Separating Children From Parents At US Border "Unconscionable", Says UN

Geneva:  The UN human rights chief on Monday urged Washington to stop separating migrant children from their parents at the US border, describing the policy as "unconscionable".

"The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable," Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said as he opened a session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The "zero-tolerance" border security policy implemented by President Donald Trump's administration has sparked global outrage.

The government has said that during one recent six-week period nearly 2,000 minors were separated from their parents or adult guardians.

The number of separations has jumped since early May, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that all migrants illegally crossing the US border with Mexico would be arrested, regardless of whether the adults were seeking asylum.

Since children cannot be sent to the facilities where their parents are held, they are separated.

Zeid quoted the American Association of Pediatrics as describing the practice as "government-sanctioned child abuse" which may cause "irreparable harm," with "lifelong consequences".

"I call on the United States to immediately end the practice of forcible separation of these children," he said, urging Washington to ratify the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

The US is the only country that has not ratified the convention.

Ratification, Zeid said, would "ensure that the fundamental rights of all children, whatever their administrative status, will be at the centre of all domestic laws and policies."

Zeid's address at the start of the 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council marks his last address to the body before he is due to step down at the end of August.

The session kicked off under a cloud of growing US criticism of the council. Diplomatic sources said there was a risk that Washington may withdraw from the council altogether.
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Trump Wants to Ship 25 Million Mexicans to Japan: Report

That would make the Japanese PM Shinzo Abe lose an election, President Trump argued during the recent G7 summit.

President Donald Trump told Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe he could send 25 million Mexicans to the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan, in an attempt to argue that immigrants are bad for electoral victories and trying to prompt a sense of empathy from Abe but failing dramatically.

RELATED: Trump's Tariffs, Protectionism Debated at Disjointed G7 Meeting

The most recent G7 meeting turned out to be a diplomatic disaster as the leader of the world's new rogue state, U.S. President Donald Trump, made a series of unfortunate remarks that will actually affect international affairs.

According to the Wall Street Journal, at one point of the G7 discussion Trump attempted to appeal to his counterparts by saying that immigration is a big problem for Europe, and then directed his words to Abe: “Shinzo, you don't have this problem, but I can send you 25 million Mexicans and you'll be out of office very soon.”

Among all Trump's disappointing remarks, this one certainly created a sense of irritation among world leaders, who struggled with the POTUS during the whole meeting.

Trump didn't specify where he would get the Mexicans from, if he would ship them from the 36.3 million legally residing in the U.S., from the unknown number of immigrants that crossed the border risking their lives to search for a better future, or take them directly from Mexico.

The summit ended in failure when Trump rejected the joint statement and bashed Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was hosting the meeting, for being “very dishonest and weak.”

The leaders gathered at the summit, including Germany's Angela Merkel, Canada's Trudeau, Japan's Abe, France's Emmanuel Macron, Italy's Giuseppe Conte and the U.K.'s Theresa May were reportedly “dismayed by [Trump's] verbal jabs” during the discussions ranging from wide and sensitive topics such as terrorism and migration, according to the WSJ.

When the discussion reached Iran's nuclear deal and terrorism, Trump turned to Macron and made some serious accusations.

“You must know about this, Emmanuel, because all the terrorists are in Paris,” Trump was reported saying.

The meeting focused on patching the wounds between traditional allies resulting from the new tariff regime imposed on Europe, Mexico and Canada by the Trump administration.

"The EU believes these unilateral U.S. tariffs are unjustified and at odds with World Trade Organization rules. This is protectionism, pure and simple," Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, was quoted as saying by Al Jazeera.

Other world leaders also tried to confront Trump's threats to impose stiff tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

In response, Trump described Juncker as a "brutal killer" in reference to the European Union's antitrust and tax fines against U.S. tech companies.

While some of the world's top Western leaders struggled to find common ground, small groups of protesters clashed with riot police on the highways leading to the summit. A hundred or so protesters, dressed in black, burned couches to block the entrance of Highway 440.

G7 summits have frequently been met with mass protests, notably in 2015 when protesters managed to make it to the security fence surrounding the meeting.

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2,000 Kids Separated From Parents Under Trump Border Crackdown

The Trump administration separated nearly 2,000 immigrant children from parents or guardians at the border over the span of six weeks, a Department of Homeland Security official said on Friday.

