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Roundtable: Reuniting Immigrant Families

People seeking political asylum in the United States line up to be interviewed in Tijuana, Mexico, just across the U.S. border south of San Diego, Monday, June 4, 2018.
Associated Press
People seeking political asylum in the United States line up to be interviewed in Tijuana, Mexico, just across the U.S. border south of San Diego, Monday, June 4, 2018.
Roundtable: Reuniting Immigrant Families
Roundtable: Reuniting Immigrant Families
Roundtable: Reuniting Immigrant Families PANEL: Lillian Faderman, LGBTQ author, historian Andrew Keatts, reporter, Voice of San Diego Tony Perry, former San Diego bureau chief, LA Times Maya Srikrishnan, reporter, Voice of San Diego

The deadline to reunite the young immigrant children with their parents has come and gone. So why are dozens of families still separated. It's pride weekend in San Diego. We'll talk with the local author and journalist showcasing the city's LGBT history. And in just six votes separated the top two candidates for the city council seat. Why the incumbent is in for a serious fight in November. I'm Ebony Monae and the Cape PBS roundtable starts now. Welcome to our discussion of the week's top stories. I'm Ebony Monet. And for Marks hour and joining me at the Cape PBS roundtable is Tony Perry former San Diego Bureau Chief for The L.A. Times. Maya straight Christian immigration reporter for Voice of San Diego and Lillian Federman in San Diego based author and LGBT historian. And Andrew Keats's senior investigative reporter for Voice of San Diego. Let's begin with another turbulent week for immigration courts are rolling out a new way to clear backlogs of cases in San Diego. And when it comes to reuniting families President Trump had this to say when asked about missing a court ordered deadline to return the youngest children to their parents. Should tell people not to come to our country illegally. That's similar to our country illegally. Just. Like other people do. Illegally. So Tony and this was his response to reporters asking him about missing the deadline for some of the children the youngest children under five years old. What's the latest. Well the latest is that of 103 children under age 5. The government reported to the judge and sending 57 had been reunited but that several dozen more are what they call ineligible. Why they can't find the parents. The parents have been deported. The parents have criminal records. They're just something that makes the government ill at ease about giving over these children to these adults. ACLU says your process is so long and involved it's impractical. It's up to the judge maybe to say move it along faster. Don't take chances with these kids. But of course and that's a small number. Wait till we get the kids between 5 and 17 the numbers we've been told maybe 2000 wait till we see that. And what that looks like as my old newspaper said editorially this program that the Trump administration rolled out was reckless it was impractical and it's been shockingly poorly executed. I'll let them speak out. I'm not going to disagree with that on the ground. It sure looks like that. And speaking of shocking when you say parents have been deported any indication of what will happen with those families. Well. There doesn't seem to be a program of going down getting them and bringing them back although under the Obama administration there were what they called humanitarian visas so that they could come back and pick up that child who left here. But so far again Plan A that the that the Trump administration cooked up doesn't seem to have accounted for that or thought of that. And they're now desperately trying to find a Plan B. And so we just don't know. What about the of the people they deported one was to Romania. Are they going all the way to Romania and bringing him back to so that he can reunite with the child. I just don't know and the government. I think it will we'll agree with me has not been transparent. They won't tell us where these kids are. They won't tell us really the numbers and the ACLU has sued for a level of transparency OK. But they've also agreed with the government that a lot has to be kept secret. I don't know journalistically whether I like that. I'd like to know where our government is keeping these kids where they're being reunited and what's the numbers on it so far not a lot of transparency out of the federal government and my I'm bringing you into this conversation. Another issue that's been coming out of these court proceedings and it's been shocking to some young children reportedly as young as 1 years old appearing alone without a parent or guardian in the court made to respond whether or not they can understand the proceedings. Are you seeing that here in San Diego. And what's the explanation for this happening now. That's actually been happening for quite a while. When children come to the U.S. alone or in these cases but they've been separated from their parents they're only guaranteed an attorney when they're in the custody of Health and Human Services. And so if they're released to a sponsor or a relative they're not guaranteed any legal representation. And what's happened is with these child separations is that they have both increased the public scrutiny on what's happening to those kids and increase the number of kids because now it's not just kids who are showing up to the border alone. But they've also added a couple more thousand kids who are separated from their parents. And what about the families that have been reunited. There was some talk about housing families together and detention facilities. What's going to happen to these families that are at home. Well so there are rules in place about how long families can be detained and the conditions under which they can be detained and the terms of initiation and try to challenge those. And a judge in Los Angeles ruled against them. So it appears that they're going to be going back to the policy they're using for wishes for the most part. Families will be released with commanders or other sort of like monitoring to come back to their hearing. It looks as if they're moving back to the policy that the Obama administration used in that Trump at all gave short shrift to called it catch and release very. Very dreadful phrase phrasing we're talking about human