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What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White

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, March 30, 2024

Prosecutors suggest Trump violated gag order by attacking judge’s daughter | Donald Trump | The Guardian

Prosecutors suggest Trump violated gag order by attacking judge’s daughter

Two men wearing suits in court
Donald Trump in court in New York on Monday. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Manhattan prosecutors asked the judge presiding in Donald Trump’s upcoming criminal trial on charges of covering up hush money to a porn star before the 2016 election to confirm that a recent gag order preventing the former president from making inflammatory comments extends to the judge’s family members.

The prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney’s office suggested in a two-page letter on Friday that, as far as they were concerned, Trump had violated the gag order by attacking the judge’s daughter in a recent social media post and should be sanctioned for future violations.

“The court should warn defendant that his recent conduct is contumacious and direct him to immediately desist. If defendant continues to disregard such orders, he should face sanctions under judiciary law,” said the letter to New York supreme court justice Juan Merchan, referencing statutes for criminal contempt that include possible jail time.

At issue was a post Trump sent on Wednesday assailing the judge’s daughter on his Truth Social platform for supposedly using a photo of Trump behind bars as her profile picture for her X account. The photo “makes it completely impossible for me to get a fair trial”, Trump wrote.

The problem for Trump was that the account appears to be bogus. The handle for the X account did belong to the judge’s daughter, Lauren Merchan, but she has since deleted that account, a court spokesperson said. Someone else – it is unclear who – took over the handle and used the photo.

But Trump and his supporters have remained undeterred, despite the formal denial. Trump’s surrogates have maintained that the account supposedly is still connected to the judge’s daughter in order to perpetuate claims that the entire family is partisan against the former president.

The fixation on the judge’s daughter appears to be spurred in part by the fact that she has worked as an executive at Authentic, a digital marketing agency that works with Democratic political candidates. Trump has previously tried, but failed, to have the judge removed over his daughter’s work.

Whether the judge will find that Trump violated the gag order is unclear.

The gag order against Trump in the hush-money case was entered on Tuesday, after Merchan rebuked the former president for making statements about the case he deemed “threatening, inflammatory, denigrating” ahead of trial, scheduled to start on 15 April.

Under the order, Trump cannot make, or direct others to make, public statements about trial witnesses concerning their roles in the investigation and at trial, prosecutors other than the Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg himself, and members of the court staff or the district attorney’s staff.

The order notably also barred Trump from assailing the family members of any counsel or staff member, if his comments were made with the intention to interfere with their work in the case, or with the knowledge that his comments were likely to interfere with their work.

But it was uncertain whether the judge considered himself as court staff, and therefore whether the prohibition on commenting on the family of court staff extended to his daughter. Trump’s lawyers contended in their own filing on Friday that they considered the judge’s family as fair game.

Merchan did not specify how he would enforce the order. Typically, judges impose escalating fines as punishment but, in extreme circumstances, can ultimately order a defendant to be jailed pre-trial if they are found to be in criminal contempt of the order."

Prosecutors suggest Trump violated gag order by attacking judge’s daughter | Donald Trump | The Guardian

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Allegations of Racial Bias and Illegal Campaign Activity at a Conservative Nonprofit That Seeks to Transform College Campuses | The New Yorker

A Conservative Nonprofit That Seeks to Transform College Campuses Faces Allegations of Racial Bias and Illegal Campaign Activity

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Documents and former employees reveal troubling issues at a charity that touts its close relationship with the Trump family.Photograph by Melissa Golden / Redux

On Tuesday, in a convention center in West Palm Beach, Florida, amid chants of “USA!” and “The wall is going to be built!,” Donald Trump, Jr., kicked off a three-day annual summit for Turning Point USA, a conservative nonprofit. Based outside of Chicago, Turning Point’s aim is to foment a political revolution on America’s college campuses, in part by funnelling money into student government elections across the country to elect right-leaning candidates. But it is secretive about its funding and its donors, raising the prospect that “dark money” may now be shaping not just state and federal races but ones on campus.

Turning Point touts its close relationship with the President’s family. The group’s Web site promoted Don, Jr.,’s appearance for weeks, featuring a photo of him raising a clenched fist. Its promotional materials include a quote from the younger Trump praising Turning Point: “What you guys have done” is “just amazing.” Lara Trump, the wife of Don, Jr.,’s brother Eric, is also involved with the group. In West Palm Beach on Wednesday, she hosted a luncheon promoting Turning Point’s coming Young Women’s Leadership Summit. The group’s twenty-four-year-old executive director and founder, Charlie Kirk, told me that he counts Don, Jr., as “a personal friend.”

Turning Point casts itself as a grassroots response to what it perceives as liberal intolerance on college campuses. Kirk has called college campuses “islands of totalitarianism”; he and his supporters contend that conservatives are the true victims of discrimination in America, and he has vowed to fight back on behalf of what he has called his “Team Right.” Kirk is a frequent guest on Fox News, and last summer he was invited to give a speech at the Republican National Convention. That was where he met Donald Trump, Jr., and “hit it off” with him, Kirk said. After the convention, Kirk divided his time between Turning Point activities and working for the Trump campaign as a specialist in youth outreach. “I helped coördinate some rather successful events with him,” Kirk told me, referring to Don, Jr., “and I also carried his bags.” When friends threw Kirk a surprise birthday party earlier this year, Don, Jr., attended, as did Sebastian Gorka, the former Trump White House adviser.

