Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba will go to Brussels on Dec. 11-12 ahead of crucial meetings.
The American Civil Liberties Union brought the lawsuit in 2018 to stop the forcible separation of children from their parents after they illegally crossed the border into the United States.
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in the Southern District of California approved the settlement Friday.
“When we brought this lawsuit, no one thought it would involve thousands of children, take us to so many countries searching for families, or last for years,” Lee Gelernt, the lead ACLU attorney on the case, wrote in a statement.
“While no one would ever claim that this settlement can wholly fix the harm intentionally caused to these little children, it is an essential beginning,” the statement continued.
The policy resulted in immigration agents separating more than 4,000 children from their parents and only became known after audio of scores of sobbing children screaming for their parents emerged from a U.S. federal detention facility.
About 4,500-5,000 children and their parents will be covered under this settlement. The government is expected to continue to identify families that were separated.
Though news of the separations came to light in 2018, a pilot program began in 2017 in the El Paso, Texas, area.
The policy sparked widespread bipartisan outrage and eventually pushed then-President Donald Trump to sign an executive order ending the practice. Many of the parents were deported from the United States without their children, some of whom were in foster care or with relatives they had never known before.
The settlement offers resources to help families address the trauma they suffered under the policy, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in an October statement.
“The Department of Homeland Security has taken steps to ensure that the prior practice of separating families does not happen again, and we are continuing the work of reuniting children with their parents,” his statement said.
However, former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has said he could reinstitute the family separation policy if he’s reelected.
“If a family hears that they’re going to be separated — they love their family — they don’t come. I know it sounds harsh,” Trump said during a town hall in May.
But Gelernt, the ACLU attorney who represented the separated families, told VOA in an email that, “If a future administration tries to reinstate the family separation practice, the settlement allows us to go back to court to get an order stopping it.”
The 46-page settlement does not offer money to families who were separated, but it does allow them to apply for temporary legal status for three years and a work permit. They can receive some help finding housing, and aid for initial rent payments such as first and last month’s rent. And the federal government must cover co-payments for medical and behavioral health services.
Families can also apply for asylum, even if they were denied it during their time in the U.S.
It also prohibits U.S. immigration officials from using the accusation that migrants entered the U.S. illegally as a reason to separate parents and their children. Agents at the border must prove child abuse or serious crimes before separating families and also record the charges, evidence and where each child is sent in a shared government database. Under the settlement, if families are separated, the ACLU lawyers must be informed so they can dispute the separations.
The Biden administration created a task force to continue to reunite separated families. According to a September report by the task force, 3,126 children have been reunited with their parents or legal guardians. The task force is still working with nonprofit and nongovernment organizations to reunite 1,073 children with their parents.
Of those, 81 children have no valid contact information for their parents or other relatives.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, child psychology experts, and other child welfare groups have spoken out against separating children from their parents. They say it can have long-lasting effects on children’s emotional growth and cognitive development.
The ACLU has settled hundreds of lawsuits in its 103-year history, its executive director, Anthony D. Romero, wrote in an email to the media.
“None more important than this one … but as welcomed as it is, the damage inflicted on these families will forever be tragic and irreversible,” he added.
In addition, the proposed legislation, titled the “End Hedge Fund Control of American Homes Act of 2023,” would require hedge funds to sell off all the single-family homes they currently own over a 10-year period.
The bill would impose stiff tax penalties on hedge funds that fail to comply with the sell-off, with the proceeds from the fines going toward down-payment assistance for Americans looking to buy homes.
The legislation raises the question: Should companies be banned from buying homes in the U.S.?
Homeownership has become increasingly unattainable for many Americans as home prices and interest rates surge.
A recent study by MetLife Investment Management found that by 2030, institutional investors could control 40% of single-family rental homes.
Chief Washington anchor Leland Vittert said the current rules “allow billionaires to get richer by putting the American Dream out of reach for hardworking Americans.”
Between January 2020 and January 2023. rents for a two-bedroom, detached home increased 44% in Tampa, 43% in Phoenix, 35% near Atlanta and 24% nationwide.
Vittert said millionaire-backed hedge funds now compete with average Americans for the starter home and normally win.
“And thus,” Vittert said, “it’s the hedge funds, not the means of everyday Americans, that set the price for the American dream.”
NewsNation political and economic contributor Mick Mulvaney took a different approach and called housing affordability a local issue.
“Housing is too expensive,” he said. “Do you know why? Because we don’t build enough. That’s it. That’s the bottom line.”
