The Washington Post - 22.08.2019

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A2 EZ RE THE WASHINGTON POST.THURSDAY, AUGUST 22 , 2019


Enforcement has three “family
residential centers,” two in Texas
and one in Pennsylvania, though
one houses only adults at present.
The facilities have a combined
capacity of about 3,000 beds, but
as of this week, fewer than 900
family members were in custody.
While Trump administration
officials say they do not plan im-
mediately to expand family de-
tention, they have explored the
possibility. Officials directed the
Pentagon last year to identify
sites with space for up to 12,
beds for families.
Trump and his officials target-
ed the Flores agreement after
their widely condemned “zero tol-
erance” policy last year failed to
deter border crossings. The policy
separated more than 2,700 chil-
dren from their parents to pros-
ecute the adults in criminal
courts for crossing the border
illegally. The children were sent
to federally approved shelters.
In an order on June 20, 2018,
Trump ended the separations and
directed the attorney general to
ask Gee to let the government
detain families together
“throughout the pendency of
criminal proceedings for improp-
er entry or any removal or other
immigration proceedings.”
Gee declined, calling the move
“a cynical attempt, on an ex parte
basis, to shift responsibility to the
judiciary for over 20 years of
congressional inaction and ill-
considered executive action that
have led to the current stalemate.”
Officials rolled out the pro-
posed replacement of the Flores
rule in September and have noted
that ICE family residential cen-
ters are more comprehensive
than the austere Border Patrol
holding facilities that have been
seen in news reports and criti-
cized by Democratic lawmakers.
ICE family facilities have beds,
classrooms for children, access to
lawyers, health care, sports and
cafeterias.
Advocates say, however, that
detaining children increases
their risk of trauma or illness.
Several children have died after
being taken into federal custody
in the past year, and one of them
died after being released from an
ICE facility.
“These children are impris-
oned,” said Amy Cohen, a long-
time child psychiatrist and an
expert witness for the Flores
counsel. “You can bring a televi-
sion and toys into prison, but it’s
still going to feel like a prison.”
maria.sacchetti@washpost.com

Acting DHS secretary Kevin
McAleenan said Wednesday that
Gee’s ruling “upended” the
Obama administration’s efforts to
curb mass migration. Family ap-
prehensions sank from 68,000 in
2014 to nearly 40,000 in 2015 but
soared to record highs after her
ruling.
More than 432,000 members of
family units have been taken into
custody from October through
July, a 456 percent increase over
the same period the year before,
according to U.S. Customs and
Border Protection.
Ending the Flores agreement
would “eliminate the major factor
fueling the crisis,” McAleenan
said.
DHS officials said their goal is
to resolve family cases within 60
days, triple the time children can
be held now.
Officials said the new rule also
addresses Gee’s concerns about
licensed facilities by allowing the
federal government to create its
own licensing regime, complete
with third-party inspections and
audits that will be made public.
DHS officials said at a briefing
Tuesday that detaining and de-
porting even a small fraction of
the families, perhaps 5 to 10 per-
cent of those apprehended, could
send a powerful message to smug-
glers and would-be migrants in
Central America.
U.S. Immigration and Customs

old lawsuit over conditions for
underage migrants, and it
evolved as immigration policies
changed. The agreement compels
the U.S. government to transfer
minors from border jails into

state-licensed facilities as expedi-
tiously as possible.
The agreement does not speci-
fy a time period, but after the
Obama administration expanded
family detention, Gee, whose ju-
dicial district is in California,
ruled in 2015 that officials could
not hold children in unlicensed
facilities for more than 20 days,
the time the government said it
needed to process their cases.

logged immigration courts, and
they are rarely deported.
Advocates for immigrants
counter that families are fleeing
violence, hunger and poverty in
Central America and should be
released on bond or under orders
of supervision until their cases
are heard in the immigration
courts.
Faith leaders, advocates for im-
migrants, teachers and lawyers
slammed the Trump administra-
tion’s plan Wednesday. The Wom-
en’s Refugee Commission said the
Trump administration “is inten-
tionally harming children,” and
the American Civil Liberties
Union called the proposal “yet
another cruel attack on children.”
The congressional Hispanic
Caucus and Democrats leading
the House committees on the ju-
diciary and homeland security
swiftly called on the court to block
the rule.
“The Trump Administration
has managed to find a new low in
its continued despicable treat-
ment of migrant children and
families,” Homeland Security
Committee Chairman Bennie
Thompson (D-Miss.) said in a
statement, adding that the
change “will allow the Adminis-
tration to dramatically expand
family detention and indefinitely
lock up children.”
The Flores Settlement Agree-
ment stemmed from a decades-

