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Border official resigns amid uproar over migrant children

HOUSTON (AP) — The acting head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection resigned Tuesday amid an uproar over the discovery of migrant children being held in pitiful conditions at one of the agency’s stations in Texas.

Acting Commissioner John Sanders’ departure deepened the sense of crisis and added to the rapid turnover inside the agencies responsible for enforcing President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration priorities as the U.S. deals with record numbers of migrant families coming across the border.

In a message to employees, Sanders said he would step down on July 5. He did not give a reason for leaving.

Hours after Sanders’ departure became public, two officials told The Associated Press that he was being replaced by Mark Morgan, who was named acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement just last month. The officials were not authorized to speak publicly about the move and declined to be identified.

In an interview last week, Sanders blamed the problems in detention on a lack of money and called on Congress to pass a $4.5 billion emergency funding bill to address the crisis. The House approved the legislation on Tuesday night, setting up a showdown with the Senate where Republican leaders plan approval of a different, bipartisan bill this week that does not offer as many protections and services for migrants.

At the White House, Trump said that he did not ask for Sanders’ resignation — adding that he doesn’t think he has ever spoken to the man — but that he is “moving some people around into different locations” amid the crisis.

While activists welcomed Sanders’ departure, Trump defended U.S. border authorities, saying, “The laws are so bad and the asylum rules and laws are so bad that our Border Patrol people, who are so incredible, aren’t allowed to do their jobs.”

The unprecedented surge of migrant families has left U.S. immigration detention centers severely overcrowded and taxed the government’s ability to provide medical care and other attention. Six children have died since September after being detained by border agents.

After he was picked to lead ICE, Morgan, the new acting director, showed a willingness to deport families during enforcement sweeps. However, past Trump immigration officials hesitated over concerns about logistics and the public’s reaction.

The Trump administration has faced a barrage of criticism in recent days over conditions inside the Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas, first reported by The Associated Press: inadequate food, lack of medical care, no soap, and older children trying to care for toddlers.

In one case reported in Clint, attorneys said a 2-year-old boy without a diaper was being watched by older children. Several youngsters had the flu. Many were separated from extended family members like aunts and uncles who brought them to the border; others were teenage mothers with babies.

“On just a gut level I see myself, I see my family, I see my neighbors, I see my students in these migrants,” said Diego Carlos, who teaches social studies at an El Paso high school and joined a small protest outside the station.

“Literally, I have students who come over from the border almost every day to go to school at the school I teach,” Carlos added.

An official from Customs and Border Protection said Tuesday that the majority of the roughly 300 children detained at Clint last week had been moved to facilities operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. The official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity, wouldn’t say exactly how many.

But around the same time Sanders announced his resignation, his agency said officials had moved more than 100 children back to the station.

The human costs of the migrant surge were driven home this week by a searing photo of the bodies of a Salvadoran man and his nearly 2-year-old daughter, face down in shallow water along the Mexican side of the Rio Grande. On Sunday, two babies, a toddler and a woman were found dead on the Texas side, overcome by the sweltering heat.

Trump said he is “very concerned” about conditions at the border but claimed without evidence that things are “much better than they were under President Obama, by far” and in “much better shape than it ever was” — an assertion immigration activists said is simply not true.

“We did not have the kind of overcrowded conditions for unaccompanied kids in Border Patrol holding cells like we saw in Clint,” said Michael Bochenek, a lawyer from Human Rights Watch.

Previously CBP’s chief operating officer, Sanders was named acting commissioner in April after the agency’s previous leader, Kevin McAleenan, became acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Other key DHS agencies also have interim or acting directors, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Morgan, who also served as chief of the Border Patrol, a subsidiary of CBP, under President Barack Obama, is now expected to be replaced as ICE’s acting leader by Matthew Albence. Albence served as acting director earlier this year after the departure of another former leader, Ronald Vitiello.

ICE on Saturday delayed an operation to sweep U.S. cities and arrest hundreds of people accused of flouting orders to leave the country, days after Trump tweeted about the upcoming crackdown. Former ICE acting director Thomas Homan, a Trump administration ally, then went on television to accuse McAleenan of leaking information about the operation because he opposed it.

CBP is the agency that apprehends and first detains migrant parents and children crossing the Mexican border.

