In 3 Months, 3 Immigrants Have Died at a Private Detention Center in California

Orit Ben-Ezzer/ZUMA Wire

A Honduran immigrant held at a troubled detention center in California’s high desert died Wednesday night while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Vincente Caceres-Maradiaga, 46, was receiving treatment for multiple medical conditions while waiting for an immigration court to decide whether to deport him, according an ICE statement. He collapsed as he was playing soccer at the detention facility and died while en route to a local hospital.

Caceres-Maradiaga’s death is the latest in a string of fatalities among detainees held at the Adelanto Detention Facility, which is operated by the GEO Group, the country’s largest private prison company. Three people held at the facility have died in the last three months, including Osmar Epifanio Gonzalez-Gadba, a 32-year-old Nicaraguan found hanging in his cell on March 22, and Sergio Alonso Lopez, a Mexican man who died of internal bleeding on April 13 after spending more than two months in custody.

Since it opened in 2011, Adelanto has faced accusations of insufficient medical care and poor conditions. In July 2015, 29 members of Congress sent a letter to ICE and federal inspectors requesting an investigation into health and safety concerns at the facility. They cited the 2012 death of Fernando Dominguez at the facility, saying it was the result of “egregious errors” by the center’s medical staff, who did not give him proper medical examinations or allow him to receive timely off-site treatment. In November 2015, 400 detainees began a hunger strike, demanding better medical and dental care along with other reforms.

Yet last year, the city of Adelanto, acting as a middleman between ICE and GEO, made a deal to extend the company’s contract until 2021. The federal government guarantees GEO that a minimum of 975 immigrants will be held at the facility and pays $ 111 per detainee per day, according to California state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who has fought to curtail private immigration detention. After that point, ICE only has to pay $ 50 per detainee per day—an incentive to fill more beds.

Of California’s four privately run immigration detention centers, three use local governments as intermediaries between ICE and private prison companies. On Tuesday, the California senate voted 26-13 to ban such contracts, supporting a bill that could potentially close Adelanto when its contract runs out in 2021. The Dignity Not Detention Act, authored by Lara, would prevent local governments from signing or extending contracts with private prison companies to detain immigrants starting in 2019. The bill would also require all in-state facilities that hold ICE detainees, including both private detention centers and public jails, to meet national standards for detention conditions—empowering state prosecutors to hold detention center operators accountable for poor conditions inside their facilities.

An identical bill passed last year but was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. “I have been troubled by recent reports detailing unsatisfactory conditions and limited access to counsel in private immigration detention facilities,” Brown wrote in his veto message last September. But he deferred to the Department of Homeland Security, which was then reviewing its use of for-profit immigration detention. In that review, the Homeland Security Advisory Council rejected the ongoing use of private prison companies to detain immigrants, citing the “inferiority of the private prison model.” Yet since President Donald Trump took office, the federal government has moved to expand private immigration detention, signing a $ 110 million deal with GEO in April to build the first new immigration detention center under Trump.

Nine people have died in ICE custody in fiscal year 2017, which beganOctober 1. Meanwhile, private prison stocks have nearly doubled in value since Election Day.

How Trump and His Allies Have Run With Russian Propaganda

Trump with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in the Oval Office on May 10Alexander Shcherbak/TASS/Zuma

The concept is straight from the Soviet playbook: Plant false information and use it to influence the attitudes of another country’s people and government. This “active measures” technique from the Cold War era appears to have been resurrected with alarming success by the Kremlin in its attack on the 2016 presidential election—and has been echoed in tactics used by President Donald Trump and his associates, according to Clint Watts, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

“Part of the reason active measures have worked in this US election is because the commander in chief has used Russian active measures at times against his opponents,” Watts, a former FBI agent, recently testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Key to this equation have been RT and Sputnik international, two Russian state-sponsored news outlets. Both reach only relatively small audiences in the US (RT is estimated to reach about 8 million people via cable television), but their impact has been magnified greatly online, with their stories reposted on what Watts calls “gray” conspiracy sites like Breitbart News and InfoWars. Twitter bots and other social media accounts further amplify the stories. And in several cases, Trump or his associates have directly cited phony Russian propaganda in a speech or interview. Here are some examples:

