AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s false claims on migrant child deaths

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Catarina Alonzo Perez, the mother of Felipe Gomez Alonzo, the second Guatemalan child this month to die while in U.S. custody near the Mexican border, pauses during an interview in her home in Yalambojoch, Guatemala, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018. Felipe was chosen to make the journey north with his father because he was the oldest son. It didn’t occur to anyone that the road could be dangerous. “I didn’t think of that, because several families had already left and they made it,” Alonzo said. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump twisted circumstances behind the deaths of two migrant Guatemalan children to insulate his administration from any blame, contending without justification that they were in dire health before they reached the border.

Felipe Gomez Alonzo

Felipe Gomez Alonzo , 8,

The children cleared initial U.S. health screenings and one of them was in the U.S. for five days before suddenly showing signs of illness.

His tweets on the deaths in U.S. custody of a 7-year-old girl and an 8-year old boy were his first words on the subject and came with no expression of remorse for what happened. Instead he said their fate shows why the U.S. needs a wall at the Mexican border

TRUMP: “The two … children in question were very sick before they were given over to Border Patrol. The father of the young girl said it was not their fault, he hadn’t given her water in days. Border Patrol needs the Wall and it will all end.” — tweets Saturday.

THE FACTS: This account is not supported by timelines released by Customs and Border Protection or other sources.

As well, Trump is wrong in saying the father of the girl who died has absolved U.S. officials of responsibility. Through family lawyers, Nery Gilberto Caal Cuz said he made sure his daughter Jakelin had food and water as they traveled through Mexico. The Border Protection timeline on her case says: “The initial screening revealed no evidence of health issues.” And nothing was mentioned about the girl being dehydrated.

The record so far neither establishes that U.S. officials were to blame for the children’s deaths nor clears them of blame, despite Trump’s pronouncement. All the facts are not known, but he rendered what is known inaccurately.

Circumstances are laid out in the Customs and Border Protection accounts of the capture, treatment and deaths of Jakelin Caal, 7, and Felipe Gomez Alonzo , 8, who both came to the border with their fathers:

When Jakelin Caal and her father were caught the evening of Dec. 6, her father described her as in good health and no illness was observed by agents. It’s possible father and daughter did not acknowledge an illness. The next morning, she vomited on a bus waiting to take them to a Border Patrol station, then stopped breathing. Twice revived by Border Patrol personnel, she was then flown by helicopter to an El Paso, Texas, trauma center, went into cardiac arrest and was revived once more. She died Dec. 8 at 12:35 a.m.

Trump’s assertion that both children were very ill before their apprehension is even more flagrantly untethered from the record in the case of Alonzo.

Catarina Alonzo, the boy’s mother, told The Associated Press her son was well and eating chicken after arriving at the U.S. border when she spoke with him by phone.

According to a Border Protection timeline, Felipe and his father, Agustin Gomez, were caught Dec. 18 near El Paso. Agents recorded giving them 23 “welfare checks” — checking on the well-being of father and son — over the next four days. No concern about the boy’s health is noted in the timeline. But on Dec. 24, a day after being transferred to a New Mexico center, the boy was taken to a hospital with a cough and high fever, released after more than five hours with flu medicine, then taken back late that evening. He lost consciousness on the way and doctors could not revive him.

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BORDER WALL

TRUMP: “I am in the Oval Office & just gave out a 115 mile long contract for another large section of the Wall in Texas.” — tweet Dec. 24.

TRUMP: “Yesterday, I gave out 115 miles’ worth of wall, 115 miles in Texas. It’s going to be built, hopefully rapidly. I’m going there at the end of January for the start of construction.” — remarks to reporters Tuesday.

THE FACTS: He appears to be representing work financed months ago, as new construction. A president cannot simply give out a construction contract. U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers award contracts for border wall construction after Congress approves the money and months have gone into planning.

In March, Congress approved money for 33 miles (53 kilometers) of construction in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for illegal border crossings. The government said in November that construction in the Rio Grande Valley would begin in February. Targeted areas include the nonprofit National Butterfly Center, a state park and privately owned ranches and farmland. Trump’s statement that he plans to visit the site in late January suggests he may be referring to this previously announced construction.

It’s a mystery how he comes up with 115 miles (185 km), and neither the White House nor the Homeland Security Department explained that when asked.

Homeland Security has said the money approved by Congress in March will pay for 84 miles (135 km) altogether along the southern border, including the Texas stretch. If the Trump administration got the entire $5 billion it’s requested from Congress, the administration says that would be enough to build 215 miles (346 km) of barrier.

What’s not a mystery is that Trump has repeatedly exaggerated what’s been accomplished on his campaign promise to build a wall sealing the border with Mexico.