CBP’s facilities at the border were almost all built when most people crossing into the U.S. illegally were single adults. Now, the agency is apprehending tens of thousands of parents and children weekly. It recorded 84,500 apprehensions of adults and children traveling together in May.

In the wake of Sanders’ resignation, Democratic Rep. Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, lashed out at the administration’s immigration policies and “bad actors in the White House.”

“There is simply no excuse for the horrific conditions children and families are being held in at the border,” he said.

Jennifer Quigley, director of refugee advocacy for Human Rights First, called on Congress to hold hearings on the youngsters’ treatment.

“Trump administration officials need to be held accountable for the disgraceful response to the situation at the border,” she said in a statement. “This is only the tip of the iceberg. We need a full accounting of how children came to be caged in filthy and unsafe conditions.”

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Associated Press journalists Jill Colvin and Colleen Long in Washington, and Cedar Attanasio in El Paso, Texas, contributed to this report.

Southern Iowa Speedway races tonight

There is racing tonight (6/26) at the Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa.  Dickey Transport and Middlekoop Seed will be sponsoring the 2019 Hall of Fame Night at the Speedway. Action will heat up with hot laps in all four racing divisions at 7 pm with racing to follow at 7:30. After the heat races have been run, the 2019 Hall of Fame class inductees will be honored.  KBOE-FM’s coverage of the Southern Iowa Speedway starts at 6pm with the pre-race show…and the races at 7:30.

Kayaks found overturned; Everyone safe

Two overturned kayaks were discovered early Tuesday morning (6/25) north of Oskaloosa.  The good news is that everyone has been accounted for and no one was hurt.  The Mahaska County Sheriff’s Office tells the No Coast Network it was called around 1:10am about two capsized kayaks on the South Skunk River north of Oskaloosa.  A group of four kayakers had entered the river on Highway 63 near the Oskaloosa Waterworks plant around midnight.  One of the four had swam to short and walked to a neighboring farmhouse to call for help.  Mahaska County Sheriff Russ Van Renterghem says two more kayakers arrived safely to the Glendale river access on Oxford Avenue, leaving one kayaker unaccounted for.

“So that’s when we contacted the Osky Fire Department and the New Sharon Fire Department to bring their boats out so we could start searching for her. It was about 3:15 this morning where we actually found her on land and she was safe.”

All four kayakers refused medical treatment.  Van Renterghem says kayaking or canoeing late at night isn’t a good idea….especially with water levels being so high.

“The river is just bank full, I mean, the South Skunk is bank full.  Much more coming down, it’s going to be out of its banks again.”

Van Renterghem adds that all four kayakers were wearing life jackets. 

Government moves migrant kids after AP exposes bad treatment

By MARTHA MENDOZA and GARANCE BURKE

The U.S. government has removed most of the children from a remote Border Patrol station in Texas following reports that more than 300 children were detained there, caring for each other with inadequate food, water and sanitation.

Just 30 children remained at the station outside El Paso Monday, said Rep. Veronica Escobar after her office was briefed on the situation by an official with Customs and Border Protection.

Attorneys who visited Clint last week said older children were trying to take care of infants and toddlers, The Associated Press first reported Thursday. They described a 4-year-old with matted hair who had gone without a shower for days, and hungry, inconsolable children struggling to soothe one another. Some had been locked for three weeks inside the facility, where 15 children were sick with the flu and another 10 were in medical quarantine.

She asked to be informed by the end of this week what steps they’re taking to end “these humanitarian abuses.”

Lawmakers from both parties decried the situation last week.

Border Patrol officials have not responded to AP’s questions about the conditions at the Clint facility, but in an emailed statement Monday they said: “Our short-term holding facilities were not designed to hold vulnerable populations and we urgently need additional humanitarian funding to manage this crisis.”

Although it’s unclear where all the children held at Clint have been moved, Escobar said some were sent to another facility on the north side of El Paso called Border Patrol Station 1. Escobar said it’s a temporary site with roll-out mattresses, showers, medical facilities and air conditioning.

But Clara Long, an attorney who interviewed children at Border Patrol Station 1 last week, said conditions were not necessarily better there.

“One boy I spoke with said his family didn’t get mattresses or blankets for the first two nights, and he and his mom came down with a fever,” said Long, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch. “He said there were no toothbrushes, and it was very, very cold.”