beings not carp but it looks that seems to be where we're going here. Well. Given the numbers we are going to have to track thousands of people. Let's see how well that works. I went down south of the border to Tijuana to watch the folks who are trying to cross illegally and seek asylum. My colleague Jody Hammond and I went down there for the Washington Post. And what we found. The desperation will just curl your hair of these folks. Women with children and I don't think that the fear of. A harsh life when you get here by the federal government is going to deter that there'll be a little drop in numbers one months two months long term given what's going on in Central America et cetera. I just don't see it changing. And so we're in for this for a long time here particularly here in San Diego and more so in Texas because they get the Central American flow. And I do also think I mean there's been a report that came out that showed that families that are released for their asylum hearings do come back more than 90 percent of the time. And so a lot of this is the government taking a really small percentage of people who don't show up to their hearings and using that to try and detain them for longer. But it's actually just an attempt to deter them. You know one thing that Jodi and I found that it shocked me. You talk to these folks. And where are you going. And I thought well they would say we're going San Diego going to L.A.. A lot of the folks that are trying to get asylum and are fleeing Guatemala and Honduras they they're going to relatives in Utah New Jersey. Upstate New York. I mean the idea that immigration legal or illegal is just a border issue. That's that's really old. No it's a national issue and it isn't just something we have to deal with along the border. It's a national issue. But again we we are planned a didden isn't working all that well. And as my points out the children I think are suffering. And so while it would be fun just to watch journalistically another Keystone Kops esque federal program that doesn't work and employees and all of us. It becomes a less fun when you consider the damage being done to these children the psychologists and the social workers who know about this kind of stuff say it is substantial long range. These children are being hurt by a federal United States Federal Government policy that we're all responsible for. And can you clarify you both have brought up asylum seekers. How are these cases being handled differently than someone else who may have crossed the border illegally. Well so an asylum seeker you can ask for asylum in the U.S. whether you cross through a port of entry just quit legally or whether you cross between ports of entry which is what the government says is illegal. It's just basically saying that I am scared to go back to my country. But even then they've tightened it. The attorney general Jeff Sessions held a press conference and he said We're tightening it. It isn't good enough that you're afraid because your husband has been beating you or your your neighborhood thugs have been raping you. You've got to tie it into a political situation or that you're being victimized because you're helping the police try to put them S13 away or something. So they're beginning to restrict the causes the legitimate causes that can get to asylum. Now how is that going to work on the ground with individual judges. We'll find out. But they have anticipated this and are tightening that up too. So again we're going to be in for that for a long time. And Mike you've done some reporting this week on Operation Streamline to fast track program. What exactly is it. How's it working here. So when Jeff Sessions announced zero tolerance in April basically what he wanted the federal government to start doing was criminally prosecuting everyone who crossed the border between ports of entry. Because that is the illegal way to do it. And it has caused a surge in these illegal entry misdemeanor cases that at least. In the federal courts in San Diego we hadn't been charging people with for the most part for decade. I mean sometimes if someone had a felony for illegally entering multiple times they would knock it down. But it was very it wasn't used very often. And suddenly we're having hundreds of those cases filed every single week and the courts are really struggling to deal with them. And so they implemented Operation Streamline which is a program that has been implemented in all of the other border states since about 2005 on and off to create basically an entirely separate court system for these migrants who are coming across. So it's one room and there are people who are arrested one day. They're brought to court the next and they are arraigned they plead and they're sentenced and then they are deported. Either that evening or the next day. Know well while Trump is getting pounded on the head by internal pages and columnists and advocacy groups and ACLU that's fine he ran nuts comes with the turf when you hear the man at the top and you've made the comments he has made. However it also bears noting what the judge in Los Angeles said when the federal government tried to monkey around with the. With a court decision of some years ago that limited what they could do with the children. She got pretty annoyed and wrote a pretty scathing report. And among other things she said you know this problem is because of 20 years of congressional action. And I think that we ought to keep that in mind too. Whatever you think of the Trump administration's approach. The United States Congress hasn't helped much at all because they in gridlock on this very interesting and emotional issue that we will continue to cover in the days ahead. And right now we'll turn to pride weekend here in San Diego the local celebration started in the 1970s in response to the Stonewall rebellion. It's now an event that draws hundreds of thousands of people. Our guest today is author and historian Lillian Federman. She's the curator of the LGBT San Diego stories of struggle and triumphs at the Sandigo history center. Lillian this is the first exhibit of its kind in Balboa Park. What type of support did you find. Wonderful support. First of all the history center was very encouraging about doing the exhibit and I I found a terrific repository of LGBTQ material. It was the LAMDA archives that started in the 1980s. We also had