As Turning Point’s profile has risen, so has scrutiny of its funding and tactics. Internal documents that I obtained, as well as interviews with former employees, suggest that the group may have skirted campaign-finance laws that bar charitable organizations from participating in political activity. Former employees say that they were directed to work with prominent conservatives, including the wife of the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, in aid of Republican Presidential candidates in 2016. Perhaps most troubling for an organization that holds up conservatives as the real victims of discrimination in America, Turning Point USA is also alleged to have fostered an atmosphere that is hostile to minorities. Screenshots provided to me by a source show that Crystal Clanton, who served until last summer as the group’s national field director, sent a text message to another Turning Point employee saying, “I HATE BLACK PEOPLE. Like fuck them all . . . I hate blacks. End of story.”

Clanton, who resigned after serving as the group’s second-highest official for five years, at first declined to comment. “I’m no longer with Turning Point and wish not to be a part of the story,” Clanton told me over e-mail. Later, in a second e-mail, she said, “I have no recollection of these messages and they do not reflect what I believe or who I am and the same was true when I was a teenager.”

John Ryan O’Rourke, the former Turning Point employee who received the text messages from Clanton, requested that the messages “not be used in any article or background information concerning Turning Point” and declined to comment on them. Kirk said in an e-mail that “Turning Point assessed the situation and took decisive action within 72 hours of being made aware of the issue.” Soon after, Clanton left the organization.

While Kirk served as the public face of Turning Point, Clanton, its former field director, acted as its hands-on boss, according to former employees. In a 2016 book that Kirk co-authored with Brent Hamachek, “Time for a Turning Point: Setting a Course Toward Free Markets and Limited Government for Future Generations,” he described Clanton as “the best hire we ever could have made.” He called her “integral to the success of Turning Point while effectively serving as its chief operating officer.” He added, “Turning Point needs more Crystals; so does America.”

Former Turning Point employees say that the organization was a difficult workplace and rife with tension, some of it racial. Gabrielle Fequiere, a former Turning Point employee, told me that she was the only African-American hired as a field director when she worked with the group, three years ago. “In looking back, I think it was racist,” she said. “At the time, I was blaming myself, and I thought I did something wrong.” Fequiere, who now works as a model, recalled that the young black recruits that she brought into the organization suddenly found themselves disinvited from the group’s annual student summit, and that when she herself attended, she watched speakers there who “spoke badly about black women having all these babies out of wedlock. It was really offensive.” (Kirk, through a spokesman, denied that any such incidents occurred, and said, “These accusations are absolutely baseless and even absurd.”)

Fequiere said that Clanton fired her on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, on the grounds that she was not performing her job well. “I was the only black American employee they had, and they fired me on M.L.K. Day—it was so rude!” Fequiere told me. She added, “I felt very uncomfortable working there because I was black,” but she said she had seen white employees mistreated, as well. “My Democratic friends had told me that some Republicans didn’t care about the poor and minorities, and I thought it wasn’t true, but then I found the people they were talking about!”

Speakers at Turning Point events on various college campuses have been accused of going out of their way to thumb their noses at ethnic and cultural sensitivities. The conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, for instance, whose appearance Turning Point co-hosted with the College Republicans at the University of Colorado, in Boulder, said that despite being gay, he hated “faggots,” lesbians, and feminists, who, he said, “fucking hate men.”

In an effort to mock campus opposition to hate speech, members of the Turning Point chapter at Kent State University staged a protest last fall in which they appeared on campus wearing adult diapers and sucking on pacifiers while proclaiming “Safe Spaces are for Children.” The protest stirred widespread ridicule, and Kirk’s spokesman said that he disapproved of the display and later issued guidelines against other chapters repeating it.

Kirk grew up in Wheeling, Illinois, and was an Eagle Scout; in a 2015 speech to the Conservative Forum of Silicon Valley, he said that his “No. 1 dream in life” was to attend West Point, but the slot he considered his went to “a far less-qualified candidate of a different gender and a different persuasion” whose test scores he claimed he knew. (Kirk said he was being sarcastic when he made the comment.) An older acquaintance encouraged him to forgo college and launch a conservative analogue to the progressive advocacy group Kirk acknowledged in an interview that it is something of an irony that he heads an organization devoted to waging political warfare on campuses when he never actually attended college himself. “I joke that I wasn’t smart enough to go to a four-year school,” Kirk told me, although he noted that he continued his studies at a community college.

MoveOn, however, has one part set up as a super PAC, and another as a 501(c)4 “social-welfare group,” both of which are legally allowed to engage in political elections. It also has a policy of disclosing the names of anyone contributing five thousand dollars or more. In contrast, Turning Point is a 501(c)3 charity. This means that, unlike MoveOn donors, Turning Point donors can take tax deductions for their contributions and remain anonymous. In exchange for these benefits, however, the Internal Revenue Service strictly prohibits charities such as Turning Point from engaging either directly or indirectly in political elections.

Several former Turning Point employees told me in interviews that they felt they were asked to participate in activities that crossed lines drawn by campaign-finance laws for groups like theirs. Payden Hall, who worked for Turning Point during the 2016 Presidential campaign, told me that Clanton, who was her boss, e-mailed her at her Turning Point address to make arrangements for her to coördinate with Ginni Thomas, the wife of the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to help Ted Cruz’s Presidential campaign. “That’s where the ambiguity began,” Hall recalled. Soon after, she said, Ginni Thomas, who was supporting Cruz’s candidacy and is on Turning Point’s advisory council, left a voice message for Hall and her sister, who also worked for Turning Point, saying that she was sending two hundred Cruz placards to them to distribute in the coming Wisconsin Presidential primary.

