July 9, 2019

Dozens of migrant children held at a border station in Yuma, Arizona, have shared with government case managers incidents of misconduct at the facility, including sexual assault and retaliation after kids spoke out against poor conditions, NBC News reports.

In one report obtained by NBC News, a 15-year-old girl from Honduras said during a pat down, a Customs and Border Protection agent groped her as he put his hands inside her bra and pulled down her underwear. He did this publicly, the girl said, and she felt "embarrassed as the officer was speaking in English to other officers and laughing."

A 16-year-old Guatemalan boy said after he complained about the taste of the water and food being served, agents took the mats out of his cell, and everyone was forced to sleep on the concrete floor. Another teenager, a 17-year-old boy from Guatemala, said kids would often get scolded for standing too close to a window, and agents would call them offensive names in Spanish.

The children also said they were not offered showers, the lights were on all the time and they never knew what time it was, and dinnertime was 9 p.m.; one girl said she would go to bed hungry because she fell asleep before food was served. Under the law, migrant children cannot be held at border stations for more than 72 hours, but all of the kids were in Yuma for longer than that, NBC News reports. A Customs and Border Protection spokesman told NBC News the "allegations do not align with common practice at our facilities and will be fully investigated," and the sexual assault accusation "is under investigation." Catherine Garcia

June 17, 2019

The cousin of a man shot and killed by an off-duty police officer in a Corona, California, Costco described him as being a "gentle giant" who was nonverbal and had an intellectual disability.

Kenneth French, 32, was fatally shot Friday night by an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer, the Corona Police Department said. Authorities say that while holding his child, the officer was suddenly attacked; he fired his weapon, hitting French and two of French's relatives.

French's cousin, Rick Shureih, told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday that French "has always been very cooperative and kept to himself." Shureih said French's parents, Russell and Paola French, were hit during the shooting, and both have been hospitalized in intensive care, with Paola in a coma. The officer, whose name has not been released, sustained minor injuries, the LAPD said.

Police have not released any additional information on what occurred before the shooting, but Shureih told the Times that his cousin was no longer able to speak, and "it could have been that he bumped into somebody but couldn't communicate the fact that he was sorry." Shureih is asking that witnesses come forward and Costco release surveillance tapes. "These are things we need to pursue to make sure justice is done," he said. Catherine Garcia

June 29, 2018

Prisons in the U.S. are often used as recruiting grounds for sex traffickers, an investigation by The Guardian found Friday.

Traffickers and pimps target incarcerated women by posting their bail, making the women indebted to them, or by financially supporting them through their time in prison, often creating an obligation of loyalty. Inmates' personal information is posted publicly online, and anyone can send money to any inmate. For vulnerable women who have no other place to turn, the recruiting pushes them into sex work, the investigation found.

To identify victims, traffickers sometimes employ women who are also in prison, who scout potential inmates who could be groomed and recruited. Women recall receiving letters from pimps who woo them with promises of financial and emotional security upon release, and describe feeling like there was no choice but to go along with the trafficker at the end of their sentence.

"[The pimps] bail you out and when you walk out of jail that's it, you owe them," one trafficking survivor told The Guardian. "You'll do anything not to go back to jail, and so you go out and you have to work it off — and more than likely, you're then never getting away from this man. He's got you now." Many women say that they were arrested for crimes they committed while under the control of a trafficker, further entrenching the cycle.

"Some of the most vulnerable, high-risk individuals in our society," says Nicole Bell, a trafficking survivor and anti-trafficking advocate, "are just trapped in a continuous loop of abuse and exploitation." Read more at The Guardian. Summer Meza

October 18, 2017

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) is revealing more about the conversation President Trump had with the widow of La David Johnson Tuesday afternoon, saying he made Myeshia Johnson cry. Had an Army sergeant not been holding the phone, Wilson said, she would have grabbed it and "cursed him out."

Army Sgt. La David Johnson, 25, was killed in Niger during an ambush earlier this month, along with three other soldiers. Wilson knew Johnson through a mentorship program she runs, and was in a limo with his pregnant widow and other relatives when Trump called. The phone was put on speaker, so everyone in the limo could hear what was being said, she told CNN, and while speaking to Myeshia Johnson, Trump said her husband "knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurts." Wilson said the mood in the limo was already solemn, as the family had just been told they couldn't have an open casket at Johnson's funeral. That information gave Myeshia Johnson "all kinds of nightmares about how his body must look now, his face must look, and that is what the president of the United States says to her?" Wilson said.

Trump's remarks were "off the cuff," Wilson told The Washington Post, and he kept "saying the same thing over and over." Myeshia Johnson was "just crying," she added, and "the only thing she said when it was time to hang up was 'thank you' and 'goodbye.'" In his community, La David Johnson was "our hero," Wilson told CNN, and Trump's comments were "not something that you say to a grieving wife." The White House would not comment on the phone call, saying the conversation was private. Catherine Garcia

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