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MILITARY PAY

TRUMP: “You just got one of the biggest pay raises you ever received. Unless you don’t want it. Does anybody here? Is anybody here willing to give up the big pay raise you just got? I don’t see too many hands. Ah, OK. Don’t give it up. It’s great. You know what? Nobody deserves it more. You haven’t gotten one in more than 10 years. More than 10 years. And we got you a big one. I got you a big one.” — remarks prompting cheers from troops Wednesday at al-Asad Air Base in Iraq.

THE FACTS: He’s wrong about there being no pay increase for service members in more than 10 years and about their raise being especially large. U.S. military members have gotten a pay raise every year for decades. As well, several in the last 10 years have been larger than service members are getting now — 2.4 percent this year and 2.6 percent in 2019. Raises in 2008, 2009 and 2010, for example, were all 3.4 percent or more.

Trump has repeatedly told service members that they’re getting the biggest or only pay raise that they have received in 10 years or more. In May, for example, he told graduates of the United States Naval Academy: “We just got you a big pay raise. First time in 10 years.”

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TRUMP: “You had plenty of people, they came up, they said, you know we could make it smaller. We could make it 3 percent, we could make it 2 percent, we could make it 4 percent. I said, ‘no, make it 10 percent — make it more than 10 percent.’” — remarks Wednesday at al-Asad base.

THE FACTS: Whatever he might have said at the time, the 2.6 percent for 2019 obviously falls far short of the 10 percent or more that he implied was achieved.

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IRAN

TRUMP: “For all of the sympathizers out there of Brett McGurk remember, he was the Obama appointee who was responsible for loading up airplanes with 1.8 Billion Dollars in CASH & sending it to Iran as part of the horrific Iran Nuclear Deal (now terminated) approved by Little Bob Corker.” — tweet Monday.

THE FACTS: There are three or more things wrong with this short tweet as he takes a slap at a retiring Republican senator who criticized him, Bob Corker of Tennessee, and a U.S. official who resigned in protest against Trump’s plan to pull troops from Syria, Brett McGurk.

First, Corker was no architect of the 2015 deal between world powers and Iran. He was a leading critic of it in Congress.

He argued at the time that President Barack Obama should have made the pact a treaty subject to approval by the Senate. When Obama didn’t do that, Corker helped fellow senators write legislation that subjected the accord to periodic congressional review. The legislation would have blocked the deal if that effort got enough votes. It didn’t. Obama brought the deal into effect, not Congress.

Corker has sharply criticized Trump, calling him “utterly untruthful” and responsible for “the debasing of our nation.”

Second, branding McGurk an “Obama appointee” is misleading. The veteran diplomat bridges administrations. Republican President George W. Bush appointed him as a senior aide for Iraq and Afghanistan. During the negotiations for the Iran nuclear deal by the Obama administration, McGurk led secret side talks with Tehran on the release of Americans imprisoned there. He is Trump’s envoy to the coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Syria, but quitting in protest of the troop withdrawal.

As for cash flown to Iran, that’s true, though Trump is off on the amount and leaves out important context: The money was a debt owed to Tehran, which bought military equipment from the U.S. that it never received because relations ruptured when the shah was overthrown in 1979. A cargo plane took $400 million, representing the principal, to the Iranians. The remaining $1.3 billion, representing interest accrued over nearly 40 years, was transferred separately.

The diplomatic break meant that a variety of debts between the two countries went uncollected and became the subject of international arbitration. As part of that process, Iran paid settlements of more than $2.5 billion to U.S. citizens and businesses over the years.

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Associated Press writers Nomaan Merchant in Houston and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.

Border Protection information on Jakelin Caal: https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/statement-us-customs-and-border-protection-death-seven-year-old

Border Protection information on Felipe Gomez Alonzo: https://www.dhs.gov/news/2018/12/25/cbp-shares-additional-information-about-recent-passing-guatemalan-child

Find AP Fact Checks at http://apne.ws/2kbx8bd

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Scrutiny, criticism of ICE come with immigration enforcement – AP

international News

By COLLEEN LONG

In this Oct. 22, 2018, photo U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents surround and detain a person during a raid in Richmond, Va. ICE’s enforcement and removal operations, like the five-person field office team outside Richmond, hunt people in the U.S. illegally, some of whom have been here for decades, working and raising families. Carrying out President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies has exposed ICE to unprecedented public scrutiny and criticism, even though officers say they’re doing largely the same job they did before the election, prioritizing criminals. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The officers suit up in the pre-dawn darkness, wrapping on body armor, snapping in guns, pulling on black sweat shirts that read POLICE and ICE.

They gather around a conference table in an ordinary office in a nondescript office park in the suburbs, going over their targets for the day: two men, both with criminal histories. Top of the list is a man from El Salvador convicted of drunken driving.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s enforcement and removal operations, like the five-person field office team outside Richmond, hunt people in the U.S. illegally, some of whom have been here for decades, working and raising families. Carrying out President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies has exposed ICE to unprecedented public scrutiny and criticism, even though officers say they’re doing largely the same job they did before the election — prioritizing criminals.