Audio: Listen to Ginni Thomas’s voice mail.

“Crystal gave Ginni Thomas my private mailing address without my permission,” Hall recalled. “They gave out employees’ personal information to the wife of a Supreme Court Justice.” The next thing she knew, she said, hundreds of Cruz placards arrived at her home. “We threw them out,” Hall said. She was a Cruz supporter, but, she says, “We wanted to volunteer on our own terms, not to give in to pressure from a boss. I felt that if it wasn’t crossing a legal line, it was crossing a professional one.”

Trevor Potter, a former Republican commissioner on the Federal Elections Commission who is the founder and president of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign-finance-law watchdog group, said that Turning Point is barred from aiding political campaigns. “Under the law, a 501(c)3 can’t engage in political action or give anything of value to a campaign, including students, or the names of students,” he said. “If what Turning Point USA was doing was helping Republicans on campus and feeding them to campaigns, that’s a political operation, and it sounds as if it crosses the line.”

Reached by phone, Ginni Thomas declined to comment. Clanton’s lawyer, Robert Grabermann, said that if she e-mailed Hall “at her TPUSA email address, it was an honest oversight and sincere mistake on Ms. Clanton’s part. Ms. Clanton categorically denies using TPUSA resources to aid any political campaign activities. She fully understands the 501 (c)(3) guidelines, and has on many occasions consulted with legal counsel to ensure that all personal campaign involvement was compliant with 501 (c)(3) rules.”

Susan Walker, who worked for Turning Point USA in Florida, in 2016, told me that the group did aid Republican political campaigns. Walker said that a list she created while working for Turning Point, with the names of hundreds of student supporters, was given without her knowledge to someone working for Marco Rubio’s Presidential campaign. “That list had, like, seven hundred kids, and I worked my ass off to get it,” she said. “I had added notes on every student I talked to, and they were all on it still.” The Rubio operative, she added, “shouldn’t have had that list. We were a charity, and he was on a political campaign.”

E-mails and interviews from other former Turning Point employees in South Carolina and Ohio showed crossover between Presidential-campaign work and work for the charity, as well. In South Carolina, a chain of e-mails shows, Kirk asked a Turning Point USA employee to round up students to support Cruz at the behest of two officials with a pro-Cruz super PAC. In a January 25, 2016, e-mail, Drew Ryun, a Turning Point advisory-council member who was helping run one of the pro-Cruz super PACs, asked Kirk to get another Turning Point employee to “send” the super PAC “as many kids as possible.” Ryun, a former deputy director of the Republican National Committee, explained that he needed “as many kids as you can generate for a WSJ piece on efforts in” South Carolina. After Kirk agreed to help, the e-mail thread shows, Kirk coördinated with Dan Tripp, Ryun’s associate at the pro-Cruz super PAC, who headed its operations in South Carolina and is the founder and president of Ground Game Strategies.

“Yes!” Kirk answered Tripp when asked for help from Turning Point. “What part of SC?”

“Greenville, Spartenburg or Anderson Counties,” Tripp replied.

“Time of day and how long?” Kirk asked.

“I’m thinking 2 hours late Sunday afternoon. Canvassing, training and pizza,” Tripp responded.

“You got it, will recon shortly,” Kirk e-mailed back. Kirk explained that a Turning Point employee in South Carolina named Anna Scott Marsh would be the point person, and added that “Anna will be helping. Let’s rock this!”

Soon after, e-mails show, Marsh, the Turning Point employee, promised to round up the requested recruits. “Sending something out tonight, and will send you a list hopefully tomorrow . . .  I’m sure we can find some solid students here.” Marsh declined to comment about her e-mails.

Asked about these practices, Kirk referred me to a statement from his lawyer, Sally Wagenmaker: “Turning Point USA works diligently to comply entirely with all relevant laws and regulations governing not-for-profit organizations. Turning Point USA focuses on fiscal conservatism, free market economics, and related student education and advocacy, all completely within applicable Section 501(c)(3) legal constraints.”

Ryun confirmed that the exchanges occurred, but said that Kirk e-mailed him “via his personal e-mail and on his personal time!” Tripp, too, confirmed the e-mails, but said, “We welcomed many volunteers to our efforts and were grateful for their support. It would be quite troubling if campaign finance rules were interpreted to prevent conservative volunteers from exercising their right to be involved in the political process.”

In a phone interview, Kirk declined to identify the donors who have supplied his group’s eight-million-dollar-plus annual budget, noting that many prefer to remain anonymous. But Kirk has spoken and fund-raised at various closed-door energy-industry gatherings, including those of the 2017 board meeting of the National Mining Association and the 2016 annual meeting of the Independent Petroleum Association of America. In our interview, Kirk acknowledged that some of his donors “are in the fossil-fuel space.”

Kirk’s ties to fossil-fuel magnates are controversial because Turning Point has helped organize opposition on campuses to students calling for schools to divest from fossil-fuel companies. Turning Point distributed a guide for college students with a foreword by Kirk, titled “10 Ways Fossil Fuels Improve Our Daily Lives.” In it, he argues, “Across the nation, college students are clamoring for their campuses to divest from fossil fuel . . . students are indoctrinated to believe the myth that fossil fuels are dirty and renewable energy is a plausible alternative . . . ” Turning Point, which also runs an online “Professor Watch List” that targets professors it believes are liberal, blamed “leftist professors” in its booklet for having “perpetuated” these “myths.” In the interview, Kirk told me that “We think targeting fossil fuels is rather unfair, and it is not really in the best interests of the universities to favor one type of political agenda over another.” It’s a message that “went great,” he said, when he delivered it at energy-industry meetings.

