Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Methodists Bring Church Charges Against Jeff Sessions For Border Policy

Methodists Bring Church Charges Against Jeff Sessions For Border Policy

More than 600 clergy and lay members of the United Methodist Church have signed a letter bringing church charges against fellow member Attorney General Jeff Sessions for the zero tolerance immigration policy that has resulted in the separation of undocumented children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The formal accusation, issued on Monday, charges Sessions with numerous violations of the denomination's Book of Discipline, including child abuse, immorality, racial discrimination and, for his citation of Romans 13 to defend the policy, the dissemination of doctrines contrary to the standards of the UMC.  

Those who signed the complaint letter claim that Sessions' "tremendous social/political power," his role as a Sunday school teacher and the "severe and ongoing" effects of his actions compel them to call for accountability. 

"As members of the United Methodist Church, we deeply hope for a reconciling process that will help this long-time member of our connection step back from his harmful actions and work to repair the damage he is currently causing to immigrants, particularly children and families," the letter states.

Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores declined to comment directly on the church charges against Sessions. She said, "The AG's comments on Scripture were not to justify the policy but in response to other criticism."

Attorney General Jeff Sessions addresses cadets at the Lackawanna College Police Academy in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on June 15. Hundreds of his fellow United Methodist Church members are bringing church charges against him for separating immigrant families. (Pacific Press / Getty Images)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions addresses cadets at the Lackawanna College Police Academy in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on June 15. Hundreds of his fellow United Methodist Church members are bringing church charges against him for separating immigrant families. (Pacific Press / Getty Images)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions addresses cadets at the Lackawanna College Police Academy in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on June 15. Hundreds of his fellow United Methodist Church members are bringing church charges against him for separating immigrant families. (Pacific Press / Getty Images)

In May, Sessions announced that the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security are aiming to prosecute 100 percent of cases of illegal border crossings, regardless of whether those involved are fleeing persecution or traveling with children. The U.S. government separated nearly 2,000 children from their parents in April and May as a result of this policy, placing the minors in shelters or with extended family members while their parents are prosecuted. 

Sessions has drawn widespread condemnation after using a chapter from the Bible to respond to religious critics of the policy. 

"Concerns raised by our church friends about separating families" are "not fair or logical," he said in a speech in Fort Wayne, Indiana. "I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order."

"I have given the idea of immigration much thought and have considered the arguments of our church leaders," Sessions continued. "I do not believe Scripture or church history or reason condemns a secular nation-state for having reasonable immigration laws. If we have them, then they should be enforced."

Tents used to detain immigrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents, in Tornillo, Texas, June 18. The U.S. government separated nearly 2,000 children from their parents in April and May after they crossed the border without authorization. (Mike Blake / Reuters)

Tents used to detain immigrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents, in Tornillo, Texas, June 18. The U.S. government separated nearly 2,000 children from their parents in April and May after they crossed the border without authorization. (Mike Blake / Reuters)

Tents used to detain immigrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents, in Tornillo, Texas, June 18. The U.S. government separated nearly 2,000 children from their parents in April and May after they crossed the border without authorization. (Mike Blake / Reuters)

The United Methodist Church is the third-largest religious denomination in the U.S., with over 7 million lay members. Sessions is a member of a Methodist church in Mobile, Alabama, and attends services at another Methodist church in Virginia. HuffPost has reached out to the pastors of both congregations for comment but has not heard back.

According to United Methodist News, the denomination's official news site, it's rare for Methodists to bring formal charges against a layperson. Complaints that come up are typically resolved at the local level, after a member's pastor and district superintendent offer counseling. If the complaint isn't resolved, it's possible for charges to result in a church trial and even expulsion. This has reportedly never happened in the church's history.

The Rev. David Wright, a UMC pastor and chaplain at the University of Puget Sound in Washington state, was the primary organizer of the letter against Sessions. Wright told United Methodist News that he doesn't want Sessions to be expelled from the denomination but is hoping the charges result in Sessions' being called in for pastoral counseling. 

"I hope his pastor can have a good conversation with him and come to a good resolution that helps him reclaim his values that many of us feel he's violated as a Methodist," Wright said.