A false report of a terrorist attack at a NATO base in Turkey: Last July, RT and Sputnik each reported on a fire at the Incirlik base, framing it as potential sabotage. Pro-Russian and pro-Trump Twitter accounts spread and magnified the false reports, but mainstream news organizations didn’t pick up the report because it wasn’t true, as Watts explained in a piece for the Daily Beast. Yet, in mid August, Paul Manafort—Trump’s campaign chairman at the time—escalated the story to a terrorist attack, complaining on CNN that US media outlets were not adequately covering it. Politifact debunked Manafort’s claims, noting that Turkish authorities had reported small, peaceful demonstrations outside the base, but no actual assault on the base.

The case of the phony Benghazi email: On October 10, Wikileaks released a batch of emails hacked from campaign chairman John Podesta’s email account. About 5 pm ET that day, Sputnik News published a story about leaked Clinton campaign emails with the headline “Hillary confidante: Benghazi was ‘preventable’; State Department negligent.” Roughly an hour later, Trump told supporters at a rally in Pennsylvania that Clinton ally Sidney Blumenthal had called the Benghazi attack “almost certainly preventable.” “This just came out a little while ago,” Trump said. Those words weren’t actually Blumenthal’s and Sputnik later deleted the story – but by then the headline had spread far and wide.

False claims of pervasive voter fraud: RT has been attempting to delegitimize the American electoral process since 2012 by calling the U.S. voting system fraudulent, according to the declassified version of the report the Director of National Intelligence released this past January. In his Senate testimony, Watts called this the “number one theme” pushed by Russian outlets. In October 2016, a Kremlin-controlled think tank circulated a strategy document that said Russia should end its pro-Trump propaganda “and instead intensify its messaging about voter fraud to undermine the U.S. electoral system’s legitimacy and damage Clinton’s reputation in an effort to undermine her presidency,” according to a Reuters investigation. 

That same month, Trump pushed hard on the theme that the election was rigged; on Oct. 17 Trump tweeted “Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day.” The sources his campaign pointed to were all debunked by Politifact, which noted that Trump had also tweeted in 2012 about dead voters delivering Obama’s win.

The Swedish attack that wasn’t: Trump’s strategy of running with false information didn’t stop when he won the election – and hasn’t been limited to Russian-owned media properties: He’s also used Fox News reports in a similar way. In February, Trump appeared to imply at a Florida rally that a terrorist attack had occurred the previous night in Sweden. Sweden itself had no idea what he meant and the Swedish Embassy reached out to ask for clarification. Twitter users, including many Swedes, ridiculed Trump’s statement, with references ranging from IKEA to the Swedish Chef character from the “Muppets.” Trump later said that he was referring to a Fox News story on violence allegedly perpetrated by refugees. That report, which aired the night before Trump’s rally, did not mention a specific terror-related attack; it focused on reports that rape and gun violence had increased since Sweden began taking in a record number of refugees in 2015.

Wiretapping claims pushed by a Fox News personality: In March, even though Trump’s claim about Obama wiretapping Trump Tower had been directly debunked by top US intelligence officials, the president seized on a baseless claim by Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano that British spies had wiretapped Trump at former President Obama’s request. Fox News later disavowed Napolitano’s statement. Trump continued to repeat his conviction that he’d been wiretapped, even though American and British intelligence officials insist there is no basis for the claims.

The murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich: Trump allies recently pushed another story that started as a conspiracy theory online and was fueled by Russian news outlets. Fox’s Sean Hannity aired several segments focusing on the unsubstantiated claim that Rich was behind the Clinton campaign email leaks and then murdered for his actions, even though police have said he was likely killed in a robbery attempt. When the claims were thoroughly debunked, Fox retracted the story from its website – but not before it had been spread by Trump ally and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Even after Fox pulled the story, Gingrich told the Washington Post, “I think it is worth looking at.”

In his Senate testimony, Watts noted that Trump is vulnerable to further manipulation by the Russians: He warned that Russian-linked Twitter accounts are actively trying to engage the president by sending him conspiracy theories. “Until we get a firm basis on fact and fiction in our own country, get some agreement about the facts,” Watts said, “we’re going to have a big problem.”