donors who gave us artifacts going way back even to 1946. So the exhibit starts actually in the 17th seven days and goes all the way up to the present with photographs and artifacts of various kinds. So you talk about some of the things that people will see at this exhibit. What do you hope people take away from this experience. Well I hope that we've addressed the the LGBTQ community but also the rest of San Diego for LGBTQ people. I think it's important that they know how long the history of struggle has been and how eventually there were triumphs. Things aren't perfect yet. Certainly immeasurably better than they were in the mid 20th century for instance for the rest of San Diego. I hope they'll learn something about their neighbors about people who are their friends and sons and daughters and fellow employees and people that they see on the streets. I hope that this will tell all of San Diego something about how long the history has been. What a difficult history it's been and and how we're achieving a measure of success and becoming first class American citizens. And we mentioned Stonewall. Riots New York. We maybe didn't have anything quite that dramatic but is there an event or a person that you can put a finger on and say that helped turn the Stonewall riots were in 1969 San Diego was astonishingly quick to respond. The first response was in 1970 a group of students at San Diego State started an organization called the Gay Liberation Front. It was the same name as an organization that started in New York just weeks after the Stonewall riots. But the Gay Liberation Front did terrific things like they were the first to protest publicly against police harassment. In 1971 they held a picket in front of the police station that was incredibly brave for 1971. They were behind the first gay pride parade in 1974. It was an unpermitted parade. They could not get a permit from the city and so they they marched on the sidewalks stopping for the lights and continued marching. Only 200 people were in that first parade went from Hobel Park to Balboa Park. And now there are at least 200000 people in the pride parades first merit to march and the parade was Maureen O'Connor. Yes. Yes. And you're a longtime historian and author. How did this experience compare. Well I found that San Diego was astonishingly quick to respond to what became the the modern gay revolution. As I said there was the founding of a young group the gay liberation front in 1970 but very soon mainstream LGBTQ people or as they were called in the 1970s gay people or gay and lesbian people began to found organizations such as the Log Cabin Republicans which was a gay Republican organization the San Diego Democrats that sent here San Diego Democratic Club it was called which was a gay Democratic organization the United San Diego elections committee which was a gay and lesbian organization founded in the 1970s. I think what had happened in the 1970s is that gay people of all classes of various ages realized that they had to begin to organize and fight for equal rights. And that was very quick in the history of the new gay revolution. How is the fact that this is a military town. How has that impacted gay life for the emergence of gay rights. Yes. We talk in the exhibit about an incident that happened in the late 1950s early 1960s of an admiral Admiral Selden Hooper who had been much decorated. He retired it was found that he was homosexual and he was forced back into the military. And in 1962 he was court martialed and he was stripped of his rank and all of his benefits. The military has come a long way since then and in 2012 gays and lesbians who are in the military were permitted to march in uniform in the gay pride parade. So that's a real measure of success. And Lillian you talk about how the city of San Diego was quick to act in that same breath. San Diego has had several current and recent politicians including Tony Atkins Todd Gloria Bonnie Doumanis who are gay. What does this say about tolerance here in the city. I have found as I put this exhibit together it's really quite remarkable how supportive San Diego has been for lesbian and gay politicians beginning in 1993 when Chris was elected to the city council. Since then there has always been at least one gay or lesbian or now LGBTQ person on the city council including Georgette Gomez who was elected as an out lesbian calls herself queer. Not only that but San Diego has helped put out LGBTQ people into this state Assembly and to the state Senate. CHRISTINE keyholes served in both the Assembly and the Senate. Todd Gloria is presently in the Assembly and Toni Atkins was not only the president of the California State Assembly but she is now the the president pro tem of the Senate which is really remarkable. I think that San Diego has been so supportive of gay and lesbian politicians something to be proud of and an exciting time with Ryan happening this weekend and want to turn now to the San Diego City Council race an incumbent hasn't lost a seat in nearly 30 years. The current city council president might see that streak end in November. Attorney Monica Montgomery finished ahead of Murdo call in the primary by a razor thin margin margin. Part of me I've just six votes and you spent some time in the district to find out why. Andrew how significant is this upset. I think it's very significant. Now certainly it's not definitive it's the primary there were there. You know I think most people expected that both of these candidates would move onto the general and they will still so you know she won by six votes but particularly wouldn't have mattered if she had lost by six votes instead. Nonetheless I think it is very significant. I think there's two reasons. One is this is a safe Democratic seat. So this is an intra party challenge. And the other point is that Myrtle coal is the president she is by title the second most powerful person in City Hall. She has a platform to raise large issues to determine what's on the docket to decide which city council members are on which committees which really does set the business of city hall and a lot of ways. And so despite the fact that she's running in a safe Radich district and she has this perch from which to run. She has nonetheless been beaten by somebody in her own party. And not only that there were other people in the race so she lost by six votes. But she also 61 