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Dig Investigative nuggets from the staff of Reveal

Immigrant children still being drugged at shelter despite judge’s order, lawyers say

The government is violating a federal judge’s order to stop medicating immigrant children held at a troubled Texas shelter without proper consent and to move the children to other housing, attorneys for the children allege in new court filings.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ordered July 30 that immigrant children held at Shiloh Treatment Center could no longer be medicated with psychiatric drugs without the consent of a parent or court authorization and that any children not deemed a danger to themselves or others be moved to less restrictive housing. Gee also found the children should be allowed access to private phone calls.

After a court filing in a separate case noted that the children still had not been evaluated to determine whether they should be moved, Gee appointed a private attorney to oversee the government’s compliance with the order. Government lawyers recently filed a motion requesting that the judge reconsider her decision because the Office of Refugee Resettlement “has been provided no opportunity to develop evidence,” records state.

But lawyers representing the children held at Shiloh allege in the new court filings that the government is failing to comply with the order. As recently as this week, attorneys interviewed some of the immigrant children at Shiloh. The facility, about 20 miles south of Houston, has been under investigation in the past following the deaths of several teenagers in its care.

“Child after child reported that the Court’s order has had little impact on ORR’s placing children at Shiloh or on the treatment they... Read More >

The Hate Report: Clashes erupt again between alt-right and antifa

In this week’s report: Fights flare up again between the alt-right and antifa, why aren’t anti-Native American groups considered hate groups, and hate on the rise internationally.

After months of relative calm, violence erupted on both coasts this week between members of the alt-right and antifa protesters.

A brawl erupted outside the Metropolitan Republican Club a week ago in Manhattan, where Gavin McInnes, founder of the alt-right fight club the Proud Boys, had been giving a speech. A group of Proud Boys, decked out in their trademark black-and-yellow polo shirts, attacked a protester, punching and kicking him. At least one of the attackers shouted a homophobic slur  during the attack.

The New York Police Department arrested three apparent antifa protesters that night. No Proud Boys were arrested, inspiring Democratic lawmakers in New York to call on police clamp down on the group. The department has said it is seeking nine Proud Boys for charges. A spokesman for the department said investigators are still working to identify the assailants.

Founded in 2016 by McInnes, the Proud Boys describe themselves as “Western chauvinists” and practice a bizarre collection of rituals including being “beaten in” by other members while reciting the names of cereal brands. They are also famously supposed to refrain from masturbation. The gang, which promotes violence, has been providing official and unofficial security for right-wing speakers and protests for at least a year. (Vox has a deeper explainer on the group here.)

As Kelly Weill and Will Sommer of the Daily Beast explained... Read More >

Trump administration agreed to new asylum hearings, but families face another month in detention

Families separated by border officials earlier this year won a second chance to ask for asylum under an agreement reached in federal court last month, and a Justice Department lawyer said those interviews would get underway soon.

But lawyers for the families say the government has backed off that pledge and now plans to delay those asylum screenings until at least mid-November.

The families covered by the settlement include parents who failed their initial asylum screenings while they were separated from their children earlier this year and forced to make their case in the midst of extreme trauma.

As part of an agreement to close legal challenges from these families, the government agreed to grant them new interviews now that they’ve been reunited. Now it wants them to wait. For some, that means spending another month in detention.

Many of the families are free on bond, but at least 60 of the parents and children remain in detention after months. If they want a second chance at asylum, they’ll have to spend more weeks locked up, waiting for the government to act on a deal it agreed to in September.

When lawyers on both sides first presented the settlement, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw asked whether they’d be willing to act on the agreement right away. Justice Department attorney Scott Stewart said yes.

“Our point of view is we can get moving on this,” Stewart said. “The government is looking to make sure, wherever it can, to make things go swiftly.”

The settlement won’t be final... Read More >

The Hate Report: The federal government hasn’t abandoned fighting white supremacist terror

In the early months of President Donald Trump’s administration, there was a lot of controversy surrounding a Department of Homeland Security program called Countering Violent Extremism.

Now, almost two years later, we decided to check on the program to see how things have panned out.

First, some background: Last year, we showed how anti-hate groups had been stiffed out of millions of dollars by the program, which issues about $10 million in grants for grassroots organizations that work to deter people from joining extremist organizations, under the Trump administration.

