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Dig Investigative nuggets from the staff of Reveal

Immigrant children forcibly injected with drugs, lawsuit claims

President Donald Trump’s zero tolerance policy is creating a zombie army of children forcibly injected with medications that make them dizzy, listless, obese and even incapacitated, according to legal filings that show immigrant children in U.S. custody subdued with powerful psychiatric drugs.

Children held at Shiloh Treatment Center, a government contractor south of Houston that houses immigrant minors, described being held down and injected, according to the federal court filings. The lawsuit alleges that children were told they would not be released or see their parents unless they took medication and that they only were receiving vitamins.

Parents and the children themselves told attorneys the drugs rendered them unable to walk, afraid of people and wanting to sleep constantly, according to affidavits filed April 23 in U.S. District Court in California.

One mother said her child fell repeatedly, hitting her head, and ended up in a wheelchair. A child described trying to open a window and being hurled against a door by a Shiloh supervisor, who then choked her until she fainted.

“The supervisor told me I was going to get a medication injection to calm me down,” the girl said. “Two staff grabbed me, and the doctor gave me the injection despite my objection and left me there on the bed.”

Another child recounted being made to take pills in the morning, at noon and night. The child said “the staff told me that some of the pills are... Read More >

ICE lawyer says agency’s role in separating families limited to transport

In a closed forum Friday, a legal adviser for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement framed his agency’s role in separating families at the border as limited to the transportation of children taken from their parents.  

Kenneth Padilla’s remarks came during a meeting with about 200 people attending the American Immigration Lawyers Association annual conference in San Francisco. Padilla is the agency’s deputy principal legal adviser for field legal operations.

The meeting was closed to the news media. It focused on litigation, and Padilla specifically avoided any questions about ICE enforcement – with the exception of one question about family separation that he had agreed to answer before the forum took place.

Padilla’s remarks about family separation were confirmed to Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting by several people who attended the conference.

“The (Justice Department), because of the zero tolerance, has decided to prosecute those under 1325,” said Padilla, referring to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ memorandum that directs the criminal prosecution of people who enter the United States without inspection under 8 U.S. Code 1325 – a class B misdemeanor.

President Donald Trump has blamed the separation of families at the border on Democrats. Padilla’s remarks appeared to counter the president’s claim.

ICE spokeswoman Jennifer D. Elzea told Reveal that Padilla’s remarks “were focused on the applicable laws and policies and the resulting process. (Padilla) did not comment on the broader cause(s) behind the policies or process.”

At the meeting,... Read More >

The Hate Report: White nationalism at the ballot box

In this week’s roundup: White nationalism thrives in this election season, a roundup of hate crime news and a Chick-fil-A fact check.

On Tuesday, Corey Stewart, who has long flirted with white nationalists and their ideas, won Virginia’s GOP Senate primary.

The same day, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, retweeted a well-known British neo-Nazi, the latest in a long line of such endorsements by the Republican congressman.

These two events are evidence of a broader trend visible across the country: White nationalist politicians feel emboldened in 2018.

A study by the Southern Poverty Law Center this month identified at least eight openly white nationalist candidates running for election this season. These include:

• Paul Nehlen, a virulent anti-Semite who is running for Paul Ryan’s seat in Wisconsin.

• Patrick Little, who ran for Senate in California and has called for an America “free from Jews.”

• Arthur Jones, an avowed neo-Nazi and Holocaust denier who is running for Congress in Illinois and who won the GOP’s nomination in March when the party failed to run anybody against him.     

While the more fringe candidates, including Little and Jones, have been disavowed by the Republican establishment, Stewart and King retain their party’s support. Indeed, President Donald Trump cheered on Stewart’s win in Virginia, tweeting congratulations to the GOP candidate.  

The winning formula – one that both wins votes and support from Trump, whose backing seems to be essential for aspiring GOP candidates – seems to be to express support for white nationalists early on, and then quickly disavow them. In 2017,... Read More >

Tesla fired safety official for reporting unsafe conditions, lawsuit says

A former high-level safety official at Tesla Inc. has sued the company for failing to treat injured employees and for misclassifying work injuries to avoid reporting them as required by law.

Carlos Ramirez, a director of environment, health, safety and sustainability at Tesla until June 2017, alleges he was fired in retaliation for reporting unsafe working conditions, such as chemical exposures and fires, and for refusing to go along with what he believed to be illegal practices.