Children at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility in Rio Grande City, Texas, on June 17. Defending the administration's harsh immigration enforcement policies, Sessions cited a verse from the Bible. (Customs and Border Protection / Reuters)

Children at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility in Rio Grande City, Texas, on June 17. Defending the administration's harsh immigration enforcement policies, Sessions cited a verse from the Bible. (Customs and Border Protection / Reuters)

Children at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility in Rio Grande City, Texas, on June 17. Defending the administration's harsh immigration enforcement policies, Sessions cited a verse from the Bible. (Customs and Border Protection / Reuters)

Many Christian leaders have rejected Sessions' interpretation of Romans 13 and spoke out against the zero tolerance policy, including the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church.

"Our congregations and agencies serve many migrant families that have recently arrived in the United States. Leaving their communities is often the only option they have to provide safety for their children and protect them from harm," the council said in a June 7 statement. "Tearing children away from parents who have made a dangerous journey to provide a safe and sufficient life for them is unnecessarily cruel and detrimental to the well-being of parents and children."

Sessions' Mobile church, Ashland Place, is part of the UMC's Alabama–West Florida Conference, which has also been critical of the policy. A spokeswoman for the conference declined to comment to HuffPost about the charges brought against Sessions, saying that details about any complaint are confidential.

In a statement released Monday, the conference's Bishop David Graves decried separating children from their parents as "unjust acts."  

"I implore congress and the current administration to do all in their power to reunite these families," he said. 

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

Video: What’s Happening to Children at Border Detention Facilities

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75 Former U.S. Attorneys To Jeff Sessions: End Inhumane Family Separation Policy Now

75 Former U.S. Attorneys To Jeff Sessions: End Inhumane Family Separation Policy Now

A bipartisan group of former U.S. attorneys has penned an open letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, calling on him to end the Trump administration's family separation policy at the border.

A bipartisan group of former U.S. attorneys has penned an open letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, calling on him to end the Trump administration's highly controversial family separation policy at the border.

The 75 former U.S. attorneys condemned the zero tolerance policy, announced by Sessions in May, under which children are put into shelters while parents facing prosecution for illegally crossing the border into the United States are jailed.

"Your Zero Tolerance policy has resulted in the unnecessary trauma and suffering of innocent children," they wrote in a letter published Monday on Medium

"We also emphasize that the Zero Tolerance policy is a radical departure from previous Justice Department policy, and that it is dangerous, expensive, and inconsistent with the values of the institution in which we served," they continued.

It is time for you to announce that this policy was ill-conceived and that its consequences and cost are too drastic, too inhumane, and flatly inconsistent with the mission and values of the United States Department of Justice.
75 former U.S. attorneys to Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Although President Donald Trump and several members of his administration, including Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, have repeatedly claimed the family separation policy must be enforced, legal experts, including this group of attorneys, have challenged such an assertion.

"As former U.S. Attorneys, we know that none of these consequences ― nor the policy itself ― is required by law," they wrote in their letter to Sessions. "Rather, its implementation and its execution are taking place solely at your direction, and the unfolding tragedy falls squarely on your shoulders."

They continued: "It is time for you to announce that this policy was ill-conceived and that its consequences and cost are too drastic, too inhumane, and flatly inconsistent with the mission and values of the United States Department of Justice. It is time for you to end it."

A Honduran mother holds her 2-year-old as U.S. Border Patrol agents review their papers near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12 in McAllen, Texas. (John Moore via Getty Images)

A Honduran mother holds her 2-year-old as U.S. Border Patrol agents review their papers near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12 in McAllen, Texas. (John Moore via Getty Images)

A Honduran mother holds her 2-year-old as U.S. Border Patrol agents review their papers near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12 in McAllen, Texas. (John Moore via Getty Images)

The former U.S. attorneys join a growing number of lawmakers, child care experts and concerned Americans speaking out against the policy, under which border officials separated nearly 2,000 children from their parents between April 19 and May 31.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Trump could "stop the policy with one phone call" during an appearance Friday on CNN.

"If you don't like families being separated, you can tell [the Department of Homeland Security] to stop doing it," Graham said.

Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), whose district includes a stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border, also criticized the policy.

"We should not be using kids as a deterrent policy," Hurd said Saturday on CNN. "This is something I think is actually unacceptable, and is something that as Americans we shouldn't be doing."

"This is clearly something that the administration can change," he added. "They don't need legislation to change it." 

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost

 Related Video:  Are Asylum-Seeing Families Being Separated?

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Texas Investigators Identify 'Little Jacob,' Whose Body Washed Ashore 8 Months Ago, and Arrest His Mother

Texas Investigators Identify 'Little Jacob,' Whose Body Washed Ashore 8 Months Ago, and Arrest His Mother

A 4-year-old boy whose body washed up on a Texas beach in October finally has a name, and his mother has been arrested, authorities announced Wednesday.

The child, known only as “Little Jacob” was found on the Galveston shoreline. Police and FBI agents worked relentlessly to identify the boy and his family members. For months they got nowhere, despite releasing a sketch of the child and combing every missing child database in the country.

There was “no family, no friend, no outcry,” said Galveston Police Chief Vernon Hale. “My only goal was to give this baby a name.”

In January, desperate investigators made an unusual decision: They released a photograph of the dead child’s face and said he had been the victim of neglect and abuse.

That image brought in two tips that led authorities to Rebecca Rivera, 34, and her girlfriend, Dania Gomez, 31, Hale said. Rivera was the boy’s mother. His name was Jayden Alexander Lopez. 

“Both were present at his death and both came to Galveston and dumped his body,” the chief said. 

Rivera has been charged with a felony count of tampering or fabricating physical evidence and is being held in lieu of $250,000 bail. Gomez faces a misdemeanor count of the same charge and is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail. 

Neither has entered a plea.

Jayden’s cause of death was not released. He lived with his mother and her girlfriend in Houston. A 3-year-old girl found at the home has been placed in protective custody, authorities said. 

“The victim was a defenseless child,” FBI agent Brian Gaines said at Wednesday’s press conference announcing the arrests. “Jayden had no other advocate than us.”

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Camilo Pardo's One-of-One Ford GT Is for Sale

Camilo Pardo's One-of-One Ford GT Is for Sale

Photo credit: eBay

Photo credit: eBay

Photo credit: eBay

From Road & Track

About a year ago, 2005-2006 Ford GT designer Camilo Pardo decided it was time to part with his one-of-one “Solar 7” 2005 Ford GT, and sold it on the Petrolicious Marketplace. Now, the car is up for sale again, and it seems the new owner didn’t even take the time to re-register the car.

Welcome to You Must Buy, our daily look at the cars you really should be buying instead of that boring commuter sedan.

Solar 7 just popped up for sale on eBay Motors with an asking price of just under $450,000 via a place called Area 51 Motorsports in Beaumont, Texas. According to the description, the seller still has the signed open title from Pardo, meaning whoever bought it elected to keep it in storage rather than register it for the road. I can’t say for sure why they decided to do this, but I suspect it was for investment purposes. The last-gen Ford GT is an appreciating asset, after all, and this one is arguably the most famous example out there.

Photo credit: eBay

Photo credit: eBay

Photo credit: eBay

Chances are you already know about the Solar 7’s history, but if you don’t, here’s a quick refresher. It was the last of Pardo’s seven “Signature Series” cars, painted in a custom paint scheme of his own design. The mid-mounted 5.4-liter supercharged V8 was given 100 extra horsepower (650 in total) thanks to an upgraded supercharger pulley and a GTG performance exhaust system. The rear bumper was also deleted.

Photo credit: eBay

Photo credit: eBay

Photo credit: eBay

The car has been to countless automotive events, shows, and rallies, accumulating over 10,000 miles during Pardo’s ownership (15,598 in total). It’s also been signed by automotive legends David Hobbs, Peter Brock, Dan Gurney, Bob Bondurant, and Pardo himself.

Find it for sale here on eBay Motors with a Buy It Now price of $449,980 or best offer.