Republican Congressman on Suspected Islamic Radicals: “Kill Them All”

Kevin McGill/AP

In response to the London terror attack, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) had an extreme proposal: kill anyone suspected of being an Islamic radical.

On his campaign Faceboook page, Higgins, a former police officer, posted this message:

The free world…all of Christendom…is at war with Islamic horror. Not one penny of American treasure should be granted to any nation who harbors these heathen animals. Not a single radicalized Islamic suspect should be granted any measure of quarter. Their intended entry to the American homeland should be summarily denied. Every conceivable measure should be engaged to hunt them down. Hunt them, identity them, and kill them. Kill them all. For the sake of all that is good and righteous. Kill them all.

The post went up early on Sunday morning. On Saturday evening, suspected terrorists killed seven people during an attack on London Bridge. ISIS has claimed credit for these murders.

With his declaration that Christendom is “at war with Islamic horror,” Higgins was embracing a theme of the far right: the fight against extremist jihadists is part of a fundamental clash between Christian society and Islam. And in this Facebook post, he was calling for killing not just terrorists found guilty of heinous actions, but anyone suspected of such an act. He did not explain how the United States could determine how to identify radicalized Islamists in order to deny them entry to the United States. It was unclear whether his proposal to deny any assistance to any nation that harbors “these heathen animals” would apply to England, France, Indonesia, Spain, and other nations where jihadist cells have committed horrific acts of violence.

Higgins office refused to allow a Mother Jones reporter to speak to a spokesman for the congressman. But in an email, his spokesman confirmed the Facebook post was authentic.

In late January, Higgins delivered a fiery floor speech attacking Democrats and the “liberal media” for opposing President Donald Trump’s Muslim travel ban. He declared that “radical Islamic horror has gripped the world and…unbelievably…been allowed into our own nation with wanton disregard.”

Shortly before running for Congress, Higgins resigned from his post as the public information officer of the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office, where he had earned a reputation as the “Cajun John Wayne” for his tough-talking CrimeStopper videos. Higgins abruptly quit after his boss, the sheriff, ordered him to tone down his unprofessional comments. “I repeatedly told him to stop saying things like, ‘You have no brain cells,’ or making comments that were totally disrespectful and demeaning,” the sheriff said.

“I don’t do well reined in,” Higgins noted at the time. “Although I love and respect my sheriff, I must resign.”

Update:Higgins’ campaign spokesman, Chris Comeaux, told Mother Jones in an email: “Rep. Higgins is referring to terrorists. He’s advocating for hunting down and killing all of the terrorists. This is an idea all of America & Britain should be united behind.”

Trump's Tweets Threaten His Travel Ban's Chances in Court

Andrew Harnik/AP

President Donald Trump began the week with a barrage of early-morning tweets blasting the courts for blocking his travel ban executive order. But in doing so, he may have just made it more likely that the courts will keep blocking the ban.

These tweets followed upon several from over the weekend about the ban and the terrorist attack in London, including this one from Saturday evening:

In January, Trump signed an executive order banning nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days, as well as halting the refugee resettlement program for 120 days (and indefinitely for Syrian refugees). When the courts blocked it, rather than appeal to the Supreme Court, Trump signed a modified version of the order. The new ban repealed the old one, reduced the number of banned countries from seven to six, and added exceptions and waivers. Still, federal courts in Maryland and Hawaii blocked it, and now the Justice Department has appealed to the Supreme Court to have this second version of the ban reinstated.

The biggest question in the litigation over the ban is whether the courts should focus solely on the text of the order or also consider Trump’s comments from the campaign trail, and even during his presidency, to determine whether the order uses national security as a pretext for banning Muslims from the country. The president’s lawyers argue that the courts should focus on the text of the order and defer to the president’s authority over national security. Trump’s tweets Monday morning and over the weekend make it harder for the courts to justify doing that.

The travel ban is supposed to be a temporary remedy until the government can review its vetting procedures. But Trump’s tweets make it appear that the ban itself is his goal. Trump repeatedly and defiantly uses the word “ban” when his administration has instead sought to call it a pause. 