Trump planned to rename the effort “Countering Islamic Extremism,” a move that mirrored the president and his closest advisers’ fiery rhetoric on Islam.

In response, in February 2017, a dozen Democratic senators expressed dismay at the changing direction of the program. They worried that taking the focus away from white supremacists and other homegrown extremists “would severely damage our credibility with foreign allies and partners as an honest broker in the fight against violent extremism, and prove divisive in communities across our country,” the senators wrote.

So what does the program look like now?

First, the program still is called Countering Violent Extremism. No name change. And the fear that the program would become exclusively obsessed with Islamic extremism doesn’t seem to have panned out.

Three recent Department of Homeland Security reports on the program stressed that many of the organizations that received grants target “all forms of violent extremism.” The reports also singled out two programs in Denver and Dearborn, Michigan, that... Read More >

The Hate Report: 3 takeaways from this week’s Charlottesville alt-right arrests

In this week’s roundup: Apple pulls an anti-Semitic app following our reporting, three takeaways from the Charlottesville terrorism case and more.

First, an update to last week’s Hate Report: After we wrote about the anti-kosher app KosChertified? and its corresponding anti-Semitic Twitter feed, Apple pulled the app from its App Store.

The KosChertified? Twitter account tweeted about being removed from the App Store the day after our story ran.

The app is still available on Google Play. We’ve reached out to Google to ask whether if the company plans to keep hosting the app.

Thanks again to our volunteer Hate Sleuths, who helped us find this story.

The Charlottesville charges

Four white nationalists were arrested this week and charged with traveling from California to Virginia last year with the intent of rioting at the infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The men, identified as members or associates of a violent and racist Southern California-based group called the Rise Above Movement, are accused of rioting and attacking protesters in Charlottesville. The Rise Above Movement is a collective of white men who train in martial arts together and travel to attend political demonstrations.

The defendants – Benjamin Drake Daley, Michael Paul Miselis, Thomas Walter Gillen and Cole Evan White – face up to 10 years in prison. But the charges brought against them have implications beyond their group or even their ideology.

Here are three additional takeaways from this week’s big news in hate:

  1. The Trump administration brought charges related to terrorism by white supremacists.

When Donald... Read More >

Drug rehab patients demand back wages after being sent to work for free

Former patients of the drug rehab program Recovery Connections Community are demanding  back pay for years of free work they performed as caregivers in adult care homes across North Carolina, according to a new federal lawsuit filed against the program and care homes.

“For years, Defendants have escaped public oversight and accountability in profiting from unpaid labor performed by individuals struggling to overcome substance abuse and addiction,” according to the complaint filed Thursday. Rather than providing drug treatment, the lawsuit said Recovery Connection Community’s purpose was to operate as “a for-profit business by staffing adult care homes and other enterprises with labor.”

The lawsuit comes in response to an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting which found patients in the program regularly worked more than 80 hours per week in adult care homes without pay, while the program’s founders, Jennifer and Phillip Warren, used the rehab program to fuel a lavish lifestyle.

The two-year residential rehab program near Asheville caters to poor and desperate people struggling with addiction. To pay for their stay, participants must work full-time jobs and surrender their pay. Participants were often sent by courts and probation officers as a condition of their probation. Former participants told Reveal they received little addiction help, instead toiling for long hours at care homes and a chain of Zaxby’s restaurants across North Carolina.

The class action complaint, filed... Read More >

The Hate Report: The alt-right’s newest target is kosher products

The podcast ad starts breathlessly:

What I’m about to introduce you to is a segment of our food culture that has been kept so low profile to the American public that virtually no one is aware of how dominant it is on our refrigerator and cupboard shelves.

The mysterious culprit? Products certified as kosher.

This ad, for an app that helps you locate food that isn’t kosher-certified, provides an interesting view into the ads that help fund alt-right podcasts, and the extent to which conspiracy theories drive so much in the alt-right world.

The app is called KosChertified?, and it’s available on Apple’s App Store and Google Android.

The podcast, which we’re not naming because we don’t want to give it more publicity (if you want to know, just email me), has hosted the ad in at least one episode. It was sandwiched between hateful screeds about immigration in the United States and immigration in Europe.