“I’m not sure how the federal government changes it because it’s a local issue,” he continued. “If you want housing to be cheaper, though, just build more housing.”
NewsNation political contributor Johanna Maska said she has a big problem with hedge funds buying up “all of the critical housing.”
“I think that single-family homes need to be protected,” she said. “We need to have more protection for our communities to have access to those homes.”
Democratic strategist Ameshia Cross also said housing affordability “is one of the biggest concerns facing Americans.”
“There has to be regulation here,” Cross said. “One, because I don’t think that we’re building to the extent that people actually need homes. We’re not building fast enough to meet the needs of families across this country. In addition to that, they’re not able to afford the homes that are already there. And they’re getting priced out.”
While the bill faces challenges passing into law this session due to a divided Congress, advocates argue that initiating a conversation on these issues is crucial.
A recent New York Times report explored the impact of corporate-backed investments on housing markets, citing instances where investors outcompeted first-time buyers, particularly in neighborhoods with large Black and Latino populations.
“You can imagine the hedge funds will spend an awful lot of money on Capitol Hill to try and stop this,” Vittert said. “We will let you know if the rest of Congress sides with the billionaires or the American Dream.”
(NewsNation) — Jailed reality TV star Todd Chrisley is speaking out publicly for the first time from behind bars, telling NewsNation he believes he’s being targeted by prison staff and that he and other inmates are living in filthy conditions.
Chrisley, who gained fame on the show “Chrisley Knows Best” that followed his tight-knit, boisterous family, is serving a 12-year prison sentence on charges including bank fraud and tax evasion in a federal prison camp in Pensacola, Florida.
NewsNation was denied access to speak with Chrisley inside the prison over “security concerns” but reached him by phone through his lawyer.
In an interview aired Friday on “CUOMO,” Chrisley said that he’s heard recorded conversations of staff saying he needs to be “humbled.”
“(They said), ‘What we need to do is we need to put him in diesel therapy and put him in shackles and let him ride around the country for a time and then bring him back and that will humble him,'” Chrisley said. “‘He thinks he’s in one of his mansions that he’s used to living in, but this is the (expletive) BOP (Bureau of Prisons).'”
Chrisley also told NewsNation that a photograph was taken of him while he was sleeping and sent to his daughter asking for $2,600 to keep him protected in prison.
In a trial last year, federal prosecutors said Todd and his wife Julie engaged in an extensive bank fraud scheme and then hid their wealth from tax authorities while flaunting their lavish lifestyle.
They were convicted in June 2022 on charges of bank fraud, tax evasion and conspiring to defraud the IRS. Julie Chrisley was also convicted of wire fraud and obstruction of justice.
Todd was sentenced to 12 years, and Julie was sentenced to seven. She’s serving her time at the Federal Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky.
Inside the Pensacola prison, Todd Chrisley says the food is “disgustingly filthy,” and he estimates inmates take in maybe 1,000 calories per day if that.
“They are literally starving these men to death here,” he said.
He went on to claim that there are rats, squirrels and cats — some dead — found near food storage areas. He buys tuna and peanut butter from the commissary to eat.
Prison officials told NewsNation the food is nutritious and the facilities are in livable conditions.
While Todd and Julie are in jail, their 26-year-old daughter Savannah has been left to care for her 17-year-old brother and 11-year-old niece.
She told NewsNation she’s essentially a “single parent now.”
“I’m trying to get two kids through school and health care and all these different things, so I know what it’s like to have to sit there and think, ‘Oh, shoot, how do I need to budget this month, how do I need to get through this month?'” she said. “My life has completely changed.”
The Chrisleys’ lawyer, Jay Surgent, has appealed their conviction and was recently granted a request for oral arguments.
“Our criminal justice system, I believe, has let them down,” Surgent told NewsNation. “I think we’re going to be able to argue that effectively and correct an injustice that shouldn’t have existed to begin with.”
At the time he joined the case, Surgent said there were “serious and critical errors” in the case, including in-court testimony from a government witness and IRS agent. The defense team is also arguing on appeal that prosecutors received information during the trial that the couple did not owe taxes the government was alleging.
As his lawyers and family fight for him on the outside, Chrisley said he wants to do everything he can to fight for himself on the inside, even if it means putting a bigger crosshair on his back.
“I know that God has a greater purpose. I know he’s got a greater plan, and I’m not going to let the federal government break my faith,” Chrisley said. “The prosecutor said that we were the southern version of the Trumps. I’m not going to have someone like him break my family. That’s what he wanted to do, but he’s not been able to do that.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
(NewsNation) — Dollar General is joining the list of big stores cutting down on self-checkout.