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Turpin Daughter's 911 Call Reveals Moments Following Her Escape: 'They Abuse Us'

Turpin Daughter's 911 Call Reveals Moments Following Her Escape: 'They Abuse Us'

A heartbreaking 911 call captures a teen’s desperation after escaping the house where she had been allegedly held captive by her parents for several years.

Louise and David Turpin, the couple charged with imprisoning and torturing their 13 children inside their California home, appeared in court Wednesday for a hearing, during which the call was played. 

In a transcript of the call, the teen tells the dispatcher of the horrific conditions she experienced inside the home. 

“I live in a family of 15 people and my parents are abusive; they abuse us and my two little sisters are chained up,” she says. “Sometimes I wake up and I can’t breathe because of how dirty the house is. We never take baths.”

An investigator who interviewed the girl said that she was covered in dirt and seemed terrified, according to the Palm Springs Desert Sun.

The girl who made the call is the same teen who kept a secret YouTube channel where she showcased her singing and songwriting talent.

The teen escaped through a window of the family home on Jan. 14. 

Since the children were found, they’ve been enjoying their freedom, learning to use iPads and watching “Harry Potter” movies for the first time. 

The Turpin parents face multiple charges in connection with the case. They have pleaded not guilty. 

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The Trump administration now says it's ready to impose tariffs on up to $450 billion dollars worth of goods from China —which could increase the price you pay on everything from electronics to clothing.

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Holocaust Survivors Condemn Family Separations At The Border

Holocaust Survivors Condemn Family Separations At The Border

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Reports of family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border have sparked outrage across the country and fueled millions of dollars in donations to unite immigrant parents with their children. For some World War II survivors, known as the "hidden children of the Holocaust," the reports have stirred traumatic memories.

In a video released by the Anti-Defamation League on Tuesday, Rachelle and Jack Goldstein ― two Holocaust survivors who were separated from their parents as young children during the war ― urge U.S. leaders to change course.

"It's cruel. It's bad, and I think it sets us back in the eyes of the rest of the world that we allowed this to happen," says Jack Goldstein, who was 9 when his family sent him to live in a Catholic convent to escape Nazi persecution.

Rachelle Goldstein co-directs the Hidden Child Foundation, which represents Holocaust survivors who went into hiding during the war. She says the pain can last a lifetime for children separated from their families at a young age.

"You take a child away from the parents, from the home, from everything that they know, they are never the same," says Goldstein, who was a toddler when she was separated from her parents in Belgium.

The Hidden Child Foundation released a statement along with the video:

Now in our late 70s and 80s, we still ache from the losses we suffered as a result of this separation. It is very difficult for us to see such inhumanity taking place today at our southern border. Let's be clear: We are not comparing what is happening today to the Holocaust. But forcibly separating children from their parents is an act of cruelty under all circumstances.

Nearly 2,000 immigrant children were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border under the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy from mid-April until the end of May.

Administration officials have doubled down on their policy in the face of criticism, at times denying that it exists and at other times attempting to defend it by citing Bible verses

"I have a lot of faith in this country … and it is a wonderful country," Jack Goldstein says in the video. "But right now it is not. Let's get back to our values because this is not what America stands for."

Rachelle Goldstein adds simply, "When we see evil, we must call it out."

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

Best Bites: Tacos 4 Ways

Best Bites: Tacos 4 Ways

Welcome to Best Bites, a twice-weekly video series that aims to satisfy your

Welcome to Best Bites, a twice-weekly video series that aims to satisfy your never-ending craving for food content through quick, beautiful videos for the at-home foodie. Check back on Tuesdays and Thursdays for new episodes!

Tacos are a delicious and easy to make a meal. They’re also packed with fresh and healthy, colorful ingredients! In this week’s episode of Best Bites, we show you how to make tacos four different ways.

Ingredients:

SRIRACHA SHRIMP TACOS:

  • Corn tortillas
  • 1 cup purple cabbage slaw
  • 1 cup grilled shrimp 
  • 1 tbsp sour cream sriracha sauce 
  • 1 lime 

Recipe:

  1. Heat the corn tortilla for 30-45 seconds on each side. Keep the heated tortilla warm by placing it into a kitchen towel. 
  2. Top the tortilla with shredded purple cabbage slaw.
  3. Αdd a few grilled shrimp. 
  4. Top with sour cream sriracha sauce and fresh lime juice! 