Last May, The Chronicle of Higher Education published an investigative report on what it called Turning Point’s “stealth plan for political influence.” The story recounted accusations on multiple campuses that the group had funnelled money into student elections in violation of the spending caps and transparency requirements set by those schools. It detailed how student candidates backed by Turning Point had been forced to drop out of campus elections at the University of Maryland and Ohio State “after they were caught violating spending rules and attempting to hide the help they received from Turning Point.” It also quoted Kirk saying in an appearance before a conservative political group in 2015 that his group was “investing a lot of time and money and energy” in student-government elections. (In the story, Kirk denied any wrongdoing and said it was “completely ludicrous and ridiculous that there’s some sort of secret plan.”)

A copy of a Turning Point brochure prepared for potential donors that I obtained provides a glimpse into the group’s tactics. (A former Turning Point employee said the brochure was closely held, and not posted online so that it couldn’t leak.) Its “Campus Victory Project” is described as a detailed, multi-phase plan to “commandeer the top office of Student Body President at each of the most recognizable and influential American Universities.”

Phase 1 calls for victory in the “Power 5” conference schools, including the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big Ten Conference, the Pacific 12 Conference, the Big 12 Conference, and the Southeastern Conference. Phase 2 calls for winning the top student-government slots in every Division 1 N.C.A.A. school, of which it says there are more than three hundred. In the first three years of the plan, the brochure says, the group aims to capture the “outright majority” of student-government positions in eighty per cent of these schools.

Once in control of student governments, the brochure says, Turning Point expects its allied campus leaders to follow a set political agenda. Among its planks are the defunding of progressive organizations on campus, the implementation of “free speech” policies eliminating barriers to hate speech, and the blocking of all campus “boycott, divestment and sanctions” movements. Turning Point’s agenda also calls for the student leaders it empowers to use student resources to host speakers and forums promoting “American Exceptionalism and Free Market ideals on campus.”

Today, Turning Point claims to have a presence on more than a thousand college campuses nationwide, and to have “a stronger, more organized presence than all the left-wing campus groups combined.” Kirk told me his group had started three hundred new chapters in the past year. The Campus Victory Project brochure names more than fifty four-year colleges and universities where it claims the group helped effectuate student government victories in the 2016–17 year, including the University of California, Los Angeles, Syracuse, Purdue, Michigan State, Wake Forest, and the University of Southern California, and it names a hundred and twenty-two more schools whose governments the group hopes to “commandeer” in Phase 2. The brochure notes that completing the task will take money: specifically, $2.2 million.

Kirk, in his interview, denied that any of these funds would directly pay for students’ campaigns. “We do not directly fund any of these candidates,” he said. Instead, he explained, “We will support them through levels of leadership,” including training and what he called “leadership scholarships.”

The prospect of “dark money”—contributions from anonymous donors to national ideological groups—flowing into campus elections has alarmed some students. “Students were outraged that our elections were being influenced from outside,” Danielle Di Scala, who last year was vice-president of the student government at Ohio State University, said. “I’d never seen that before, but it’s starting to be a trend. The problem,” she told me, “is it can price some student candidates out of the market when others are getting money from groups with unlimited funds.”

Andy MacCracken, the executive director of the National Campus Leadership Council, said he worries that campus elections are “particularly vulnerable” to outside money, “because there aren’t really any standard rules.” MacCracken says it’s been “shocking to see how much of an operation there is from Turning Point,” adding that “there’s really nothing comparable that I’m aware of from left-wing groups.” The push, he suggested, reflects a recognition on the part of conservatives about the future value of student leaders. “I can totally imagine they’re thinking that if we can win this on campuses, they will be the thought leaders down the road. This is a way to win it efficiently at the start. The challenge, though,” he says, “is that so much of this is in the dark.”

A Glimpse into Turning Point USA’s Tactics

Allegations of Racial Bias and Illegal Campaign Activity at a Conservative Nonprofit That Seeks to Transform College Campuses | The New Yorker

Monday, March 25, 2024

Trump wins partial stay of fraud judgment, allowed to post $175 million

Trump wins partial stay of fraud judgment, allowed to post $175 million

New York Attorney General Letitia James arrives to hear former president Donald Trump testify in his civil fraud case at the State Supreme Court of New York on Nov. 6, 2023, in New York. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post) 

“An appeals court panel said Monday that former president Donald Trump would be allowed to post a $175 million bond to stave off enforcement of a nearly half-billion dollar civil judgment against him and his business.

The order Monday morning was a significant win for Trump, who was otherwise facing a massive cash crunch and the prospect of New York Attorney General Letitia James seizing some of his assets as soon as this week.

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However, while the panel eased the financial cloud over Trump, it did not erase it entirely. The panel gave Trump 10 days to come up with the reduced bond of $175 million. Trump’s attorneys had previously sought to post a $100 million bond, rather than the full amount, and have not said whether he can meet the $175 million threshold.

James, who brought the lawsuit against Trump and his company, said Trump misstated the value of his properties and other assets by up to $2.2 billion a year from 2011 to 2021. New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, who heard the case, in February ordered that Trump pay more than $450 million as a penalty. Trump’s attorneys have suggested that he would struggle to finance a bond of that size, saying they had tried and failed to get more than two dozen companies to help secure the bond.

An attorney for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. Trump himself was in a New York courtroom Monday for a hearing in an unrelated criminal case, related to hush money payments made to an adult-film actress.”