Peter Jalajas, CEO of the company behind KosChertified?, said in an email that the app merely offers education to consumers. One of the websites promoting the app asks why consumers have been “kept in the dark” about kosher certification, and cautions ominously that “the tax exempt revenue flows to many programs and institutions worth examining for its effect on you and your interests” – mirroring the white nationalist conspiracy theories peddled on alt-right websites and podcasts such as the one on which his app is advertised.

Kosher certifiers check, for example, that meat and dairy products are strictly... Read More >

Sen. Warren’s new bill is designed to combat modern-day redlining

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday unveiled a bill that one racial justice advocate said would be the first law since 1968 “to redress a century of housing discrimination.”

The Massachusetts Democrat, who helped create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has railed against modern-day redlining since a February expose by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. Reveal found 61 cities where people of color were more likely to be denied a home mortgage than their white counterparts, even when they had the same income, sought the same size loan or wanted to buy in the same neighborhood.

“Housing discrimination is illegal. It’s illegal right now. But (Reveal’s) data show it happens even so,” Warren said in an interview Tuesday. “That means we need more aggressive programs to address it and it’s not enough simply to say we are going to try to get people to enforce current law. We need structural change if we are really going to have housing equality in this country.”

More Kept Out

Anti-redlining provisions are part of a much larger bill Warren called the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act. It aims to ease access to owning or renting a home through a combination of government regulation, zoning reform and billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for poor and working-class families.

The bill is likely to receive a hostile reaction from the banking industry. In a statement, a spokesperson from the American Bankers Association said the trade group is still reviewing the 67-page bill but is “keenly interested in... Read More >

A Mauritanian man escaped his country’s ethnic cleansing. ICE deported him anyway.

In his native Mauritania, Seyni Malick Diagne was arrested and expelled to a refugee camp because of the color of his skin.

He fled to the United States in 2001 and settled in Columbus, Ohio, home to a growing community of black Mauritanians who escaped their country’s ethnic cleansing in the 1990s.

Diagne learned English and always had a job, his friends say, working at warehouses or clothing retailers. He volunteered on the weekends at a local mosque and taught children about their heritage.

Diagne, 64, is undocumented. His asylum claim was denied and an immigration judge issued a removal order in 2005. But he wasn’t a priority to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, so the agency “permitted Diagne to remain free from custody to pursue legal remedies in his case,” a spokesman said.

That changed on June 13, when ICE arrested Diagne.

Seyni Malick Diagne poses for an undated photo taken by friends. After living 17 years in the U.S., Diagne was deported to his native Mauritania, where black people are often arrested, beaten and enslaved.

He is among dozens of Mauritanians who have been deported this year despite calls from human rights organizations asking the U.S. government to stop the removals. Advocates say black Mauritanians who were exiled decades ago aren’t considered citizens and face discrimination in a country that was the last in the world to abolish slavery in 1981.

Their deportations are a result of increased immigration enforcement under the Trump administration. ICE deported nearly 192,000 immigrants so far this fiscal year, a 9... Read More >

Reveal wins ONA’s public service award

The Online News Association has honored Reveal with the Knight Award for Public Service for its All Work. No Pay. project.

The investigation from reporters Amy Julia Harris and Shoshana Walter found that under the guise of criminal justice reform, judges, big business and rehab operators have turned people with addiction into a new class of workers, one that enjoys no rights and receives no pay.

“This project exposed something many people weren’t aware of, capturing an unholy alliance between government and private industry, unjustly taking advantage of a defenseless group,” the award judges said. “It had measurable impact across multiple states and changed business practices. Truly impeccable work.”

Many of the rehab participants never have been convicted of a crime. They are sent to a work camp, forced to slaughter chickens, care for the elderly and disabled, or endure other hard labor for free, under the threat of prison. Grueling, dangerous labor is just about all the addiction treatment they get. The beneficiaries of this new brand of indentured servitude stretch from high levels of political power to Fortune 500 companies such as Coca-Cola and Walmart.

The system operated across the country, without scrutiny, until Harris and Walter stepped in. Their project also won the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

The other finalists for the Knight Award for Public Service were:

You can read Reveal’s full All... Read More >

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