Ingredients:

BLACK BEAN AND SWEET POTATO:

  • Corn tortillas
  • 2 tbsp refried black beans
  • 2 tbsp sauteed sweet potatoes
  • 1 tsp cotija cheese
  • Chopped cilantro

Recipe:

  1. Heat the corn tortilla for 30-45 seconds on each side. Keep the heated tortilla warm by placing it into a kitchen towel. 
  2. Top the tortilla with the refried black beans.
  3. Αdd the sauteed sweet potatoes. 
  4. Sprinkle the cotija cheese.  
  5. Top with chopped fresh cilantro! 

Ingredients:

CHILLI LIME CHICKEN TACOS WITH PINEAPPLE SALSA:

  • Corn tortillas
  • ½ cup Jack Cheese
  • 2 tbsp chopped grilled chicken 
  • 2 tbsp pineapple salsa
  • 1 tbsp avocado crema

Recipe:

  1. Heat the corn tortilla for 30-45 seconds on each side. Keep the heated tortilla warm by placing it into a kitchen towel. 
  2. Top with jack cheese and melt. 
  3. Add the grilled chicken. 
  4. Add the pineapple salsa. 
  5. Drizzle the avocado crema and enjoy! 

Ingredients:

PULLED PORK TACOS WITH AVOCADO CREMA:

  • Corn tortillas
  • Purple shredded cabbage
  • 2 tbsp pulled pork
  • 2 tbsp cubed avocado
  • 1 tbsp avocado crema
  • 1 tbsp pineapple salsa
  • Chopped fresh cilantro

Recipe:

  1. Heat the corn tortilla for 30-45 seconds on each side. Keep the heated tortilla warm by placing it into a kitchen towel. 
  2. Top with purple shredded cabbage. 
  3. Add the pulled pork, cubed avocado, avocado crema and pineapple salsa. 
  4. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro. 
     

Businesses have made millions off Trump's child separation policy

Businesses have made millions off Trump's child separation policy

WASHINGTON — President Trump's controversial child separation policy is being carried out with the help of private businesses who have received millions of dollars in government contracts to help run the shelters where young migrants are being held away from their parents.

The government has released few photos of the shelters where the children are being detained and at times declined to allow media and even elected officials access to the facilities. Amid this secrecy, many of the businesses participating in the program have remained behind the scenes without being identified.

However, by reviewing publicly available contracts data, Yahoo News was able to identify five companies that are participating in the operation of the shelters, including two companies that have not previously been tied to the program. And in response to inquiries, one of the companies said it would cease participation in a program that required it to "maintain readiness" to transport young migrants to government facilities.

Young children immigrants

Young children immigrants

Child immigrants play outside a former Job Corps site that now houses them. (Photo: Wilfredo Lee/AP)

The Trump administration has given a series of conflicting explanations for the child separations with the president repeatedly falsely blaming it on Democrats. In reality, the situation is the result of a "zero tolerance" policy announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April that requires authorities to treat all border crossings outside official ports of entry as crimes. This means that adults are arrested when they cross the border and, typically, when a parent is jailed, their children are taken from them.

According to Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Service's Administration for Children and Families (ACF), the agency currently operates "100 shelters across 17 states." Citing "the safety and security of children in the program," Wolfe declined to provide further details about the locations where the young migrants are being held. As of Tuesday morning, Wolfe said 11,786 children were being held as part of the "unaccompanied alien children program." This program, which is run by ACF's Office of Refugee Resettlement, is designed to offer "unaccompanied alien children entering the United States" a variety of services including "classroom education, health care, socialization/recreation, vocational training, mental health services, family reunification, access to legal services, and case management." While this program was designed for "unaccompanied" children, who are typically teenagers driven out of their homes in Central America by poverty, abuse or gang violence, since the beginning of the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy, there have been widespread reports of children as young as toddlers being taken away from their parents and brought to shelters. Wolfe told Yahoo News his agency defines "unaccompanied" as "any minor referred by [the Department of Homeland Security] to HHS for our unaccompanied alien children program."

