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U.S. judge may force Trump administration to reunite more families separated at Mexico border

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(Reuters) – In a blow to the Trump administration’s U.S.-Mexico border strategy, a federal court judge in California has expanded the number of migrant families separated at the border that the government may be required to reunite.

FILE PHOTO: People gather on the U.S. side of the border fence between Mexico and the United States during an inter-religious service against U.S. President Donald Trump’s border wall, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico February 26, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez -/File Photo

San Diego-based U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw late on Friday issued a preliminary ruling that would potentially expand by thousands the number of migrants included in a class-action lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Sabraw already ordered the Trump administration last year to reunite more than 2,800 migrant children who were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border under the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.

But he will allow more separated families to join the class-action lawsuit after a report released in January by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Inspector General, which identified potentially thousands more families that had been separated as early as July 1, 2017. The administration’s “zero tolerance” policy did not take effect until May 2018.

“The hallmark of a civilized society is measured by how it treats its people and those within its borders,” Sabraw said in his ruling.

Sabraw said that report was “a significant development in this case” and its contents “are undisputed.”

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump implemented the zero-tolerance policy to criminally prosecute and jail all illegal border crossers – even those traveling with their children – which led to a wave of separations last year.

The policy sparked outrage when it became public, and the backlash led Trump to sign an executive order reversing course on June 20, 2018.

The IG report said prior to the officially announced zero-tolerance policy, the government began ramping up separations in 2017 for other reasons related to a child’s safety and well-being, including separating parents with criminal records or lack of proper documents.

A Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman said in January after the IG report came out that the practice of separating apprehended minors from adults to protect the interests of the children has been standard practice “for more than a decade.”

The report also said more than 100 minors, including more than two dozen under age 5, were separated after the President’s executive order.

“The court made clear that potentially thousands of children’s lives are at stake and that the Trump administration cannot simply ignore the devastation it has caused,” Lee Gelernt, ACLU lead attorney in the class-action family separation lawsuit, said on Friday.

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Thousands attend NZ vigil, rally to fight racism, remember Christchurch victims

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CHRISTCHURCH (Reuters) – Thousands gathered in New Zealand’s cities on Sunday to protest racism and remember the 50 Muslims killed by a gunman in Christchurch and as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a national remembrance service to be held later this week.

People attend a vigil for victims of the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand March 24, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su

About 15,000 turned out for an evening vigil in Christchurch in a park near the Al Noor mosque, where a suspected white supremacist killed more than 40 of the victims. Several more people were killed at the nearby Linwood mosque.

Many non-Muslim women wore headscarves at the vigil, some made by members of Christchurch’s Muslim community, to show their support for those of Islamic faith as they had at similar events last week.

Ardern said on Sunday that a national remembrance service would be held on March 29 to honor the victims, most of whom were migrants or refugees.

“The service will be a chance to once again show that New Zealanders are compassionate, inclusive and diverse, and that we will protect those values,” Ardern said in a statement.

The prime minister has been praised for her leadership following the attack. She swiftly moved to denounce the incident as terrorism, toughen gun laws and express national solidarity with the victims and their families.

The vigil started with an Islamic prayer, followed by a reading of the names of the victims, which included students from the nearby Cashmere High School.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness only light can,” Okirano Tilaia, one of the school’s pupils, told the crowd. “Hatred cannot drive out hatred, only love can.”

Earlier in the day more than 1,000 people marched in a rally against racism in central Auckland, carrying “Migrant lives matters” and “Refugees welcome here,” placards.

Muslims account for just over 1 percent of New Zealand’s 4.8-million population, a 2013 census showed, most of whom were born overseas.

As New Zealand continued to mourn and ask questions about how such an attack could have happened in the peaceful Pacific nation, the victims’ families spoke about their losses.

Shahadat Hossain, whose brother Mojammel Haque was killed in the attack, arrived in New Zealand on Saturday to bring his brother’s body back to Bangladesh.

“I can’t describe how I felt when I saw my brother’s lifeless body,” he told Reuters. “I was devastated.”

Farid Ahmed, who was at the Al Noor mosque when the shooting took place, escaped but his wife, Husna, was killed. On Sunday, he went door-to-door, thanking his neighbors for their support.