The tweets “undermine the government’s best argument—that courts ought not look beyond the four corners of the Executive Order itself,” Stephen Vladeck, an expert on national security and constitutional law at the University of Texas School of Law, says via email. “Whether or not then-Candidate Trump’s statements should matter (a point on which reasonable folks will likely continue to disagree), the more President Trump says while the litigation is ongoing tending to suggest that the Order is pretextual, the harder it is to convince even sympathetic judges and justices that only the text of the Order matters.” And once the courts start looking at the president’s statements, it’s not hard to find ones that raise questions about anti-Muslim motivations.

Even the president’s allies acknowledge his tweets are a problem. George Conway, the husband of top Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, responded to Trump on Twitter by pointing out that the work of the Office of the Solicitor General—which is defending the travel ban in court—just got harder.

Conway, who recently withdrew his name from consideration for a post at the Justice Department, then followed up to clarify his position.

Trump may soon see his tweets used against him in court. Omar Jadwat, the ACLU attorney who argued the case before the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, told the Washington Post this morning that the ACLU’s legal team is considering adding Trump’s tweets to its arguments before the Supreme Court. “The tweets really undermine the factual narrative that the president’s lawyers have been trying to put forth, which is that regardless of what the president has actually said in the past, the second ban is kosher if you look at it entirely on its own terms,” Jadwat told the Post.

The Intercept Discloses Top-Secret NSA Document on Russia Hacking Aimed at US Voting System

On Monday, the Interceptpublished a classified internal NSA document noting that Russian military intelligence mounted an operation to hack at least one US voting software supplier—which provided software related to voter registration files—in the months prior to last year’s presidential contest. It has previously been reported that Russia attempted to hack into voter registration systems, but this NSA document provides details of how one such operation occurred.

According to the Intercept:

The top-secret National Security Agency document, which was provided anonymously to The Intercept and independently authenticated, analyzes intelligence very recently acquired by the agency about a months-long Russian intelligence cyber effort against elements of the US election and voting infrastructure. The report, dated May 5, 2017, is the most detailed US government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light.

While the document provides a rare window into the NSA’s understanding of the mechanics of Russian hacking, it does not show the underlying “raw” intelligence on which the analysis is based. A US intelligence officer who declined to be identified cautioned against drawing too big a conclusion from the document because a single analysis is not necessarily definitive.

The report indicates that Russian hacking may have penetrated further into US voting systems than was previously understood. It states unequivocally in its summary statement that it was Russian military intelligence, specifically the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, that conducted the cyber attacks described in the document:

Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate actors … executed cyber espionage operations against a named U.S. company in August 2016, evidently to obtain information on elections-related software and hardware solutions. … The actors likely used data obtained from that operation to … launch a voter registration-themed spear-phishing campaign targeting U.S. local government organizations.

Go read the whole thing.

Trump Officially Proposes Stripping All Federal Funds From Planned Parenthood

In an unprecedented move, the White House is set to release a budget proposal that would withhold all federal funds from abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood. The impact would be far-reaching. Federal funds are already prohibited from being used to pay for most abortions; the new proposal, if approved by Congress, would bar health care providers around the country from receiving federal support for things like STD treatment, cancer screenings, and even Zika prevention—if they also happen to provide abortions.

The Trump administration is slated to issue its full 2018 budget request on Tuesday morning, but documents circulated on Monday give a glimpse of what the administration has planned. The budget’s executive summary proposes that “certain entities that provide abortions, including Planned Parenthood,” be excluded from receiving any federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services through Medicaid and other health programs.

In practice, this will mean that Planned Parenthood and other entities that provide abortions would suddenly be excluded from participating in the full array of federally funded health programs, even though it is already illegal for federal money to pay for most abortions, thanks to the Hyde amendment. This includes Medicaid—low-income patients would be unable to use their Medicaid coverage for non-abortion care at Planned Parenthood clinics. It includes Title X family planning grants, which help fund reproductive health care around the country. It includes Violence Against Women Act grants aimed at sexual assault prevention and Centers for Disease Control grants intended to help prevent breast and cervical cancer. It even includes CDC funding for prevention and education efforts relating to Zika virus, which causes severe birth defects.