More from Insult to Injury

An April investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found that Tesla undercounted its workers’ injuries, making the official injury rate look better than it actually was.

The suit also says Ramirez, who is Mexican American, faced harassment based on his race and national origin and that Tesla failed to address it.

Ramirez previously worked as vice president of environmental, health and safety for SolarCity, a solar panel manufacturer Tesla acquired in 2016.

Carlos Ramirez, a former safety official at Tesla Inc., sued the automaker for allegedly firing him in retaliation for reporting unsafe working conditions and safety violations. Credit: LinkedIn

After he came to Tesla, Ramirez and his team audited the company’s internal injury tracking system, the suit says. The 2017 audit “revealed numerous instances of lack of treatment of Tesla employees that suffered workplace injuries, recordkeeping violations, and improper classification of workplace injuries to avoid treating and reporting workplace injuries,” it says.

Tesla shot back Monday, alleging that Ramirez was fired four months after coming from SolarCity because he harassed and bullied other employees.

“Mr.... Read More >

First Republic Bank finances displacement of residents

First Republic Bank, one of the largest lenders among banks based in the San Francisco Bay Area, has fueled the displacement of families by lending to landlords who evict their tenants and drive up rents, according to a study released today.

The study, conducted by the California Reinvestment Coalition and the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, found that the San Francisco-based bank has made at least 400 loans – the most of any lender in Oakland, California – to property owners who together have filed at least 500 petitions since 2009 with Oakland’s rent board to evict or remove units from rent control.

More from Kept Out

“We are alarmed by the extent of displacement financing, and alarmed at how egregiously First Republic Bank has engaged in this harmful lending,” Paulina Gonzalez, executive director of the coalition, said in a statement. “First Republic Bank, long a bank for the wealthy, now appears to be a bank that actively seeks to displace people from the homes they have been in for generations.”

First Republic Bank said it was proud of its lending record in Oakland, asserting that it would be accused of redlining if it stopped making loans to qualified borrowers in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods or communities of color.

“That would violate fair lending laws, and we will not do that,” the bank said in an emailed response. “We have never engaged in lending practices that require borrowers to evict their tenants.”

The study also identifies JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo & Co.... Read More >

Rep. John Lewis calls for end to ‘unjust’ immigrant detention system

U.S. Rep. John Lewis is calling for more oversight over immigration enforcement and detention, citing reports including an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and Atlanta NPR station WABE.

In a letter to several Democratic members of Congress this week, Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, called on fellow members of Congress to “end an unjust detention system that sends immigrants far from their families and friends, subordinates their well-being to the profit of others, and strips them of their rights.”

Read more immigration coverage

Lewis wrote that Congress must “safeguard living and working conditions for detained immigrants,” citing reports about conditions in immigration detention centers in Georgia.

Reveal and WABE obtained federal records showing that the Stewart Detention Center in south Georgia has struggled with staffing shortages and an influx of drugs in the nearly 2,000-bed prison, operated by the private corrections company CoreCivic.

Two detainees who were being held at Stewart died within the same 12-month period. Jean Jimenez-Joseph, a 27-year-old from Panama, hanged himself with a bedsheet in May 2017 while in solitary confinement. Yulio Castro-Garrido, a 33-year-old from Cuba, died in January after officials diagnosed him with pneumonia.

Multiple employees at the facility brought up staffing shortages to inspectors. One CoreCivic manager said his biggest concern “is staffing shortages, which pose a risk to the staff’s safety.”

Another CoreCivic employee said the facility has a shortage of detention officers, “which makes it dangerous for the (detention officers) and the detainees,” and “housing units are understaffed for the number of detainees... Read More >

The Hate Report: The state of anti-immigrant hate, 2018

This week, Reveal embarked on a newsroomwide project digging into immigration in the United States.

We’ve explored how increased immigration enforcement is negatively affecting children’s health, tallied the numbers of lives affected by the policy changes, showed how fake lawyers are taking advantage of vulnerable immigrants, compiled 10 can’t-miss immigration investigations and devoted an episode of our weekly public radio show to answering listeners’ questions about immigration.

In this edition of The Hate Report, we’re looking into the torrent of hate that has flowed through America since Donald Trump was elected and how deportation fears are scaring immigrant communities away from reporting being victimized.