    “They came running… they were crying, they were in tears,” he said of his neighbors when they found out that Husna had died.

“That was a wonderful support and expression of love, and I am feeling that I should also take the opportunity to say to them that I also love them.”

Reporting by Jill Gralow Natasha Howitt, Charlotte Greenfield in Christchurch, Ruma Paul in Dhaka, James Redmayne and Tom Westbrook in Sydney; Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Sam Holmes

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Almost 400 people winched from stricken cruise liner off Norway

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OSLO (Reuters) – Rescue services had airlifted 397 people to safety from a luxury cruise liner with engine trouble off the coast of Norway by Sunday morning and were preparing to tow the vessel to a nearby port.

The Viking Sky, with 1,373 passengers and crew on board, sent out a mayday signal on Saturday as it drifted towards land in the Norwegian Sea.

The ship was carrying 915 passengers, of whom “a large number” were from the United States and Britain, according to the rescue services.

Some 17 injured passengers had been taken to hospital, a local rescue coordinator told a news conference early on Sunday, while others suffered minor cuts and bruises.

One was taken to St. Olav’s Hospital in the town of Trondheim, which is central Norway’s most advanced medical facility. Others were taken to local hospitals in the region.

“Many have also been traumatized by the experience and need care when they arrive on shore,” the Norwegian Red Cross said in a statement.

The airlift had gone on through the night. The ship has been able to restart three of its four engines on Sunday morning but still needed assistance.

“The evacuation continues at the request of the vessel … they need tugboats to get to port,” rescue service spokesman Per Fjeld said, adding that the plan was to bring the Viking Sky to the town of Molde.

Rescue services have begun to attach lines to the ship from tugboats to begin towing it towards the port.

BROKEN WINDOWS

Stormy weather conditions had improved in the early hours of Sunday, with winds blowing at 14 meters per second, down from 24 meters per second previously, according to the Norwegian Meteorological Institute. The wind speeds are expected to fall further during Sunday.

Images and film posted by passengers on social media showed furniture sliding around as the vessel drifted in waves of up to eight meters (26 feet), and passengers earlier described the ordeal.

Slideshow (3 Images)

“We were having lunch when it began to shake. Window panes were broken and water came in. It was just chaos. The trip on the helicopter, I would rather forget. It was not fun,” American passenger John Curry told public broadcaster NRK on Saturday.

The stretch of water known as Hustadvika and surrounding areas are known for fierce weather and shallow waters dotted with reefs.

Viking Cruises, which owns the ship, on Saturday said the safety of passengers was its top priority. The company was not immediately available for further comment on Sunday.

Reporting by Terje Solsvik and Gwladys Fouche; Editing by Jane Merriman/Keith Weir

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Rescue services prepare to tow stricken cruise ship off Norway to port

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OSLO (Reuters) – Evacuation from a luxury cruise liner with engine trouble off the coast of Norway continued for a second day on Sunday, with 397 people airlifted off the vessel, while rescue services prepared to tow the ship to a nearby port, rescue workers said.

The Viking Sky, with 1,373 passengers and crew on board, sent out a mayday signal on Saturday as it drifted towards land in the Norwegian Sea.

“The evacuation continues at the request of the vessel … they need tugboats to get to port,” rescue service spokesman Per Fjeld said, adding that the plan was to bring the Viking Sky to the town of Molde.

Rescue services have begun to attach lines to the ship from tugboats to begin towing it towards the port.

The ship has been able to restart three of its four engines but was still requesting assistance.

Stormy weather conditions had improved in the early hours of Sunday, with winds blowing at 14 meters per second, down from 24 meters per second previously, according to the Norwegian Meteorological Institute. The wind speeds are expected to fall further during Sunday.

The stretch of water known as Hustadvika and surrounding areas are known for fierce weather and shallow waters dotted with reefs.

Viking Cruises, which owns the ship, on Saturday said the safety of passengers was its top priority. The company was not immediately available for further comment on Sunday.

Reporting by Terje Solsvik and Gwladys Fouche. Editing by Jane Merriman

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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