The administration is under intense scrutiny over its current crackdown at the border, which is aimed at prosecuting as many people as possible for illegal entry ― even if it means splitting children from their parents.

From April 19 through May 31, border officials separated 1,995 children from 1,940 adults with whom they were traveling, a DHS official told reporters, confirming numbers first reported by The Associated Press.

President Donald Trump has claimed the family separations are not his fault, even though they are happening because of his own administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal border-crossing. Under that policy, families apprehended after crossing the border without authorization are being separated so the parents can be jailed, rather than kept together and put directly into immigration proceedings. 

The Justice Department remains far from attaining the goal of universally prosecuting all illegal border crossings, though a DOJ official told reporters that the percentage of people caught crossing the border illegally who were hauled into federal court has more than doubled since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the change last month.

But regardless of whether prosecutors can take all the cases, officials insist that family members will no longer be exempted from facing criminal charges, meaning that family separations at the border will continue.

U.S. Border Patrol agents take a father and son from Honduras into custody near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12 near Missio
John Moore/Getty Images
U.S. Border Patrol agents take a father and son from Honduras into custody near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12 near Mission, Texas.

DHS and DOJ officials, who declined to comment by name on the call with reporters, accused opponents of the policy of misrepresenting the facts and of arguing for special treatment for immigrant parents. They argued that splitting families to prosecute parents for illegal entry, which is a misdemeanor for first-time offenders, is no different than jailing someone for another type of crime away from their children. 

“They want illegal aliens to get better rights than U.S. citizens have,” one Trump administration official said, rebutting widespread criticism of the family separation policy among immigrant rights groups, church leaders and Democratic politicians.

U.S. Border Patrol agents take a father and son from Honduras into custody near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12 near Missio

On Friday, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, a nonpartisan fact-finding agency, piled on, issuing a letter asking Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen to halt the family separations. 

The family separation policy raises “grave concerns” about due process and coercive tactics that pressure migrants to withdraw valid asylum applications “for fear of what may be happening to their children,” the letter says. 

“The Commission’s concerns are exacerbated by the apparent animus directed at Mexican and Central American immigrants by the Administration, giving rise to questions of unwarranted discrimination on the basis of national origin,” the letter says. 

There is no law that requires the government to separate families at the border, although Trump has repeatedly falsely claimed it is a result of laws passed by Democrats. While illegal entry is a crime, prior administrations have largely avoided prosecuting mothers who cross with their children. This doesn’t mean they avoid consequences ― they still face the prospect of deportation ― but it prevents large-scale family separation.

But the Trump administration has indicated there are two other reasons for family separations as well: to deter other immigrants and to gain policy concessions from Democrats.

Trump tweeted earlier Friday that “Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda,” calling for legislation that would provide “full funding for the Wall, end Catch & Release, Visa Lottery and Chain, and go to Merit Based Immigration.” Those are Trump immigration priorities, but they’re not related to family separations at the border.

Some Republicans in Congress have said they oppose family separations, but their proposed solution is to change the law so that children can be detained for longer periods with their parents.

The White House tried out some new family separation messaging later on Friday, smearing Democrats as responsible for murder and other violence perpetrated by undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

In an email to reporters, the White House called it “CONGRESSIONAL DEMOCRATS’ FAMILY SEPARATION POLICY: Too many American families have been permanently separated from loved ones lost to illegal alien crime.”

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U.S.-Cuba Bilateral Commission to meet for first time since U.S. withdrew embassy personnel

The first round of bilateral meetings between the U.S. and Cuba since Washington permanently withdrew personnel from the embassy in Havana will take place on Thursday in Washington, DC.

For some, it will take heightened significance with the backdrop of the recent historic meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un of North Korea, where Kim agreed to denuclearize in exchange for better relations with the U.S. In the case of Cuba, tensions between the two countries intensified after Trump rolled back on some of former President Barack Obama’s historic détente with the island. A draw down in U.S. embassy personnel following mysterious incidents that have affected the health of U.S. diplomats and their families has further strained relations.

The Bilateral Commission will be the seventh meeting the two countries have held since restoring relations in 2015. The last meeting was in September 2017 and it was the first time they met under the Trump administration. It took place under different circumstances than the previous meetings. The health incidents had been reported a few weeks prior and Trump had announced a rollback in Obama’s policy a few months before.