While that hearing was underway, Trump posted to social media that his side would “abide by the decision … and post either a bond, equivalent securities, or cash.” He also criticized Engoron and James, both of whom he has ridiculed throughout the trial and after.

A spokesperson for the attorney general said: “Donald Trump is still facing accountability for his staggering fraud. The court has already found that he engaged in years of fraud to falsely inflate his net worth and unjustly enrich himself, his family, and his organization. The $464 million judgment — plus interest — against Donald Trump and the other defendants still stands.”

This is a developing story. It will be updated.

Latest Israel-Hamas war news and Gaza conflict updates - The Washington Post

Damaged houses in Rafah, Gaza, after a strike. (Haitham Imad/Getty Images)

MIDDLE EAST CONFLICT LIVE UPDATESU.N. Security Council passes resolution calling for Gaza cease-fire 

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"The United Nations Security Council on Monday passed its first resolution calling for a Gaza cease-fire after four failed attempts. The United States abstained, allowing it to pass. The resolution, backed by 14 nations including China and Russia, demands an immediate cease-fire during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and the release of all hostages. Four previous cease-fire resolutions had failed, including one proposed by the United States on Friday. The U.S. abstention is likely to further strain U.S. relations with Israel amid sharp disagreements over Israel’s planned military offensive in Rafah.

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Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is in Washington this week, as the Biden administration presses Israel not to attack the southern Gaza city of Rafah. Vice President Harris told ABC’s “This Week” that such an offensive “would be a huge mistake,” with more than a million people sheltering in the city. Asked whether there would be “consequences” from the United States for an Israeli operation in Rafah, she said, “I am ruling out nothing.”
A separate Israeli delegation, which includes Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer and national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi, was set to depart Israel Monday evening, said an Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the schedule has not been made public. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the delegation he would cancel their trip if the United States did not veto the resolution, according to a statement from the prime minister’s office."

Latest Israel-Hamas war news and Gaza conflict updates - The Washington Post

‘Yo Soy la Mamá’: A Migrant Mother’s Struggle to Get Back Her Son - The New York Times

‘Yo Soy la Mamá’: A Migrant Mother’s Struggle to Get Back Her Son

"She came to the United States fleeing her abuser. When child welfare got involved, she risked losing her son forever.

A boy in a white T-shirt looking out on a park.
Ricardo, a 7-year-old Honduran immigrant in South Florida, risked being separated from his mother, Olga, forever.Eva Marie Uzcategui for The New York Times

Over the final four months of 2021, Olga, a Honduran immigrant in Hollywood, Fla., grew increasingly panicked. She could not find her 5-year-old son, Ricardo. After she’d fled her homeland to escape her abusive husband, the man also migrated, disappeared with the boy and broke off contact.

By day, Olga lived her life. She cut, colored and styled hair at a Miami salon, chatting with clients as if she hadn’t a care in the world. She mothered her 7-year-old daughter, Dariela, straining to distract her from the fact that her little brother was missing. But the nights were tough. “I cried into my pillow,” Olga said. “Where was my sweet little boy? Was he, at least, safe?”

He was not.

By the time Olga, then 28, tracked her son to Massachusetts, he had been removed from his father over allegations of physical abuse. Calling office after office of the Department of Children and Families, she finally reached a woman who turned out to be Ricardo’s caseworker.

“Who are you?” the woman said.

Yo soy la mamá,” Olga replied, bursting into tears.

In early January 2022, Olga, who asked that her last name be withheld to protect her children, flew to Boston. It would only be a matter of presenting evidence — Ricardo’s birth certificate, videos of him on her phone, DNA if necessary — before she could take him home, she thought.

But when immigration and child welfare are involved — two contentious issues and their beleaguered systems — nothing is straightforward.

Under an interstate compact, Massachusetts formally asked Florida to approve the relocation. Florida said no. Though a caseworker found Olga to have a clean record, a proper home and sufficient income, she denied the move because Olga was not a legal U.S. resident.

Massachusetts does not consider undocumented status a reason to prevent reunification with a parent. But intensely cautious amid a scandal involving another child’s death, the state’s child protection authorities froze, sending Ricardo on a destabilizing odyssey through the foster care system. In a case that reveals the unique vulnerabilities of unauthorized immigrant parents, Olga risked losing her son forever.

Immigrant family separation did not start or stop with the Trump administration’s thwarted “zero tolerance” policy. Now as before, and with record numbers of new unauthorized immigrants fanning out across the country, it happens more insidiously.

“When people think of family separation, they think of the Southern border and kids in cages,” said Lori Nessel, director of an immigrant rights clinic at Seton Hall Law School in New Jersey. “But people don’t realize how much this occurs every day in the interior of the country.”

Like other poor parents, unauthorized immigrants encounter the chronic fallibility of state-run agencies in which Black and Hispanic children are overrepresented. They also tangle with the antiquated bureaucracy that governs the relocation of children across state lines.

But their status puts them at an additional disadvantage. They confront language and cultural barriers as well as limited access to services and benefits, fear of immigration enforcement, inadequate legal representation and, finally, anti-immigrant bias.

Additionally, many caseworkers and judges harbor the misconception that all unauthorized immigrants are on the brink of deportation, viewing their homes as inherently unstable. Yet fewer than 1 percent were removed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement last year.

Cristina Cooper, senior attorney with the American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law, described Florida’s decision in Olga’s case as “shocking and harmful.” Undocumented status alone does not make a parent unfit. And under the 14th Amendment, fit parents, regardless of immigration status, have a protected right to the care, custody and control of their children.