From his earliest moments on the presidential campaign trail, Donald Trump has aimed for the jugular on immigration. The man who launched his political career by questioning the citizenship of President Barack Obama soon gained a reputation for calling immigrants everything from rapists to animals.

How this rhetoric oozes into the lives of millions of immigrants – both those who’ve entered the country legally and those who haven’t – is difficult to measure. But over the last 18 months, we’ve been cataloguing some of the worst incidents of malice, hate and violence against immigrants in The Hate Report.

A few particularly violent and nasty incidents stand out from our reporting:

Axed teen pregnancy prevention programs win back federal funds

A federal judge in a fifth lawsuit has ruled that the Trump administration illegally terminated the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, restoring grants to all 81 programs nationwide that had their funding abruptly axed last year.

U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s decision on a class-action suit, issued last week, ordered the administration to handle all the applications “as if the agency had not undertaken to shorten these grantees’ federal awards.”

Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting reported in July that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services halted $213.6 million in funding for the last two years of five-year grants awarded to institutions and organizations such as the University of Texas, the city of Baltimore, the Los Angeles County Public Health Department and several Planned Parenthood offices. News of the cuts had come as a surprise to many of the programs.

A high-level appointee at the department, Valerie Huber, advocates abstinence for teens as the only solution, while most of the defunded grant holders were developing scientifically based programs that included contraception and other techniques to reduce pregnancies.

In response to the judge’s ruling, the Department of Health and Human Services sent emails this week to some of the plaintiffs, saying it will provide guidance within two or three weeks “so that the applications from all of the plaintiffs covered as a party to the class action can be processed quickly.”

About 1.2 million teenagers in 39 states now are on track to receive the revived sex education services, mainly through public schools,... Read More >

Why it’s so hard to catch – or even count – fake immigration lawyers

Christopher Bailey needed to hire an immigration lawyer, but he didn’t have the luxury of comparison shopping.

The Jamaican-born cook was in immigration detention after overstaying his tourist visa, and he wanted to fight to stay with his family in the United States. While Bailey was locked up, his mother paid $8,000 to George Cameron, a man she knew had taken immigration cases for people in Philadelphia’s Jamaican community.

Cameron helped Bailey get out of detention and represented him in his first hearing before an immigration judge. After that hearing, Cameron told Bailey not to return to court.

Cameron promised he’d handle Bailey’s case without him. Bailey decided to take his attorney’s advice. His court date came, and he stayed home.

“You have a lawyer, you’re supposed to trust your lawyer, right?” he said.

Read more immigration coverage

What Bailey didn’t know – and what a federal jury heard at a trial earlier this year – was that Cameron also failed to show up for the hearing. Bailey was ordered deported in absentia; he got his deportation notice in the mail, and he said he never saw Cameron again.

Last year, Bailey’s mother sent him a news story that explained it: Cameron wasn’t a lawyer after all.

For at least 25 years, Cameron had solicited clients and argued before immigration judges in Philadelphia, New York and Chicago. But he had no law license, nor had he completed law school. His supposed firm, Cameron, Cameron and Associates, had no associates. And the three Philadelphia-area offices he advertised were, in... Read More >

Immigration numbers illustrate lives affected by Trump-era policies

Workplace raids. The separation of families at the border. The end of temporary protected status. The Trump administration has made vast changes to immigration policy since 2017, dramatically altering the landscape of enforcement priorities both on the border and in the nation’s interior.

Read more immigration coverage

The changes have touched people of all ages, some just arriving in the United States, others who have lived here for most of their lives. Here are key numbers that illustrate what’s at stake under President Donald Trump’s immigration policies for hundreds of thousands of people:

50,000

People traveling in families arrested at the southern border since October. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions introduced a “zero tolerance” policy in April. The policy requires that first-time crossers who try to enter the country without authorization be prosecuted and children separated from their families at the border. Source: The New York Times

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (right) tours the U.S.-Mexico border with border officials in April. Credit: Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

61 percent

Percentage of asylum cases denied in 2017. Nearly 9 out of 10 Mexican nationals who claim they’re fleeing persecution are denied asylum. Those from Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala don’t fare much better. Source: Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse

155,000

Immigrants arrested last year by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Thirty percent of those arrested had no criminal record. During the last year of the Obama administration, 110,000 immigrants were arrested, and 16 percent had no history of arrest. During the final presidential debate in 2016,... Read More >

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