After the meeting, the Cuban Foreign Ministry released a sharply worded statement protesting critical comments made by Trump to the U.N. General Assembly while the Bilateral Commission was in session. Trump had called Cuba “corrupt and destabilizing” and said he would not lift the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba until it made “fundamental reforms.”

The Bilateral Commission is the platform through which the U.S. and Cuba identify, prioritize, and schedule initiatives, including specific dialogues and working group meetings. Some of the topics covered are dialogues on human rights, law enforcement, claims, and migration, according to a State Department spokesperson for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

John Creamer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs will lead the U.S. side. The State Department did not confirm who would be leading the Cuban delegation, but sources familiar with the meeting said it is Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, who has replaced Josefina Vidal as director of U.S. affairs at the Cuban Foreign Ministry. She was Cuba’s chief negotiator during the opening toward Cuba and is now the Cuban ambassador to Canada.

The State Department did not respond to requests for comment about whether the U.S. would press Cuba about the unexplained health incidents during the meeting.

Last week, the U.S. withdrew two more people from the embassy due to health concerns. They are considered potential new cases but have not yet been medically confirmed. If confirmed by doctors at the University of Pennsylvania, where others affected have been treated, they will mark the 25th and 26th confirmed cases in Cuba.

The incidents were first disclosed last year. The confirmed patients have a range of symptoms and diagnoses including mild traumatic brain injury and permanent hearing loss.

In February, the U.S. made permanent its decision to withdraw 60 percent of its diplomats from Cuba, citing its need to protect American personnel.

The U.S. has said it does not know who is behind it, but has argued Cuba is responsible for protecting diplomats on its soil. Cuba has denied any involvement or knowledge of the events.

The U.S. and Cuba continue making strides in some areas. Direct mail service was recently reestablished after a trial run. The two countries held three meetings in Washington during February focused on law enforcement issues, according to a State Department spokesperson. One was on money laundering and denying criminals financial safe havens abroad and two were on trafficking persons

But Cuba still views the trade embargo on the island as the major obstacle in advancing relations between the two countries and in the development of their stagnant economy. Lifting the embargo still faces domestic opposition in the U.S.

  • Published in Cuba

Trump slams Robert De Niro as 'a very Low IQ individual'

President Donald Trump is slamming actor Robert De Niro as "a very Low IQ individual."

At Sunday night's Tony Awards, De Niro launched an expletive at Trump. On Monday, the actor apologized to Canadians for the "idiotic behavior of my president."

Trump is responding on Twitter as he returns from his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

Trump says De Niro, who won an Academy Award for his performance in 1980's "Raging Bull," ''has received to (sic) many shots to the head by real boxers in movies."

Trump says he believes De Niro "may be 'punch-drunk,'" adding, "Wake up Punchy!"

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History in the Making: Trump and Kim Finally Meet

Trump confident he'll be able to come up with a denuclearization deal with North Korea, something, he says, those in the past couldn't accomplish.

U.S. President Donald Trump and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong Un now meeting in Singapore in preparation for their talks in private on Tuesday. Kim told the press by way of an interpreter that "the road to this conversation was not easy." Trump agreed that he has "no doubt" that the two leaders will have a terrific relationship. 

RELATED:  North Korea's Kim Jong-un Arrives in Singapore Ahead of Trump Summit

Trump says their first discussion could "work out very nicely." However his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo noted that their unprecedented but brief meeting will unlikely yield what Washington wants, Pyongyang's full denuclearization.

The head of state Tweeted Tuesday he would be able to come up with a deal with North Korea, unlike his predecessors. 

According to the North Korea news agency, KCNA, discussions will focus on "the issue of building a permanent and durable peace-keeping mechanism on the Korean peninsula, the issue of realizing the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and other issues of mutual concern."

The North Korean leader has said he’s willing to denuclearize but hasn’t made unclear how to complete this or what he might seek for the country in return, according to the BBC. Sky News says Kim is looking for the U.S. to lift the stranglehold economic sanctions it holds on the north portion of the peninsula.

Pompeo told reports in Singapore this is "an unprecedented opportunity to change the trajectory of our relationship and bring peace and prosperity" to North Korea. The secretary of state indicated this meeting will be the first of many and will set the foundation for "the hard work that will follow."

This first summit between the two previously feuding leaders seemed impossible last year as they publicly hurled names at each other.