Asked whether it was now Florida’s policy to refuse custody based on immigration status, Miguel Nevarez, press secretary for the state’s Department of Children and Families, neither answered directly nor denied it. “Cases regarding one’s legal or illegal status wouldn’t exist if the federal government enforced our immigration laws,” he said.

In Olga’s case, that line of thinking trickled down to South Florida from Tallahassee, where Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill last spring that he proudly called “the strongest anti-illegal-immigration legislation in the country.”

When Olga’s advocates phoned her caseworker’s supervisor, according to Nick Herbold, the boy’s first foster father, the woman told them: “Hey, we’re in Florida. She’s undocumented. There’s no concern about the home. There’s no concern about safety with the mother. It’s just the fact that politically we cannot sign off on it.”


Olga never intended to be an undocumented immigrant. If she ever journeyed north, she thought, she would do so with a visa.

What changed her mind was something that propels many women to leave Honduras, according to a report by the Washington Office on Latin America: “domestic violence and a lack of resources for protections or aid.”

Growing up near the Maya ruins of Copán, daughter of a tailor and a factory worker, Olga set her sights on a professional career. But in her first year studying law at the University of San Pedro Sula, she met Ricardo’s father. (He did not respond to messages from The New York Times.) In her second year, she got pregnant and dropped out.

Even before they married, her boyfriend became volatilely “machista,” she said. After their two children were born in quick succession, he turned physically abusive to her and Dariela. When she finally kicked him out, she didn’t trust him to stay away.

Selling property, Olga raised $10,000, enough to pay the way to the United States for herself and one child. Leave Ricardo with me, her mother said, pledging to travel north with him later.

The journey was harrowing, but once Olga and Dariela were safely ensconced in a relative’s spacious house in Coral Gables, Fla., Olga started to regret leaving the boy behind.

Still, Ricardo was fine with his grandmother — until his father showed up and forcibly reclaimed him, Olga said. The man then traveled with Ricardo to the coffee fields of Hawaii and eventually disappeared with him into the vast U.S. mainland.


In mid-November 2021, Ricardo’s father enrolled him in kindergarten at the Albert F. Argenziano School in Somerville, Mass. Four days later, Ricardo told his teacher that his body hurt. A child who idolizes superheroes, he willed himself not to cry as he revealed a vivid bruise on his leg and confided that his father beat him with a belt when he misbehaved.

Alarmed but not wanting to alarm the rest of the class, the teacher, Ilana Cohn, quietly asked her paraprofessional to take the small child with the soft brown eyes to the health office. Down the hall they went, sneakers squeaking on linoleum past a rainbow-decorated bulletin board that proclaimed: “YOU BELONG HERE! YOU MATTER!”

The nurse observed not only the contusion on Ricardo’s leg but also other, fading bruises. She alerted the principal, Glenda Soto, that she would have to immediately report suspected abuse to the child welfare department.

“O Lord, give me strength,” Ms. Soto said to herself. In her seven years as an administrator at Argenziano, an elementary school with nearly 600 students, she had dealt with only one case in which a child had to be taken from a parent.

Ricardo was whisked away for a forensic examination at Boston Children’s Hospital. Christianne Sharr had just started there as a physician assistant, though she was not at work when her phone rang late that Thursday.

“We have an emergency removal,” a foster care worker said. “The child needs a home tonight.”

Ms. Sharr and her husband, Mr. Herbold, a software engineer, were new foster parents, having been eager during the pandemic “to do something hopeful when the world felt superheavy,” she said.

A couple sitting on a white-picket porch, surrounded by a red children’s scooter and bicycle.
Nick Herbold and Christianne Sharr, Ricardo’s first foster parents, at their home in Cambridge, Mass.Kayana Szymczak for The New York Times

At 3 a.m., a social worker delivered Ricardo to the porch of their Cambridge home. When he shifted the sleeping child into Ms. Sharr’s arms, she studied his face and thought, “Oh, he’s beautiful.” After tucking him into bed, she kept vigil outside the bedroom until day broke and she heard him stir.

Leaping up, Ricardo ran to the window. “Papá! Papá!” he cried. He had been on the move for much of the year. Now, like his mother, he had no idea where he was.


On that first day, Mr. Herbold and Ms. Sharr whisked Ricardo away to a preplanned family gathering at a farm resort. In their hotel room, when he and Ms. Sharr were building block towers, he blurted, “Oh, you know what I want to tell you? I want to tell you that sometimes my dad scares me.”

Ms. Sharr, fluent in Spanish, answered: “OK, tell me more.”

“You know, he hit me here,” Ricardo said, pointing to his leg. He tapped the nape of his neck. “There was one time he hit me here.”

“Oh, my,” Ms. Sharr said. “I’m so sorry that happened to you.”

The following week, the Department of Children and Families, known as D.C.F., granted Ricardo’s father a supervised visit at the school. When Ricardo saw his father, he collapsed, screaming and crying.

Afterward, the principal, Ms. Soto, who is Puerto Rican and bilingual, intercepted the man. “I need to ask you, Where is Ricardo’s mom?” she said. “Because she needs to be notified.”

The man insisted he had no idea, but the principal did not buy it: “I told D.C.F., ‘This is very fishy — it feels to me that he’s hiding something.’ And D.C.F. assured us that they had their technology specialists trying to find her.”

What precise steps they took are unclear; child welfare cases are confidential. But generally speaking, the agency said, “when a child enters foster care, D.C.F. first tries to safely reunify the child with their biological parents by working collaboratively with immediate and extended family.”