In 2015, 43 percent of Planned Parenthood’s revenue came from government health services grants and Medicaid reimbursement. About 60 percent of the organization’s 2.5 million patients rely on Medicaid or Title X to pay for their care at Planned Parenthood facilities. Under the administration’s budget proposal, all of these patients would have to find somewhere else to get their care.

The budget blueprint also proposes spending cuts and eligibility restrictions on social services aimed at helping families and low-income parents, including food stamps, temporary assistance for needy families, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Child Tax Credit. The proposal also includes six weeks of paid leave for new mothers and fathers following the birth or adoption of a child. The summary does not include full details of the program, but it says that the leave program will be funded via unemployment insurance and that states will each work out leave specifics for themselves.

The budget “guts programs designed to help women and their families put food on the table, get the medical care they need, and make ends meet,” said Dawn Laguens, the executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “From day one, women’s health has been squarely in the crosshairs of this administration. If passed, this budget would undo decades of progress for women when it comes to their ability to access health care, their economic advancement, and their ability to lead safe, productive lives.”

Suspected Terror Attack Leaves 19 Dead, 50 Injured at UK Ariana Grande Concert

Police and other emergency services are seen near the Manchester Arena after reports of an explosion.

At least 19 people have been killed and 50 others injured after an explosion rocked Manchester Arena in the United Kingdom, where thousands of fans had flocked to see American pop superstar Ariana Grande, according to local police.

“We are working to establish the full details of what is being treated by the police as an appalling terrorist attack,” UK Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement released around 2:20am local time.

US law enforcement officials briefed on the rapidly unfolding police investigation in the UK have told severalnewsoutlets that early evidence points to a possible suicide bomber outside the venue as the cause of the explosion.

Police first responded to reports of an explosion at the arena around 10:35 p.m. local time. There, they were met with a scene of pandemonium as tactical units and ambulances surrounding the venue. Police are still warning the public to stay away.

Witnesses inside the arena reported a loud bang and then mayhem as concert-goers attempted to flee.

The venue said via Twitter that the incident occurred “in a public space” while fans were just leaving the concert:

The arena holds around 20,000 fans, there to see Grande, who is in the midst of her multi-city The Dangerous Woman Tour.

On social media, people have been tagging posts with #roomformanchester to offer room and support for victims of the attack.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Police Confirm Multiple Fatalities at an Ariana Grande Concert in England

Police and other emergency services are seen near the Manchester Arena after reports of an explosion.

Multiple fatalities have been reported at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, United Kingdom, amid reports of an explosion at Manchester Arena Monday night, according to local police officials. Videos posted to social media showed an intense police response in the streets surrounding the venue, as the Greater Manchester police warned people to stay away from the area. Witnesses reported a loud bang, and then mayhem, as concert-goers tried to flee the arena.

The arena holds around 20,000 fans.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Texas Goes After Trans Kids With Its Latest Bathroom Bill

Earlier today the Texas House voted overwhelmingly to give final approval tolegislation that would force transgender students in public schools and public charter schools to use the bathroom that corresponds to their sex assigned at birth or a bathroom that’s separate from other students—ultimately prohibiting them from using the facility that best matches their gender identity.

The move comes in the final days of a tense legislative session that ended as it began: debating the economic, moral,and personal stakes of a so-called “bathroom bill.” And it seemed, as recently as last week, as though the session might end without passing the long-debated legislation, prompting Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to threaten to force a special session if lawmakers failed to pass the bill.

Part of the hold up in the House was the sweeping nature of the Senate’s bathroom bill, passed back in March, which aims to prohibit transgender people from using the bathroom most appropriate for them in all public buildings and public schools, while simultaneously prohibiting localities from passing nondiscrimination ordinances. Conservative lawmakers in the House bristled at the legislation not out of concern for civil rights, but for state finances. The Texas Association of Businesses estimated the initial proposal could lose the state $ 8.5 billion per year. When North Carolina passed legislation barring transgender people from using the bathroom that best matches their gender identity and nullifying local nondiscrimination ordinances, businesses relocated and major revenue-generating events were rescheduled in other states. So, instead of voting on the more extreme Senate legislation, SB 6, Texas’s House amended a bill focused on school emergency operations, SB 2078. To become law, their amendment focused solely on schools. Now it’s kicked back to the Senate for approval.