Long and a group of lawyers inspected the facilities because they are involved in the Flores settlement, a Clinton-era legal agreement that governs detention conditions for migrant children and families. The lawyers negotiated access to the facility with officials and say Border Patrol knew the dates of their visit three weeks in advance.

Many children interviewed had arrived alone at the U.S.-Mexico border, but some had been separated from their parents or other adult caregivers including aunts and uncles, the attorneys said.

Government rules call for children to be held by the Border Patrol in their short-term stations for no longer than 72 hours before they are transferred to the custody of Health and Human Services, which houses migrant youth in facilities around the country through its Office of Refugee Resettlement while authorities determine if they can be released to relatives or family friends.

Customs and Border Protection has referred AP’s questions to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which said Monday that 249 children who had been held at Clint would be moved to the agency’s network of shelters and other facilities by Tuesday.

″(Unaccompanied children) are waiting too long in CBP facilities that are not designed to care for children,” ORR spokeswoman Evelyn Stauffer said. “These children should now all be in HHS care as of Tuesday.”

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This story has been corrected to show Pence was on “Face the Nation,” not “Meet the Press.”

Indians move into first place in LHC baseball

Oskaloosa High’s baseball team moved into first place in the LIttle Hawkeye Conference Monday night (6/24) by sweeping a doubleheader from Newton.  The Indians took the first game 11-1 as Rian Yates went two for three with four runs batted in.  Tyler Miller was the winning pitcher.  In the nightcap, Rian Yates and Cole Kraber both homered and Kraber pitched a three-hitter with five strikeouts as Oskaloosa defeated the Cardinals 5-1.  Oskaloosa improves to 11-4 in the Little Hawkeye Conference….and combined with Dallas Center-Grimes splitting a Monday doubleheader with Grinnell…that moves the Indians into first place in the Conference, one half game ahead of Dallas Center-Grimes.  Tuesday night (6/25), the Indians play a non-conference game at EBF with the first pitch at 7:30.

Cheney named all district and all state for girls’ soccer

Oskaloosa’s Aleeya Cheney has been named to the Class 2A Central all-district first team, as well as the Class 2A all-state second team.  Cheney, who just graduated from Oskaloosa, has been on the all-district team four times and twice on the all-state team.  Cheney finished her high school days as Oskaloosa’s all-time scoring leader with 54 goals and 23 assists.  She’ll be playing soccer next fall at Wartburg.

Osky softball hosts Newton

Oskaloosa’s softball team also hosts Newton in a doubleheader Monday night (6/24) at home.  The Indians are coming off a 2-1 victory Thursday night (6/20) over fifth-ranked Dallas Center-Grimes, courtesy of Sophia Dykstra’s game-winning hit in the bottom of the seventh.   Oskaloosa is 6-7 in the Little Hawkeye Conference softball race and 15-9 overall.  You can hear the Indians and Newton Monday night on KBOE-FM. The doubleheader starts at 5:30 with our pregame coverage starting at 5:15.

Tuskegee Airman who flew 142 WWII combat missions dies at 99

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — World War II pilot Robert Friend, one of the last original members of the famed all-black Tuskegee Airmen, has died at the age of 99.

Friend’s daughter, Karen Friend Crumlich, told The Desert Sun her father died Friday at a Southern California hospital.

Born in South Carolina on 1920′s leap day, Friend flew 142 combat missions in World War II as part of the elite group of fighter pilots trained at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute. The program was created after the NAACP began challenging policies barring black people from flying military aircraft.

Friend’s 28-year Air Force career included service in the Korean and Vietnam wars. He also worked on space launch vehicles and served as foreign technology program director before retiring as a lieutenant colonel and forming his own aerospace company.

Ottumwa traffic delays

If you normally use the Jefferson Street Bridge in Ottumwa, you’ll need to find an alternate route this week.  Starting at 9am Monday (6/24), the Jefferson Street Bridge will be closed for a regular structural engineering inspection.  And the section of Mill Street under the Jefferson Street Bridge will be closed briefly while crews work overhead.

Also in Ottumwa, Wapello Street between 5th and Ottumwa Street will be closed for a sewer repair starting Monday (6/24).  Access to local businesses and residences will remain open.  The repair work is expected to take a week.

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