At significant cost to Olga and Ricardo, that initial effort failed.

From that point onward, the school took Ricardo under wing. “I felt, you know, in the absence of his mother, we have to try to replace that here in the building,” Ms. Soto said.

In his English-immersion kindergarten, his teacher understood that he needed “an extra piece of care.” While a quick learner, he would sometimes crumple. If he got frustrated writing his letters, he’d scribble over his work with an angry pencil. When he grew restless during individual work times, Ms. Cohn took him on walks, having planted ninja toys in the hallway that Ricardo could search for along the way.

“We spent a lot of time together, a lot of time just holding hands,” she said, adding that she considered Ricardo “kind of magical,” with a gift for making people “love him and go out of their way to take care of him.”

At home, his foster parents focused on developing a routine.

Every morning, they woke him with a peppy playlist of Latin music and made light of wadding up his sheets when he wet his bed. He dressed himself, with flair, gravitating to dark jeans, dress shoes and a dab of cologne. Following his after-school program, Ricardo walked their dog and did some schoolwork. On weekends, there was family swim at the YMCA, followed by games on the Nintendo Switch with Mr. Herbold.

A month later, shortly before Christmas 2021, the child welfare department announced it was going to move him.

Ricardo’s principal and foster parents worried about inflicting another disruption. But under federal law, states must consider “kinship care” for foster children, and Ricardo’s father proposed his girlfriend’s sister.

In legalese, she was “fictive kin.” Yet fictive kin are supposed to have a relationship with a child, whereas Ricardo didn’t know the woman.

“It really wasn’t right,” Ms. Soto said. “He was so OK with Christy and Nick.”


In mid-January, Olga nervously paced the lobby of a Boston Holiday Inn, waiting for a social worker to arrive with her son. When they walked through the door, she fell to her knees and enveloped him in her arms.

Ricardo wriggled out of her embrace, shouting: “What took you so long? Why didn’t you come find me sooner?”

Olga was at a loss to explain to her 5-year-old just how desperately hard she had tried, how nobody had notified her and how she had tracked him down through a network of relatives only after months of detective work. She showered him with presents and, when he softened, kisses. At their visit’s end, she took his picture in the woolen hat with tasseled ear flaps she had brought him, capturing the sad eyes of a boy about to be separated from his mother again.

Civil rights groups have long accused the D.C.F. of mishandling immigrant families.

Hispanic children, who, like Black children, are more likely to be reported for neglect or abuse, are also more likely to be removed from their homes and more likely to be placed with strangers. They get moved around more and tend to stay longer in foster care.

But language barriers compound things. In a federal civil rights complaint, the Greater Boston Latino Network and other groups have accused the department of failing to provide adequate interpretation services, creating a risk of wrongful family separations.

Olga was appointed a free lawyer who did not speak Spanish. Because her English was still rudimentary, she decided to pay for one who did, and that cost her more than his $2,000 fee: The lawyer specialized in immigration, not family law. And it appears from the docket — the record is impounded — that he failed to make what could have been a crucial early plea.

In his place, lawyers consulted for this article said they would have immediately requested a temporary custody hearing and argued that Olga should be presumed fit absent any proof that she posed an imminent risk to her child. A simple background check could have been done and the judge could have questioned Olga. And then, in the best of circumstances, Olga could have walked out of the courtroom with her child.

But the child protection system was at that very moment embroiled in a cross-border custody scandal.

It involved a 5-year-old girl named Harmony Montgomery, a ward of the state whose father, a New Hampshire resident, had sought her custody. Abiding by its internal regulations, the Massachusetts D.C.F. asked New Hampshire to approve the move under a 62-year-old agreement called the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. But the judge disagreed with this request, considering it an infringement on the father’s right to parent his child, and did not wait for New Hampshire to respond.

The interstate compact was created primarily to govern cross-border foster care moves. Whether it applies to fit parents has been widely debated across the country, and high courts in at least a dozen states have said it does not.

The National Association of Counsel for Children agrees. “Applying the compact to parents who simply live out of state, when there is no finding or even allegation of wrongdoing, is unconstitutional and harmful to children,’’” said Allison Green, its legal director.

But in late 2019, two years after the Massachusetts judge awarded custody to Harmony Montgomery’s father, the authorities in New Hampshire revealed that the girl was missing and presumed to be dead.

Her shadow hung over Ricardo’s case. Nobody in the Massachusetts child-welfare system wanted to take another potentially deadly risk involving the interstate compact.

And so not long after Olga returned to Hollywood, she was fingerprinted, drug-tested and visited by ChildNet, a private agency under contract to Florida. A caseworker found her home “very neatly kept and well maintained,” with a nicely decorated children’s bedroom. Yet in her report, in which she misidentified Olga as Guatemalan, the caseworker concluded that Ricardo would not be safe there.

“The mother is not a legal resident of the United States,” she wrote. “She could be deported at any time.”

This argument comes up frequently in cases where parents are detained by immigration authorities and fighting deportation. Yet Olga was not in deportation proceedings. She was simply one of the hundreds of thousands of unauthorized immigrants in Florida who, posing no threat to national security or public safety, are not an enforcement priority under Biden administration rules.

And she already had a child in her custody, Dariela, then 7, whom Florida had made no effort to remove on the same grounds.

Under the interstate compact, a receiving state’s denial is technically binding. But legal experts said there could have been a quiet agreement among the parties to ignore a decision considered inappropriate.