But they have also stepped up arrests of people who have no U.S. criminal records. It is those stories of ICE officers arresting dads and grandmothers that pepper local news. Officers are heckled and videotaped. Some Democratic politicians have called for ICE to be abolished.

ICE employees have been threatened at their homes, their personal data exposed online, officials said.

“There is a tension around ‘It could be that somebody could find out what I do and hate me for it or do worse than hate me for it,’” Ronald Vitiello, acting head of the agency, told The Associated Press.

Vitiello said the agency is monitoring social media and giving employees resources for when they feel threatened.

ICE, formed after the Sept. 11 attacks, had been told under the Obama administration to focus on removing immigrants who had committed crimes. Trump, in one of his first moves in office, directed his administration to target anyone in the country illegally.

Government data back up that ICE is still mostly targeting people convicted of a crime. But the data also show the agency has greatly ramped up arrests of people who were accused of a crime but not convicted, and increased arrests solely on immigration violations.

ICE arrested 32,977 people accused of crimes and 20,464 with immigration violations during the budget year 2018. There were 105,140 arrests of someone with a criminal conviction and 158,581 arrests overall. The most frequent criminal conviction was for drunken driving, followed by drug and traffic offenses.


ICE held an American man in custody for 1,273 days. He’s not the only one who had to prove his citizenship — Later On

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The ICE is increasingly like the Gestapo. Paige St. John and Joel Rubin report in the LA Times: Immigration officers in the United States operate under a cardinal rule: Keep your hands off Americans. But Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents repeatedly target U.S. citizens for deportation by mistake, making wrongful arrests based on incomplete government records, bad […]

ice-ice-babyjpg-0bdb84b31ebc6687.jpgImmigration officers in the United States operate under a cardinal rule: Keep your hands off Americans.

But Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents repeatedly target U.S. citizens for deportation by mistake, making wrongful arrests based on incomplete government records, bad data and lax investigations, according to a Times review of federal lawsuits, internal ICE documents and interviews.

Since 2012, ICE has released from its custody more than 1,480 people after investigating their citizenship claims, according to agency figures. And a Times review of Department of Justice records and interviews with immigration attorneys uncovered hundreds of additional cases in the country’s immigration courts in which people were forced to prove they are Americans and sometimes spent months or even years in detention.

Victims include a landscaper snatched in a Home Depot parking lot in Rialto and held for days despite his son’s attempts to show agents the man’s U.S. passport; a New York resident locked up for more than three years fighting deportation efforts after a federal agent mistook his father for someone who wasn’t a U.S. citizen; and a Rhode Island housekeeper mistakenly targeted twice, resulting in her spending a night in prison the second time even though her husband had brought her U.S. passport to a court hearing.

They and others described the panic and feeling of powerlessness that set in as agents took them into custody without explanation and ignored their claims of citizenship.

atruThe wrongful arrests account for a small fraction of the more than 100,000 arrests ICE makes each year, and it’s unclear whether the Trump administration’s aggressive push to increase deportations will lead to more mistakes. But the detentions of U.S. citizens amount to an unsettling type of collateral damage in the government’s effort to remove illegal or unwanted immigrants.

The errors reveal flaws in the way ICE identifies people for deportation, including its reliance on databases that are incomplete and plagued by mistakes. The wrongful arrests also highlight a presumption that pervades U.S. immigration agencies and courts that those born outside the United States are not here legally unless electronic records show otherwise. And when mistakes are not quickly remedied, citizens are forced into an immigration court system where they must fight to prove they should not be removed from the country, often without the help of an attorney.

The Times found that the two groups most vulnerable to becoming mistaken ICE targets are the children of immigrants and citizens born outside the country.

Matthew Albence, the head of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations, declined to be interviewed but said in a written statement that investigating citizen claims can be a complex task involving searches of electronic and paper records as well as personal interviews. He said ICE updates records when errors are found and agents arrest only those they have probable cause to suspect are eligible for deportation.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement takes very seriously any and all assertions that an individual detained in its custody may be a U.S. citizen,” he said.

But The Times’ review of federal documents and lawsuits turned up cases in which Americans were arrested based on mistakes or cursory ICE investigations and some who were repeatedly targeted because the government failed to update its records. Immigration lawyers said federal agents rarely conduct interviews before making arrests and getting ICE to correct its records is difficult.


A big mistake

Sergio Carrillo had already been handcuffed in the Home Depot parking lot in Rialto on a July morning in 2016 when an officer in Homeland Security uniform appeared.

“Homeland Security?” Carrillo asked. “What do you want with me?”

Ignoring Carrillo’s demands for an explanation, the officer ordered the 39-year-old landscaper taken to a federal detention facility in downtown Los Angeles.

“You’re making a big mistake,” Carrillo recalled saying from the back seat to the officers driving him. “I am a U.S. citizen.” . . .

via ICE held an American man in custody for 1,273 days. He’s not the only one who had to prove his citizenship — Later On