“We relied too much this year on self-checkout in our stores,” Dollar General CEO Todd Vasos said during an earnings call. “We should be using self-checkout as a secondary checkout vehicle, not a primary[…] It’s going to make a world of difference.”
In 2022, Dollar General expanded self-checkout stations to approximately 19,000 stores, Retail Drive reported. They also piloted some self-checkout-only stores. The company hoped it would offer convenience, speed and reduce labor costs.
However now, the store is now rethinking self-checkout after experiencing “shrink,” which includes “shoplifting, employee theft, damaged products, administrative errors, online fraud and other factors,” CNN reported.
A study, examining retailers, found that companies with self-checkout lanes had a loss rate of about 4% of the total value of the purchases, double industry average, The New York Times reported.
“It helps on the sales line because we’ve got somebody to meet, greet, and ring up the customer. It also helps on the shrink line because you’ve got somebody at the front end of the store that is always there to monitor the front end of the store,” Vason added.
The upscale Rio de Janeiro neighborhood has been making headlines for the wrong reasons in recent weeks: a tourist in town for a Taylor Swift concert stabbed to death on the beach; a man punched unconscious in a brutal mugging; a young woman raped by a homeless man.
The social media-fueled reaction has generated yet more headlines, as locals have organized vigilante groups and taken to the streets with bats, brass knuckles and other weapons to stalk alleged criminals.
Viral videos show large groups of young men dressed in black, their faces covered, patrolling the neighborhood and violently beating those they accuse of committing crimes.
In deeply unequal Brazil, the vigilantes face accusations of racism in pursuing their “suspects.”
“It’s clear who’s a ‘criminal’ to these vigilantes: poor black men,” musician and black-rights activist Tas MC wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
Fault lines exposed
The situation has exposed the fault lines of a Brazil still divided by last year’s elections between far-right ex-President Jair Bolsonaro and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the leftist who narrowly defeated him — and who faces accusations from conservatives of being soft on crime.
Rio is no stranger to violent crime, or violent reactions to it.
Five years ago, then-President Michel Temer deployed the army to take over security in the city for 10 months, saying organized crime had become a “cancer” in Rio.
The 2016 Olympics host city is a frequent scene of bloody battles between heavily armed drug gangs and police, typically in poor “favela” neighborhoods.
And it has struggled for decades with militias that initially formed as neighborhood anti-crime committees, then evolved into organized criminal groups themselves.
But Copacabana’s latest spike in violence is affecting the identity of a neighborhood known for its laid-back, carefree vibe, where residents are used to strolling the streets in swimsuits and flip-flops.
“Copacabana is sad,” said 42-year-old businessman Thiago Nogueira, sporting a tank top stamped “Rio de Janeiro.” “The violence is really bad — and it’s getting worse.”
Local businesses are also worried over the impact on tourism.
The president of hotel association HoteisRio urged tougher punishments for criminals to stop repeat offenders.
‘The system has collapsed’
Robberies in Copacabana are up 25% this year from the same period last year, and theft from pedestrians up 56%, according to news site G1, citing figures from Brazil’s Public Security Institute.
Authorities have announced the deployment of 1,000 police and a “security cordon” on nights and weekends.
After holding a crisis meeting Thursday, Rio security officials announced they would increase the visibility of patrols and the number of police stops to counter the violence.
They also urged residents to leave policing to the police.
“Vigilantes commit crimes saying they’re preventing other crimes. In reality, they’re criminals, too,” said Victor Santos, the Rio state security secretary — a post re-created last month by right-wing Governor Claudio Castro to tackle rising crime.
Residents’ exasperation is fueled by a sense the justice system is broken.
According to Brazilian media reports, two of the suspected robbers accused of killing the 25-year-old Taylor Swift fan on November 19 had been arrested the day before for stealing chocolate from a department store.
They were granted conditional release at their custody hearing. In all, the three suspects arrested in the case had previously been stopped by police 108 times.
Meanwhile, the mugger who knocked a man unconscious on the sidewalk on December 2 was “well-known to the authorities, with nine entries on his criminal record,” the lead investigator on the case told a news conference Thursday.
“The system has collapsed,” journalist Octavio Guedes wrote in a column for G1. “When the message that ‘the police arrest them, the courts free them’ gets lodged in people’s heads, it gives rise to another kind of barbarity: vigilante groups.”