Back in Massachusetts, the case froze, just as Ricardo’s situation was growing newly turbulent. His father’s girlfriend’s sister wanted him out, and because no foster homes were available, the boy was likely to be placed in a group home and possibly in a different school district, too.

“That’s when all hell broke loose,” his principal said. “I was like: ‘No, this cannot happen. This is the only place he knows as safe since he arrived here.’”

In the end, she saw just one solution: She would take the boy into her own home even if it temporarily upended her life.

Every day, Ms. Soto had hundreds of children in her care. But, with her own children grown, it was something else to mother one — to bathe, feed and discipline one. To be summoned over the loudspeaker to help him in the bathroom. To lie by his side until he was snoring softly because he couldn’t fall asleep alone.

Glenda Soto, principal of Albert F. Argenziano School in Somerville, Mass., took Ricardo into her home.Kayana Szymczak for The New York Times

After weeks of observing video calls between Olga and Ricardo, Ms. Soto made it clear to caseworkers that she endorsed a speedy reunion. When spring break arrived with no progress, she asked Mr. Herbold and Ms. Sharr to take in the boy temporarily so she could visit family in San Juan. They leaped at the chance.

It was a tough visit. “He was mad, a mad kid who had been passed around,” Ms. Sharr said. Still, their relationship deepened, and they, too, got to know and trust Olga. When Ricardo returned to the principal, they vowed to do whatever they could to help reunite mother and son — a highly unusual commitment, child welfare experts said.

Their chance came quickly. By the end of the school year, Ricardo was starting to call his principal “Mamá.” But she had summer commitments, and Ricardo was shuttled into a fourth family’s care.

At that point, Ms. Sharr proposed that Olga move into their Cambridge home temporarily so the system could get to know her better. They would support her, they said. Arranging to leave her daughter with the girl’s grandmother, Olga accepted. She was floored by their generosity. “There really are people who are angels,” she said.

She was allotted twice-weekly visits with Ricardo at their house, at the end of which he would beg Olga to let him stay, as if she had a say, and promise to be a good boy, as if his behavior was the issue.

Before long, the child welfare department was proposing a fifth placement. This was not unusual in Massachusetts, which in 2021 ranked 48th among the states in “placement stability” for foster children, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. (The agency says it has undertaken new initiatives to minimize moves.)

That was where Ricardo’s advocates drew the line.

By that point, Olga had dismissed her private lawyer and accepted the original court-appointed one, with Ms. Sharr volunteering to serve as interpreter. The lawyer devised a strategy: Mr. Herbold and Ms. Sharr could become Ricardo’s conditional guardians. They would have to surrender their foster care license and assume responsibility for the boy’s health care, but they readily agreed.

In summer 2022, Ricardo joined his mother at their home, and Olga’s new lawyer pushed immediately to schedule a trial to determine permanent custody. But with the government seemingly unable to find an open court date, Mr. Herbold and Ms. Sharr reached out to officials in Florida in hopes of catalyzing a resolution. If the state’s main concern was taking on Ricardo as a ward should Olga be deported, they offered themselves — “citizens of the United States by birth” — as backup.

“To the State of Florida,” Ms. Sharr wrote. “Nick and I are available for Ricardo should the need arise at any point in the future. We are able to care for Ricardo through his 18th birthday (and beyond). He is a part of our family now and we want the best for him, his mother, full biological sister and extended family in Florida.”


In first grade, showing significant improvement behaviorally, academically and in English, Ricardo moved into a mainstream class. “He’s wicked sharp,” Mr. Herbold said. Purple paw prints, awards for class contributions, proliferated on the refrigerator. Spiderman took over elsewhere: Spider-Man pajamas, LEGOs, shampoo. Still, anxiety lurked beneath this cheery surface; a knock on the door would send him diving under a couch to hide.

Over winter break, with Dariela visiting, they all took a trip to New York City, where they rode a carriage through Central Park, sipping hot chocolate. They saw it, with fingers crossed, as a kind of farewell tour: Finally, six months after Olga’s lawyer requested a trial date, one had been scheduled.

On Jan. 19, 2023, after a four-hour hearing, the judge found that Ricardo was “not in need of care and protection as to mother” and should be returned to Olga’s custody.

Why he felt able to disregard the Florida denial at that point is unclear; juvenile judges in Massachusetts are not allowed to discuss their cases.

But before Olga had a chance to embrace her victory, the judge stayed his order for six days to give the child protection department time to appeal. And as she left the courtroom and returned to Florida to get her daughter back to school, Olga feared the worst.

Her advocates, however, chose optimism. On the eve of the department’s decision, Mr. Herbold flew south with Ricardo. A few months later, under a new Florida law, Mr. Herbold would have been criminally liable for transporting an unauthorized immigrant into the state.

But at that moment, as they checked into a hotel, he was on tenterhooks for a different reason.

“OK, so now we go to Mom’s, right?” Ricardo asked him.

“Oh, dude,” Mr. Herbold replied. “You have to hang out with me for the night, because tomorrow the big boss is going to make a call as to whether you get to live with Mom or if you just get to see Mom and then we have to fly back to Boston.”

The next day, more than a year after Olga first presented herself to the authorities in Massachusetts expecting an imminent reunion with her son, the custody decision became final.

Olga held Ricardo’s hand last month at a park in Hollywood, Fla.Eva Marie Uzcategui for The New York Times

Ten minutes after she got the news, Olga arrived at the hotel in buoyant spirits. She ran toward Ricardo and scooped him up in a fierce hug. As she stared into his eyes and he into hers, she staggered into the future with the boy in her arms, dangling but attached."

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