Even still, narrowing the scope of the bill did little to placate Democrats, who say this legislation is about a lot more than bathrooms. “White. Colored. I was living through that era…bathrooms divided us then, and it divides us now,” said Rep. Senfronia Thompson(D-Houston), a black woman, according to the Texas Tribune. “America has long recognized that separate but equal is not equal at all.”

Many Republicans, including the representative who authored the amendment, reject that assessment and insist the legislation isn’t discriminatory. “There is absolutely no intent, and I would argue nothing in this language discriminates against anybody,” said Rep. Chris Paddie (R-Marshall). “We want to make sure we provide definitive guidance to our school districts.”

Beyond fears for students’ civil rights, the bill’s opponents also point out that this kind of legislation is dangerous for transgender youth, who are at a heightened risk for having depression, having anxiety, or attempting suicide compared to the general population, something linked to the discrimination they face. Access to the appropriate facilities plays a role in mental health outcomes: a 2016 study in the Journal of Homosexuality found that being denied access to housing and bathrooms that match one’s gender identity in college increased a transgender person’s risk for suicide.

It’s also clear that separate, segregated facilities are not equivalent to being able to use the appropriate bathroom. The bleak reality for trans students has been driven home by a five-year-old transgender girl and her mom, who have become the public faces of the Texas fight and profiled by several media outlets. Kai Shappley had an accident when the gender-neutral bathroom she was supposed to use in the nurse’s office was locked. “As a mom, you don’t want your kid to become bitter and jaded, and so you tell them it’s not your fault and it happens,” her mother said in an interview with Fusion earlier this year. “But in your head, you’re like ‘What the hell? Nobody could get her to a potty?'” (The school says there’s no evidence the accident happened.)

“There is no moral middle ground on discrimination,” said Texas Freedom Network president Kathy Miller in a statement. “Either you discriminate, or you don’t. This amendment, if it becomes law, would leave transgender students even more vulnerable to being stigmatized and bullied simply because they are different.”

Chris Christie Warned Trump Against Hiring Michael Flynn Last Fall

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie advised Donald Trump against hiring Michael Flynn, both before the November election and afterward, Christie said on Monday. This warnings came when Christie served as chairman of Trump’s transition team and before the team was made aware that Flynn, who served briefly as Trump’s national security adviser, was under federal investigation.

“I didn’t think that he was someone who would bring benefit to the president or to the administration,” Christie said at a news conference. “And I made that very clear to candidate Trump, and I made it very clear to President-elect Trump. That was my opinion, my view.”

Christie made clear that he did not believe Flynn was a suitable choice. “If I were president-elect of the United States, I wouldn’t let General Flynn in the White House, let alone give him a job,” he said.

Shortly after the election, Vice President Mike Pence took over the transition team from Christie. Christie was recently named the head of a White House commission to combat drug addiction, and he has been mentioned as a potential addition to the White House staff. Flynn was forced to resign in February after it became public that he had lied to Pence about his contact with the Russian ambassador.

Christie reportedly clashed with Flynn, who was an adviser to Trump during the campaign last year. According to NBC News, both men were present at Trump’s first intelligence briefing last August.

Meanwhile, four people with knowledge of the matter told NBC News that one of the advisers Trump brought to the briefing, retired general Mike Flynn, repeatedly interrupted the briefing with pointed questions.

Two sources said Christie, the New Jersey governor and Trump adviser, verbally restrained Flynn—one saying Christie told Flynn to shut up, the other reporting he said, “Calm down.” Two other sources said Christie touched Flynn’s arm in an effort get him to calm down and let the officials continue.

Both Christie and Flynn denied this at the time. But if it’s true, it would help explain why Christie on Monday said that Flynn was “not my cup of tea” and that they “didn’t see eye to eye.”