More than 4,500 complaints of sexual abuse against unaccompanied migrant minors have been received by the Department of Health and Human Services in the past four years, CNN reports. CNN and Axios say Rep.Ted Deutch (D-FL) released internal HHS documents supporting the claims, along with 1,303 complaints that were reported to the Justice Department. Axios first reported on the agency documents.
“I am deeply concerned with documents that have been turned over by HHS that record a high number of sexual assaults on unaccompanied children in the custody of the Office of Refugee and Resettlement,” Deutch said. “Together, these documents detail an environment of systemic sexual assaults by staff on unaccompanied children.”
According to Axios, “Allegations against staff members reported to the DOJ included everything from rumors of relationships with (unaccompanied minors) UACs to showing pornographic videos to minors to forcibly touching minors’ genitals.”
A federal judge in California has denied the Trump administration’s request to hold migrant families in custody long-term, the Associated Press reports. US District Judge Dolly Gee called the administration’s request a “cynical attempt” to undermine a longstanding court settlement. The Justice Department had asked the judge to modify a 1997 settlement to allow the government to hold undocumented immigrant families for longer terms. Judge Gee rejected a similar request from the Obama administration three years ago. Her ruling then said that immigrant children couldn’t be held in custody for more than 20 days. The Justice Department says it’s reviewing the judge’s decision and hasn’t decided yet whether to appeal. More on the judge’s decision is also available at the Washington Post.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he is taking away a vital lifeline to immigrant victims of severe domestic and gang violence. Sessions issued a decision unilaterally overruling important precedent recognizing that such individuals may qualify for asylum in the United States.
Critics say Sessions’ decision to end asylum for most victims of domestic abuse and gang violence takes US “back to the Dark Ages,” according to The Washington Post. The American Immigration Council has also criticized the decision.
The following is a statement from Beth Werlin, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council. “From its earliest days, the United States has opened its doors to individuals fleeing oppression and persecution. Today’s decision by the Attorney General is yet another attempt to close our doors. Through our work serving detained mothers and children in Dilley, Texas, we see firsthand the trauma of domestic and gang violence and the desperate need for protection. The Attorney General’s decision—if permitted to stand—will no doubt result in sending countless mothers and children back to their abusers and criminal gangs. Turning our backs on victims of violence and deporting them to grave danger should not be the legacy sought by any administration.”
Sessions’ decision on asylum follows another controversial action that allows the separation of immigrant parents from their children.
The Justice Department is imposing quotas on how quickly immigration judges can close cases in an effort to speed up the process, raising serious questions about the independence of the judicial branch of law. The ABA Journal, The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal report that the Justice Department is taking the action to help relieve a backlog of immigration cases. According to The Washington Post:
The judges will be expected to clear at least 700 cases a year to receive a “satisfactory” performance rating, a standard that their union called an “unprecedented” step that risks undermining judicial independence and opens the courts to potential challenges.
The new measures will take effect October 1, at the start of the new fiscal year. The quotas were announced by the Executive Office of Immigration Review.
As Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ war on asylum cities and states continues, the Justice Department has begun to change the definition of who qualifies for asylum protection. Sessions is placing stricter limits on who can qualify for asylum in America. Immigration lawyers are warning that this could result in thousands of people fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries being turned away once they reach the US. NPR takes a look at how these changes could affect those seeking asylum.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to rescind 25 guidance documents issued by the Justice Department, including some which clarify the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), according to Disability Scoop. The revoked documents include guidance on several issues related to the disabled, including employment, service animals and access to buildings. Sessions said the affected documents are “improper or unnecessary,” and go beyond the scope of the law. The move by the Justice Department has created concern among some disability advocates. Read more about how the changes may affect disabled Americans here.