift end to burning fossil fuels and other planet-warming activities. In a special report released last week, the World Health Organization called climate change “the single biggest health threat facing humanity,” warning that its effects could be more catastrophic and enduring than the coronavirus pandemic. Dozens of public health experts are headed to the U.N. climate summit starting at the end of the month, aiming to convince world leaders that they must take bolder action to curb their nations’ carbon output.
Yet just half of countries surveyed said they have a national climate and health strategy in place, the Lancet study said. Trends in renewable energy generation and adaptation initiatives have improved only slightly. And most of the world’s biggest emitters, including the United States, continue to subsidize fossil fuels at rates of tens of billions of dollars per year — rivaling the amounts they spend on public health.
The outcomes of national spending debates and international climate negotiations will either “lock humanity into an increasingly extreme and unpredictable environment,” the report says, or “deliver a future of improved health, reduced inequity, and economic and environmental sustainability.”
“Lowering greenhouse gas emissions is a prescription,” said Renee Salas, an emergency medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital who helped write the “Countdown” and an accompanying policy brief aimed at U.S. lawmakers. “The oath I took as a doctor is to protect the health of my patients. Demanding action on climate change is how I can do that.”
The world has not committed yet to cutting emissions enough to avert the worst effects of warming. Based on countries’ current pledges under the Paris climate accord, average temperatures are on track to increase by a catastrophic 2.7 degrees Celsius (4.9 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century. The planet has already warmed about 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) since the preindustrial era.
And a U.N. report released Wednesday found that governments are still planning to boost fossil fuel use on a scale far beyond even those insufficient targets. G-20 countries have directed more new funding to fossil fuels than clean energy since the start of the pandemic, the report says.
“A carbon-intensive COVID-19 recovery would irreversibly prevent the world from meeting climate commitments,” the Lancet report warns.
The report draws repeated parallels between the coronavirus pandemic and the health crisis posed by climate change. Both have exposed and exacerbated inequality, and highlight the folly of prioritizing short-term economic interests over long-term consequences.
Yet the death toll from climate change will outstrip that of the coronavirus, the scientists warned — unless drastic action is taken to avert further warming and adapt to changes underway.
Already, climate change routinely threatens to overwhelm health systems’ capacity to respond. When record-high temperatures scorched the Pacific Northwest this summer, the rate of emergency room admissions spiked to 69 times higher than the same period in 2019.
David Markel, an emergency physician at Swedish Medical Center’s Cherry Hill campus in Seattle, said at the time that the surge of patients rivaled the worst days of the pandemic. He and his colleagues were treating patients in hallways, stuffing ice packs into people’s armpits to bring their temperatures down.
“This is going to impact us all,” Markel said. “The more crises like this we face, the more clear it is.”
Just 0.3 percent of global climate change adaptation funding has been directed at health systems, the Lancet report says, despite an explosion of evidence for the health consequences of unchecked emissions. In the past month, studies in academic journals have reported the following:
El Niño weather patterns — which are projected to intensify as the planet warms — cause about 6 million children to go hungry.
Air pollution causes tens of thousands of early deaths among Americans each year, even at low levels deemed safe by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The warming of the Amazon, combined with deforestation, will expose roughly 11 million people to potentially lethal heat by the end of the century.
This drumbeat of new studies has been accentuated by a crescendo of recent climate-linked disasters: Drought in Madagascar has pushed more than 1 million people to the brink of starvation. Flash floods in Niger worsened the West African nation’s cholera epidemic.
According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data, at least 538 Americans have died in major climate disasters this year. That doesn’t account for the less-direct deaths: people who get sick from mold that forms after their home is deluged during a hurricane and patients whose chronic conditions are exacerbated by extreme temperatures. Studies suggest that smoke from wildfires led to thousands more coronavirus cases out West, and in one county was linked to 41 percent of deaths.
Recent disasters “are grim warnings that for every day that we delay our response to climate change, the situation gets more critical,” said Marina Romanello, research director and lead author for the “Countdown.”