percent of her district who turned out to vote voted against her. So you know she only got 39 percent of the vote in a safe seat running as an incumbent despite being a city council president. That was really in a lot of ways why I wanted to go talk to people in the district about this. It wasn't just that Monica Montgomery had done so well but it was such a clear sign of dissatisfaction for 61 percent of people to register a vote against her. Well Myrtle Cole former police officer in trouble when she didn't really. Get her words correctly she seemed to be implying racial profiling is OK by cops and she apologized and all the rest of it and and her opponent made some hay out of that. Do you see expanding that in the run off. So the police. Conduct in the district paradise Hills cetera becomes more of an issue. Or is this an issue that just it's something that was said maladroit and moving on you in that district. Yeah certainly yeah. I mean it is it is an issue in that district a couple of things to say about that one. You know I asked my article about that and she said she said I didn't hear about that much at all though and people who bring that up to me are Monica Montgomery supporters. Well the problem is so far she has more supporters than coal does. So there's a math problem there about whether that is or isn't a problem. The other is you know for instance the district attorney's race which was going on at the same time became in a lot of ways a proxy fight for these exact issues for issues of criminal justice racial profiling the way people particularly in that district feel they have a relationship with DPD and Genevieve Jones right who was elevating those issues did very very well in that district. So I don't see it going away. I would also say that it wouldn't be fair to call it a complete walk back but in my interview with Myrtle Cole I think she didn't sound particularly apologetic about those comments. What she said wasn't I didn't mean what I said and I'm apologize that people took it that way what she said was no one wants to pay attention to what was happening before I made those comments. And that is that someone was murdered outside of my council office and all I cared about was catching that person. And I wish somebody cared more about the victims. Now you could agree or disagree with that perspective but it isn't exactly an apology. It's more of an explanation and kind of in some ways keeping the debate alive. So to be fair Cole has the support of some of the labor unions as well as the county Democratic Party. Is that enough to tip the scale in her favor in November. I think under normal circumstances we would almost certainly say yes as I say this is a strongly Democratic district. This is not a district where you could run as a Republican or without strong Democratic support. Certainly that's what she's banking on. She told me I didn't stage much of a campaign at all I didn't have a campaign manager we weren't working a ground campaign saying going as far as to say I was taken by surprise in this result as well. So now she's making the bet and others her supporters are making the bet that when the labor unions get involved when they start putting out their voter turnout apparatus when the county party which is which has endorsed her gets involved and starts turning out their mailing lists and starts spending money on the race that this will this will dissipate the slim margin will disappear and she will particularly as turnout increases between the primary and the general that that block of voters which are less engaged are going to be more likely to be swayed not just by her campaign but also her ballot title she still has the advantage of being listed as city council president. Right. They're all that sense of the people out there that they've been forgotten by City Hall. But yet you story pointed out a slew of projects the city thrown some decent money. Is that a justifiable complaint or is it a more of an emotional feeling that City Hall forgets about us. Yeah I saw it's complicated for one. Those are sentiments that I think have built up over the last 20 or 30 years. And a good run of capital improvement projects in a two three four year period probably is not going to wipe away all those concerns regardless. Certainly counts. President Cole would like to point out that this capital improvement budget has done very well for District 4 recently. Infrastructure spending has been higher there than in some other districts and she was able to point out libraries that were built and large to out if they wrap it up right there. Thank you so much we are at time that wraps up another week of stories at the PBS roundtable. Thank you to Tony Perry and my Ashry Christian Andrew Keats and Lillian Faderman for joining us. A reminder all the stories we discussed today are available on our Web site. PBS dot org. I'm Ebony Monet. Thanks for joining us on the roundtable.

Reuniting Immigrant Families

After missing a court-ordered deadline to end immigrant family separations, the Trump administration scrambled this week to reunite young children with their parents. A similar deadline for older children is set for later this month. Meanwhile, Operation Streamline began this week in San Diego federal court to speed up the prosecution of low-level immigration violations.

RELATED: One-Year-Old Reunited With Father In San Diego After Months In Problematic Child Shelter

San Diego Pride

Hundreds of thousands of people will take part in events for the 2018 San Diego Pride Festival. Just ahead of this year’s celebration, the San Diego History Center has unveiled a new exhibit, LGBTQ+ San Diego: Stories of Struggles and Triumphs. We talk with the curator about San Diego’s gay rights history and the importance of the annual pride festival.

RELATED: Executive Director Of San Diego Pride Says The ‘Fight Isn’t Over’

Fight for District 4

San Diego City Council President Myrtle Cole faces a strong challenge from Monica Montgomery in the upcoming general election. Just six votes separated the two candidates in the primary, with Montgomery coming out ahead. Voice of San Diego recently talked with voters about what’s happening in the district that includes portions of southeastern San Diego.

RELATED: Incumbent Myrtle Cole Finishes Second In Tight San Diego Council Race

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