Kim met with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong soon after arriving in the city on Sunday and thanked the leader for his “sincere cooperation of providing all conditions and best conveniences for the historic DPRK-U.S. summit meeting and talks,” according to KCNA. The meeting is to take place at the resort island of Sentosa, just off the Singapore mainland.

This is only the third time that Kim has been known to leave the country since taking office in 2011. His first two international trips took place only in the past few months to China and later South Korea.

He and Trump are scheduled to leave Singapore by Tuesday night after the summit.

  • Published in World

Trump-Immigrants: Choosing the fox to guard the henhouse

Ronald W. Mortensen was nominated by Donald Trump as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

The nomination took place on May 24th.

Thus reported last Sunday, Los Angeles Times journalist Tracy Wilkinson.

Mortensen was a former U.S. Foreign Service officer and member of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).

He has been characterized by his tough opposition to the entry of immigrants into United States.

Both Democrats and immigration advocates objected the nomination.

Moreover, Republicans, who have a majority in the Senate, should pronounce themselves about his nomination.

There, Mortensen could face troubles for his writings and statements attacking both immigrants and Republican senators, including John McCain, and even Marco Rubio.

In 2015, Ronald Mortensen, originally from Utah, told Marco Rubio: “You are either gullible or just plain dishonest on immigration issues.”

After Donald Trump took office in February 2017, Mortensen praised him for stepping up deportations of immigrants and banning some illegal entries.

In his blog, he referred to the success of the president “in destroying the myth of the noble, law-abiding illegal alien.”

The Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, where he worked, has been listed as a hate group.

The theoretical aim of the aforementioned center is “to provide protection, ease suffering and resolve the plight of persecuted and uprooted people all over the world”.

However, in a post on March 10, 2017, Mortensen argued: “DACA grants amnesty to illegal aliens who are criminals and most of its recipients have committed multiple felonies to get jobs”.

According to Los Angeles Times, the number of DACA (Deffered Action for Childhood Arrivals) beneficiaries, known as Dreamers, who have been convicted of crimes is very low; all have been vetted to get their two-year permits to live in the United States.

According to official data, the crime rate among immigrants is lower than for the overall population of the northern country.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-NY) said that “Mortensen’s racist, vile and dismissive comments against immigrants disqualified him for the post.”

Jennifer Quigley, an immigration advocate on Human Rights, termed Mortensen’s statements “extremist.”

She also added: “At a moment when the world is facing the worst displacement crisis since WWII, it is astounding President Trump would nominate an individual with a hostile attitude toward immigrants.”

Finally, she pointed out: “Mortensen’s nomination is like choosing the fox to guard the henhouse.”

CubaSi Translation Staff / Jorge Mesa Benjamin

US Should Stop Detaining Migrants, Separating Children: United Nations

Geneva: The United Nations called on the United States on Tuesday to stop detaining irregular migrant families and separating children on its frontier with Mexico, saying this broke the law.

Several hundred children crossing the southern U.S. border have been held in custody since October 2017 following an executive order issued by President Donald Trump when he took office in January 2016, it said.

"The U.S. should immediately halt this practice of separating families and stop criminalising what should at most be an administrative offence - that of irregular entry or stay in the U.S.," U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a briefing in Geneva.

"Entering a country without the relevant papers should not be a criminal offence...so these people should not be detained," she said, adding that some children were very young, including a one-year-old infant.

Poverty, as well as deepening violence from criminal gangs and drug traffickers has driven hundreds of thousands of Central Americans to try to cross the U.S. border illegally or seek asylum in the country.

The Trump administration will soon begin fingerprinting parents claiming custody of children who entered the United States illegally without an adult relative, officials said a week ago, prompting criticism that children may be abandoned by those who fear being identified and deported.

Shamdasani, asked about comments by senior U.S. officials that it was normal to remove children from parents in custody, said: "There is nothing normal about detaining children.

"Detention is never in the best interests of the child and always constitutes a child rights violation," she said.

The United States - the only country in the world not to have ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child - still has obligations as a signatory to that treaty and as a party that has ratified other rights treaties, Shamdasani said

"Our position is that preserving family unity is a fundamental tenet of refugee protection," U.N. refugee agency spokesman William Spindler said.

Most crossing the U.S. southern border are from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador where there is rampant violence and persecution targetting children and youth, he said.

"The fact that you have people coming from countries experiencing violence and might be subject to persecution by gangs and other criminal violence, would certainly ... give them the right to receive international protection," Spindler said.

  • Published in World
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