Yet climate change’s greatest dangers are not always associated with the most obvious weather extremes. Other threats will emerge from relatively slow, subtle transformations of the Earth and air.
By far the deadliest hazard comes from the act of burning fossil fuels, which generates tiny, lung-irritating particles known as PM2.5. One estimate published this February put the toll of this pollution at more than 10 million excess deaths each year. The Lancet study is more conservative, putting the figure closer to 1 million.
When it comes to the consequences of warming, heat is the world’s worst killer. Elderly people and infants younger than 1 — the groups most vulnerable to heat — are exposed to roughly four more extremely hot days per year now than a generation ago, the Lancet report found. Almost 350,000 people died of heat-related illness in 2019.
Steadily rising temperatures, combined with habitat disruption and globalization, have also given infectious diseases a chance to evolve and expand.
Fungal illnesses, which can’t be treated with vaccines or antibiotics, may be on the rise. Historically, there haven’t been many fungi capable of infecting humans, because the microbes don’t thrive at typical body temperatures. But as global warming increases the average temperatures in the environments where fungi live, it may be pressuring these species to adapt. This in turn could make them better suited for invading human guts or respiratory tracts, scientists suggest.
An April study in the journal PLOS Pathogens noted that Candida auris, a treatment-resistant infection that was first identified only 12 years ago, may have evolved this way. Same goes for a new kind of Cryptococcus gattii, a lung-infecting fungi typically found in the tropics, that recently emerged in the Pacific Northwest. In the Southwest United States, scientists have documented a rise in Valley Fever cases, which are caused by a fungus whose spores are spread on dusty, windy days that are now common because of climate-induced drought.
“They are kind of lurking in the soil and lurking in the environment,” said Anita Sil, a microbial geneticist at the University of California at San Francisco who studies disease-causing fungi. “They’re in the air we breathe.”
Meanwhile, disease-carrying mosquitoes are moving to more temperate areas and higher elevations, their life cycles accelerated and their biting behaviors intensified. Shifting environmental factors have raised the basic reproductive rates of illnesses like Zika and chikungunya, enhancing their potential to explode into epidemics. A study published by the Lancet Planetary Health this July found that unabated carbon emissions would put almost 90 percent of the world’s population at risk of malaria and dengue by the end of the century.
In the past decade, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identifiedat least 128 cases in which people contracted dengue within the mainland United States. One case emerged as far north as New York.
But the diseases will continue to hit hardest in the low-lying, tropical nations where they are already endemic. In sub-Saharan Africa, McIver said, the toll could amount to as many as 50 additional deaths every hour, most of them in children under 5.
Other studies suggest that the rate of diarrheal diseases in children will increase as much as 5 percent for every 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) of temperature rise.
The particular danger to young children underscores what McIver calls the “cruel irony” of climate-related health threats: “Those who are being the most affected by the problem are those contributing least to the phenomenon of climate change,” he said. “That’s the thing we should all be staying awake at night thinking about.”
On Capitol Hill and in international negotiations, the high price tag of addressing these impacts and moving the world away from fossil fuels has been an obstacle to climate legislation.
The Lancet “Countdown” argues that inaction will be even more expensive.
Last year, the direct costs of climate disasters totaled more than $178 billion, the report says. Drought affected 19 percent of the world’s total land surface area, damaging yields of crucial crops such as wheat, corn and soy. Extreme heat harmed workers and shut down operations at farms and factories, depriving the world of 295 billion potential work hours.
But curbing emissions, investing in clean energy and funding adaptation efforts could save money as well as lives, the report says. The reduced air pollution that would result from eliminating fossil fuels alone could deliver global health benefits in the trillions of dollars. A 2019 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that deaths from fine-particle pollution cost the United States more than $800 billion per year; more than half of those costs were attributable to pollution from the energy and transportation sectors.