Inside one of the cages at a border protection facility in McAllen, Texas

Inside one of the cages at a border protection facility in McAllen, Texas

Inside one of the cages at a border protection facility in McAllen, Texas. (Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Rio Grande Valley Sector via AP)

The data reviewed by Yahoo News was posted on the site GovTribe.com, which provides "real-time federal contract marketing data." This information gives a glimpse of the recent growth of the government's shelter system for young migrants and some of the companies who have lucrative contracts to participate in the program.

Contract vehicles are one of the mechanisms the U.S. government uses to award contracts to vendors. The data reviewed by Yahoo News was for a contract vehicle called "Shelter Care for Unaccompanied Children 2022." This included 10 different contracts for up to approximately $92 million that were awarded to five different vendors starting in September 2017. The contracts include plans to operate the shelters through September 2022.

Comprehensive Health Services Inc. (CHSI), a Florida-based company that touts its experience with "immigrant shelter services" received the bulk of the contracts. According to GovTribe, the company was awarded three contracts worth up to about $65 million. The first contract awarded to CHSI through the vehicle kicked off in September 2017 and was for "emergency shelter operations." It was worth at least $32.4 million. Later that month, the company was awarded a smaller $1.4 million contract for unspecified "emergency and other relief services."

In February of this year, CHSI was awarded a contract through the vehicle worth $30.9 million to operate an "emergency shelter" in Homestead, Fla., with "500 UAC beds," an acronym referring to "unaccompanied alien children." That contract was modified last month to double the number of beds in the shelter. This presumably was the same shelter described in this article by the Miami Herald. Pictures obtained by the paper show the shelter includes large tents, a fenced in soccer field and crowded rows of beds.

Homestead Temporary Shelter For Unaccompanied Children

Homestead Temporary Shelter For Unaccompanied Children

The Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in Homestead, Fla. (Photo: Joe Skipper/Getty Images)

Yahoo News contacted CHSI and the company's President and CEO Gary G. Palmer to ask if it had any concerns about playing a role in the child separations. Palmer did not respond. Gail Hart, a CHSI spokesperson, referred all questions to the Department of Health and Human Services. The CHSI website claims its facilities are "compassionate" and boasts of its recent experience working on an HHS contract for a "rapid ramp-up of a large temporary shelter" for immigrants.

Dynamic Service Solutions, a Maryland firm, was awarded a contract worth up to $8.7 million from HHS through the "shelter care for unaccompanied children" vehicle in September 2017. The company has posted job openings online indicating it is hiring Spanish-speaking "youth care workers" to work with "unaccompanied alien children" in Homestead. Darnell Armstrong, president and CEO of Dynamic Service Solutions, referred all questions about his role in the child separation policy to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Southwest Key Programs was awarded two contracts through the vehicle in September 2017 worth up to $1.8 million each for "emergency shelter operations." According to ABC News, Southwest Key, a nonprofit, runs 26 facilities for young migrants including Casa Padre in Brownsville, Texas. Casa Padre, located in a cavernous former Walmart, is the largest licensed facility for immigrant children with a capacity of 1,500. ABC also reported that children who are held there are allowed to make two calls a week. The news network was among a group of media outlets and lawmakers, including Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., that toured Casa Padre on June 17. They were admitted after Merkley had been turned away from the facility two weeks earlier. After Merkley's first attempt, Southwest Key Programs spokesperson Cindy Casares released a statement describing itself as a "humanitarian first responder, caring for immigrant children arriving in this country without a parent or guardian."

"We provide round-the-clock services including: food, shelter, medical and mental health care, clothing, educational support, supervision, and reunification support," the statement said.

Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that the government is set to pay Southwest Key over $458 million this fiscal year. Southwest Key's website went offline on Tuesday evening shortly after the stories from Bloomberg and Yahoo News were published. Casares and Southwest Key Programs President Dr. Juan Sanchez did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Yahoo News about whether they were concerned the nonprofit is aiding child separation.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, right

Sen. Jeff Merkley, right

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., right, speaks in front of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Rio Grande Valley Sector's Centralized Processing Center in McAllen, Texas, June 17, 2018. (Photo: Joel Martinez/the Monitor via AP)

Dynamic Educational Systems, a subsidiary of the Arizona firm Exodyne, was awarded a pair of HHS contracts worth up to approximately $5.6 million for "emergency shelter operations." One of the contracts specified it was for "unaccompanied children." The company's founder, chairman, and CEO Ralph Rockow, did not respond to a request for comment from Yahoo News. A woman who answered the phone at Exodyne Inc. on Tuesday laughed when we said we were calling to ask if executives there had concerns they might be helping separate children from their parents. The woman said Rockow and another person who could answer questions were both unavailable.

The fifth business with contracts through the HHS vehicle for "shelter care for unaccompanied children" is Virginia-based MVM. According to GovTribe, the company was awarded two contracts worth up to $9.5 million in September 2017 for "shelter operations" and for unspecified "emergency and other relief services." Earlier this month, the Daily Beast reported MVM was looking to fill a number of positions, including a compliance coordinator to work in San Antonio on the "rapid deployment of an Emergency Influx Shelter for unaccompanied children."

In response to an inquiry from Yahoo News, the company sent a statement saying it "has tremendous empathy for the families and children arriving at the U.S. border" and believed there was a "misperception of the role MVM is playing on the issue of unaccompanied immigrant children."

"The current services MVM provides consist of transporting undocumented families and unaccompanied children to Department of Health and Human Services–designated facilities — we have not and currently do not operate shelters or any other type of housing for minors," the statement said. "While these children and families are in our care, our priority is ensuring they are safe and treated with dignity and compassion. We have been providing these transport services since 2014 and take pride in the level of care these children receive from our dedicated, professional staff."

According to the company's statement, "MVM was one of several organizations awarded a contract to provide as-needed emergency support services" to the Office of Refugee Resettlement. The company emphasized this was in 2017, "prior to the zero tolerance policy" that led to child separations. In addition to the recent contract vehicle for "shelter care for unaccompanied children" Yahoo News has identified four contracts the company was awarded in past years for "unaccompanied alien children (UAC) transportation services" worth at least $308 million. While those contracts cover work through next year, according to GovTribe, the company has already earned the full amount. The largest of those contracts, which was worth at least $162 million covered a period from 2014 through 2019. The other contracts covered a period from 2016 through this year. The data on GovTribe shows that MVM Inc. has only provided $3,100 of services out of the nearly $9.5 million authorized in the "shelter care" contract vehicle.

MVM's statement said the company does not expect to provide further services through the program. It also pledged the company would not take contracts that involved the child separation policy.

"At the direction of the company's leadership, we have removed job postings related to readiness operations under the current zero tolerance policy," the statement said. "MVM has not pursued any new contracts associated with undocumented families and children since the implementation of the current policy."

Update [June 20 11:45 am]: This story has been updated with new additional information about the finances of Southwest Key and MVM Inc.

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He was once a leading Trump supporter. Now this Mexican-American lawyer denounces his policy on migrant children

He was once a leading Trump supporter. Now this Mexican-American lawyer denounces his policy on migrant children

Jake Monty, a former member of President Trump's National Hispanic Advisory Council, once argued the "Latino case" for supporting the billionaire mogul's presidential campaign but jumped ship in the middle of the 2016 campaign when Trump's immigration proposals hardened in the mold of his nationalist advisers.

Yahoo News reached out to Monty to see what he thinks now about Trump's immigration policies, particularly the internment of undocumented children. He said it's troubling to see the administration let the fate of undocumented immigrants be determined by a political agenda.

"The brinkmanship he is playing on this issue is scary," he said.

Jake Monty is no longer making the "Latino case for Trump." (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Jake Monty via Facebook, ACF/HHS/Handout via Reuters, U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Rio Grande Valley Sector via AP, Mike Blake/Reuters)

Monty, a third-generation Mexican-American whose wife was born in Mexico, has spent most of his career advocating for immigrant rights as a lawyer in Texas. He was unusual in supporting a candidate who notoriously launched his campaign with a speech calling Mexican immigrants drug smugglers and rapists. But Monty, a conservative Republican, was willing to give the businessman the benefit of the doubt over Hillary Clinton, who he said had played "a cynical game with immigrant lives" as senator and whose husband's crackdown on undocumented workers was draconian.

