Duckworth Visits Shelter For Immigrant Children, Fallout From Exceptionally Violent Weekend Continues – Third Coast Today 08-07-18

Duckworth Visits Shelter for Immigrant Children Plagued by Accusations of Abuse

U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) toured Heartland Alliance’s Casa Guadalupe shelter Monday after allegations of physical and emotional abuse surfaced in previous weeks.

“It was particularly important for me to visit Casa Guadalupe because of the troubling and disheartening reports of abuse there, and I’m glad I was finally able to speak to these children and hear their stories,” said Duckworth in a press release. “It is critical that the HHS Inspector General complete its investigation into these disturbing allegations and that every Heartland Alliance facility provides a care plan for the children they are responsible for, as I have requested.

Heartland Alliance runs nine shelters in Chicago that house up to 500 children at a time, some of which are immigrant children separated from their parents at the Mexico border as part of President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy. Some children who were recently released made disturbing allegations of abuse, including forced injections, being kept in isolation, threats from staff they would be kept indefinitely at the facility, and physical abuse. A Propublica investigation also found incidents of sexual activity between children at a Heartland facility, understaffing,  and neglect. At least 10 children have run away from Heartland facilities in recent years.

Officials with the non-profit told Propublica the incidents “represent highly rare occasions.” “If the goal is to call into question the quality of care that we are providing by releasing sensitive information about minor children without context, and using that as if it defines our work, then that’s a shame,” said Heartland in a statement.

Duckworth said she tried to visit Casa Guadalupe two weeks ago but was denied by HHS due to “bureaucratic challenges.” Her and 6 Senate colleagues penned a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar condemning the agency for “ongoing obstruction” of oversight of facilities and demanding details on how HHS will correct the problem.

“It’s clear we need more transparency and accountability in facilities housing children separated from their families – a cruel, inhumane policy that should never have existed in the first place,” said Duckworth. “I am not the only Member of Congress who has faced challenges exercising oversight in their home state and I am going to keep working to strengthen government oversight and create comprehensive immigration reform that is just, fair and humane to help ensure another preventable crisis like this never happens again.”

Fallout Continues From Chicago’s Exceptionally Violent Weekend

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson made pleas for help finding those responsible for a weekend of exceptional violence in Chicago which saw at least 66 people shot, 14 of which died.

“We have a heavy heart,” Emanuel said Monday press conference. “Our souls are burdened. What happened this weekend did not happen in every neighborhood of Chicago but it is unacceptable to happen in any neighborhood of Chicago. We are a better city.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson speak at a press conference in January of 2017. File/Aaron Cynic.

Emanuel and Johnson both put the blame on guns, gangs, and repeat offenders. No arrests in connection to any of the shootings have been made so far.

“There are too many guns on the street, too many people with criminal records on the street, and there is a shortage of values about what is acceptable,” said Emanuel. “If you know who did this: be a neighbor – speak up.”

“It is the same people who are pulling the triggers in some of these communities,” said Johnson. “This isn’t a widespread issue among citizens of the city. This is a small subset of individuals who think they can play by their own rules because they continue to get a slap on the wrist when we arrest them.”

The weekend’s violence became national news, with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani weighing in on Twitter, incorrectly saying there were 63 murders before endorsing former Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy in the upcoming 2019 mayoral election.

“Give Garry McCarthy your support @Garry4Chicago,” Giuliani tweeted. “Tomorrow I will get you information to contribute. MAKE CHICAGO SAFE AGAIN! He can do a lot better than Mayor Emmanuel who is fiddling while Chicago burns.”

Mostly missing from the conversation from city officials and national pundits are currently having however, is any kind of talk about the crippling lack of community resources Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods have experienced for decades, along with the tenuous relationship between police and residents, and structural racism. Some of Emanuel’s challengers in the upcoming election highlighted these points.

“Neglect is benign. Neglect sort of implies inattention,” former CPS Principal Troy LaRaviere told WGN in a story that captured the majority of candidates responses. “This is more than inattention: this is active oppression, economic exploitation and intentional systemic disinvestment.”

Willie Wilson speaks at a mayoral candidate forum in Horner Park. Photo by Aaron Cynic.

Businessman Willie Wilson talked about bringing money and jobs to communities plagued by violence.  “I do not believe it’s about bringing in more police officers,” said Wilson. “They done that all his administration – bringing in more police officers, and you get crime going up and up and up. $8 billion out at O’Hare? Look, take some of those dollars and put them into the community to create the jobs, the contract, and you’ll see that violence go down.”

Both McCarthy and activist Ja’Mal Green too, said investments in neighborhood resources need to be made.

“Reopening mental health centers and bringing social services back to those communities that need them the most,” said McCarthy.

“This is not a police issue,” said Green. “It starts at home. It starts at home, but when that kid comes out of the home, then we’re failing them when we give them bad environments and a lack of jobs and mental health.”

Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa echoed those sentiments and directly criticized Emanuel, calling his response “shameful” in a tweet.

Recommended Reads:

Alleged Mosque Bombers Got Orders From Militia ‘Higher-Ups’ (Daily Beast): Three Illinois men arrested for allegedly bombing a Minnesota mosque, an Illinois women’s clinic, and attempting to ransom a stretch of railroad may have received orders from alleged higher-ups in militia groups.

Chicago’s predatory tickets and fines exploit low-income drivers for revenue (Chicago Reporter):

New research and reporting on vehicle related fines such as parking tickets, shows low and middle income people – particularly in communities of color – are paying a hefty price from predatory fines. Some 22 percent of families living on less than $15,000 a year have outstanding ticket debt.

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Aaron Cynic
Aaron Cynic