“We have an enormous opportunity to get to the root cause of health harms from the burning of fossil fuels,” Salas said. “To me there is no greater treatment that will have the widest health benefits for my patients than reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
‘It Should Not Have Happened’: Asylum Officers Detail Migrants’ Accounts of Abuse More than 160 reports, obtained by Human Rights Watch, reveal details of mistreatment that asylum seekers described experiencing from border officials and while in U.S. custody.
‘It Should Not Have Happened’: Asylum Officers Detail Migrants’ Accounts of Abuse
“More than 160 reports, obtained by Human Rights Watch, reveal details of mistreatment that asylum seekers described experiencing from border officials and while in U.S. custody.
A Honduran man seeking a safe haven in the United States said a Border Patrol officer told him that he would not be granted asylum — a determination the officer was not authorized to make — and when the migrant refused to sign paperwork, the officer said he would be sent to jail, where he would be raped.
In a report prepared by an asylum officer at Citizenship and Immigration Services, the officer wrote that threatening rape for refusing to sign paperwork was “a gross violation.”
“I’m really sorry that this happened to you,” the asylum officer recalled telling the man. “It should not have happened.”
In a separate account of misconduct, a migrant told an asylum officer that after she tried to run from a Border Patrol officer along the southwestern border in April 2017, “he caught me and threw me to the ground in a very aggressive way. And he pulled me up three or four times, and kept slamming me on the ground.” She said the officer also grabbed her by the hair and kicked her in the rib cage and lower pelvis, causing her to bleed.
These and other accounts are among 160 reports filed by federal asylum officers from 2016 to 2021, relaying details of abuse that asylum seekers described experiencing during interactions with border officials and while in U.S. custody. The descriptions, disclosed in response to a public records request made by Human Rights Watch, did not include information about the outcomes of the cases, including whether the complaints were found to have merit. And many other details, including dates and locations, were redacted.
While the complaints are mostly based on interactions that took place during the Trump administration, they come at a time of increased concern about the treatment of migrants by American border and immigration officials. Scenes last month of Border Patrol agents on horseback in Del Rio, Texas, corralling Black migrants with their reins have renewed a focus on years of complaints about inhumane treatment of undocumented immigrants.
“The department does not tolerate any form of abuse or misconduct,” a homeland security spokeswoman, Marsha Espinosa, said in a statement on Wednesday night. Ms. Espinosa said that under the leadership of its secretary, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the department was conducting internal reviews “to identify and terminate intolerable prejudice and reform its policies and training,” and on the use of force. The agency has also added more personnel to its Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, she said, and has issued memos on “the need to respect the dignity of every individual, fight against discrimination, and safeguard civil rights and civil liberties.”
President Biden has promised that the Border Patrol agents captured on camera in Del Rio would “pay” for their behavior. An internal investigation into their actions is underway, and Biden administration officials have promised to publicly share the findings. But in the past, there has been little transparency about such investigations, or disciplinary measures.
During his confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Mr. Biden’s choice to lead Customs and Border Protection, Chris Magnus, promised lawmakers that he would be forthcoming about the Del Rio investigation.
“I have a long history of transparency and sharing things with the public, whatever the outcome may be, because I think this is how you sustain and build trust,” said Mr. Magnus, the police chief in Tucson, Ariz. Mr. Magnus has a reputation for changing the culture of law enforcement organizations and said that after Del Rio, “examining tactics and training is certainly appropriate.”
When migrants are caught crossing the border illegally, a Border Patrol officer will detain and question them. Although the policy has changed temporarily during the pandemic, the officers are supposed to ask if the migrants fear persecution or harm in their home country. If migrants express a credible fear about returning, they are placed into immigration court proceedings and eventually interviewed by an asylum officer.
The records obtained by Human Rights Watch are of reports that asylum officers made after hearing allegations of law enforcement misconduct. In addition to complaints about physical, emotional and sexual abuse, migrants said in some of the reports that they were not asked whether they feared persecution; that they were told they could not request asylum; that they were pressured with threats to sign documents; and, in a few cases, that they had their documents torn up by border officers.