In June 2016, five months before the presidential election, Monty held a fundraiser for Trump and penned an op-ed for the Daily Caller titled, "A Latino's Case for Trump."

But the Trump administration is separating children from their parents when they illegally cross the border into the United States. It ended the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which gave temporary legal status to the children of undocumented immigrants.

Central American asylum seekers, including a Honduran girl, 2, and her mother, are taken into custody near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12 in McAllen, Texas. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

"In addition to the child-separation policy, which is mean-spirited, misguided and actually makes the problem worse, I think there are other issues that are very concerning as well," Monty told Yahoo News. "The DACA problem has not been solved. This is a problem that he's made worse because he's the one who abrogated DACA. If any kids fall out of status or get deported, it's going to be on his watch."

Monty gave credit to Trump for condemning MS-13, which he has done consistently since becoming president, as a scourge on the immigrant community, but thinks the Trump administration's overall nativism is harmful to the Latino community.

Of course, he said, Hispanic and Latino people care about issues other than immigration. But it's hard to get beyond words like "animals" or "illegals" used in reference to humans. Just last month, Trump said, "We're taking people out of the country. You wouldn't believe how bad these people are. These aren't people. These are animals."

Monty said rhetoric like this has severely damaged the Republican Party's reputation among Hispanics.

"At the back of your mind you're thinking, 'Wow, this is the same party that referred to them as animals. If I weren't in a suit and $3,000 cowboy boots, would they think that I'm illegal too or that I'm a 'wetback'? That is the problem," he said.

Candidate Donald Trump meets with his Hispanic Advisory Council on Aug. 20, 2016. (Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP)

"Wetback" is a slur on Mexican immigrants who entered the United States by crossing the Rio Grande.

On Aug. 20, 2016, Monty attended a meeting of Trump's National Hispanic Advisory Council, made up of business, civic and religious leaders. Trump reportedly told the council he'd be more moderate in office than his campaign rhetoric was signaling. Afterward, Trump held a rally in Austin where he floated the idea of letting undocumented immigrants without a criminal record and with longstanding ties to America stay in the U.S. There were reports that Trump would announce a major change to his immigration policy in a speech in Colorado, a moderate purple state.

At first, Monty said, it seemed that everything the campaign had told him (and that he predicted in his op-ed piece) was coming to fruition. But that glimmer of hope faded quickly. First, the announcement was scheduled for Aug. 31 in Arizona, a red state.

"Then the Hispanic council wasn't invited to that speech, lo and behold," Monty said. "There was nothing resembling what he talked about to us at Trump Tower in that speech."

"Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation," Trump declared. Monty resigned from Trump's council the next day.

Central American asylum seekers wait as Border Patrol agents take them into custody on June 12 near McAllen, Texas. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

"It was a great group of people. I know some of the people who stayed on. Others resigned," Monty said. "I was proud to serve on it before the Aug. 31 speech in Phoenix. But after that speech, there was no way I could stay on."

The National Hispanic Advisory Council had roughly two dozen members at the time. There were conflicting reports on just how many left alongside Monty. The RNC told BuzzFeed News at the time that only two left. Monty said the council continues to exist — hosting events and conducting outreach to the Hispanic community — but has struggled to find additional Hispanic advisers who want to be affiliated with the administration.

Monty blames Attorney General Jeff Sessions and senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller for the administration's draconian measures against undocumented families at the border. He was glad to see right-wing political strategist Steve Bannon leave the White House. Nevertheless, he said Trump cannot escape responsibility for having empowered them.

Monty still hopes that the more moderate Donald Trump he thought he once knew will show up again.

"Which Donald Trump will it be? The businessman, the dealmaker, the guy who has reached across the aisle to make deals with Democrats on budget issues? Or will it be the leader of the mob who wants to score points with his base and keep people riled up? I'm certainly hoping it's the former and not the latter."

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