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“The documents make clear that reports of grievous C.B.P. abuses — physical and sexual assaults, abusive detention conditions and violations of due process — are an open secret within D.H.S.,” said Clara Long, an associate director at Human Rights Watch, using the abbreviations for Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security. “They paint a picture of D.H.S. as an agency that appears to have normalized shocking abuses at the U.S. border.”
The documents also show federal asylum officers apologizing for the treatment asylum seekers faced in U.S. custody. In March 2019, one asylum officer said to an immigrant: “U.S. government officials should not be treating you this way. They should be treating you and anyone else with respect.”
It is not clear how many interviews asylum officers conducted during the period that the more than 160 complaints were reported. According to immigration data, from 2016 to 2020, there were 409,000 referrals for credible fear interviews with asylum officers.
Similar complaints have been disclosed previously. In 2014, the American Immigration Council obtained records detailing more than 800 complaints against border officials, also through a public records request. In a subsequent request, the organization found that out of more than 2,000 allegations of misconduct by border officials filed from 2012 to 2015, more than 95 percent of the cases ended in no action against the accused.
Around 2013, some of the asylum officers working at Citizenship and Immigration Services reached out to a supervisor to see what could be done about the complaints they were hearing from migrants, a former asylum officer said. The former officer was not authorized to publicly discuss the internal workings of the agency and spoke on the condition of anonymity. The reports from migrants were troubling, the former officer said, and they wanted a formal system to document the complaints.
In 2015, the agency issued a directive to asylum officers to report known or suspected misconduct.
The allegations sought by Human Rights Watch had been sent to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general. The group asked the department last month about the outcomes of the complaints, but has not received a response, Ms. Long said.
In the reports filed by asylum officers, migrants described being called “pigs,” “herds of animals” and a “parasite.”
“They treat you like you are worthless, like you are not a human,” one asylum applicant said in September 2018.
Mr. Mayorkas said last month that the images from Del Rio “do not reflect who we are as a department, nor who we are as a country.”
But many immigrant advocates said rough treatment of migrants by Border Patrol agents was par for the course.
This argument was used in defense of a Border Patrol agent who admitted to deliberately running over a Guatemalan migrant, Antolin Rolando Lopez-Aguilar, in December 2017. A few weeks before the episode, the agent, Matthew Bowen, referred in text messages to immigrants as “mindless murdering savages,” “subhuman” and “unworthy of being kindling for a fire.”
In the court filings, Mr. Bowen’s lawyer argued that his client’s views were “commonplace throughout the Border Patrol’s Tucson sector.”
“It is part of the agency’s culture,” he said.“
'Genocide Cannon' Removed From Decatur Square The "genocide cannon" was installed in Decatur in 1906 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
“The "genocide cannon" was installed in Decatur in 1906 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
DECATUR, GA — The controversial "genocide cannon" in Decatur was removed Tuesday night, according to several media reports. The DeKalb County Commission unanimously voted last week to remove the more than a century old monument from Decatur Square, reported WAGA-TV.
Stirring up controversy, groups have tried to have it removed for months. It was installed in 1906 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, reported WAGA-TV.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, activist groups such as Beacon Hill have been fighting for the cannon's removal since last summer.
"This victory proves that the earth beneath has more power than the cannon," John Winterhawk, an elder with the Muscogee tribe, said in anews release issued by the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights.
The cannon is connected to the Indian War of 1836, reported The Associated Press. Local activists have said it represents the brutal suffering of thousands of Muscogee people who were removed from their native lands.
The cannon is to be moved into storage within 90 days.
In June 2020, another monument was removed after now-retired Superior Court judge Clarence Seeliger ordered the Decatur Confederate monument be taken down and placed in storage. In his ruling, he called the monument a public nuisance and ordered it to be removed. People gathered to watch construction crews remove the 30-foot obelisk.”