families much longer. Officials
said they hoped the threat of
detention would send a powerful
message to smugglers that bring-
ing children to the U.S. border
would no longer guarantee a fam-
ily’s release into the country.
President Trump said Wednes-
day that ending the Flores settle-
ment, together with increased en-
forcement in Mexico and con-
struction of a border wall, “all
comes together like a beautiful
puzzle.”
“One of the things that is hap-
pening, when they see you can’t
get into the United States — or
when they see if they do get into
the United States they will be
brought back to their country —
they won’t come,” Trump said in
remarks to reporters Wednesday.
“And many people will be saved.”
Although the rule is to take
effect 60 days after it is issued,
officials said the process could
take much longer because U.S.
District Judge Dolly M. Gee, who
oversees the settlement, must re-
view it. Lawyers for migrant chil-
dren said they would oppose the
rule change.
Carlos Holguín, one of the lead
lawyers in the Flores lawsuit, said
in a telephone interview that the
regulations must match the spirit
of the settlement and that holding
children indefinitely in unli-
censed facilities would not.
“The court will decide whether
they’re consistent or not,” he said,
but added, “We don’t have to be a
rocket scientist to figure out that
this administration wants to get
rid of the Flores settlement pre-
cisely because the Flores settle-
ment doesn’t allow it to do what it
wants to do, which is to detain
parents and children.”
Exercising greater control over
family detention would be a coup
for the White House, which has
said the Flores agreement is
among the most significant
“loopholes” spurring mass migra-
tion. Trump, who called the Flores
settlement a “disaster” during an
April trip to the border in Califor-
nia, has pushed Congress and his
own staff to eliminate it.
The White House maintains
that smugglers are driving the
record influx of Central American
families by selling parents dis-
counted trips to the U.S. border
with Mexico and telling them to
bring their children because the
20-day limit means they are likely
to be released. Most are released
to await hearings in the back-

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HAPPENING TODAY

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All day | The Federal
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hosts an economic symposium
through Aug. 24 in Wyoming. For
developments, visit
washingtonpost.com/business.


8:30 a.m. | The Labor
Department issues jobless claims
for the week ended Aug. 17, which
are estimated at 215,000, down
from 220,000 the previous week.
Visit washingtonpost.com/
business for details.


CORRECTIONS

 Adrian Higgins’s gardening
column in today’s Local Living
section, which was printed in
advance, misstates the year that
the Endless Summer collection of
re-blooming hydrangeas was
introduced. It was 2004, not 2011.


 An Aug. 21 A-section article
about Parkland, Fla., youth
unveiling a sweeping gun-control
agenda misidentified Charlie
Mirsky, the political director of
March for Our Lives, as a survivor
of the 2018 shooting at Marjory
Stoneman Douglas High School.
He was not a student there.


 An Aug. 17 Sports Digest item
about pitchers for Loudoun South
American Little League throwing
a no-hitter the day before at the
Little League World Series
incorrectly said that it was the
52nd no-hitter in series history. It
was the 53rd. The story also said
it was the first in the series in two
years. Pitchers for the Curaçao
team threw a no-hitter Aug. 15.


KLMNO


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BY TOM JACKMAN

Larry Swearingen, who
claimed to his dying breath that
he did not commit the murder of
19-year-old Melissa Trotter in
1998, was executed by lethal in-
jection Wednesday night at the
state prison in Huntsville, Tex.
Swearingen, 48, was arrested
three days after Trotter disap-
peared from her community col-
lege north of Houston in Decem-
ber 1998, and three weeks before
her body was found in January


  1. His lawyers argued for
    nearly two decades that scientific
    evidence in the case — DNA


under her fingernails that wasn’t
Swearingen’s, pantyhose around
her neck that may not have
matched hose found in Swearin-
gen’s home and findings by ex-
perts that she had been dead no
longer than two weeks — exoner-
ated him.
But prosecutors from the
Montgomery County district at-
torney’s office argued that the
science was on their side and that
circumstantial evidence such as
Swearingen’s actions with Trotter
before her death, his lies to police
after her disappearance and his
previous violent acts toward
women pointed to him as the sole
killer.
“I’ve never been more confi-
dent of the guilt of Larry Swear-
ingen than I am today,” Kelly
Blackburn, the assistant district
attorney who has handled Swear-
ingen’s case since 2010, said sev-
eral hours before the execution.

“An innocent man is not being
executed tonight. The man who
abducted, raped and strangled
Melissa Trotter is being execut-
ed.”
Swearingen released a state-
ment to The Washington Post on
Wednesday before his death that
said, “Today the state of Texas
murdered an innocent man.”
He accused the Texas justice
system of treating him unfairly,
and said, “I feel certain that my
death can be a catalyst to change
the insane legal system of Texas
which could allow this to hap-
pen.”
Swearingen then called The
Post shortly before 6 p.m. Eastern
time to say, “I’m scared, and that’s
what it comes down to.”
While waiting for his final
appeal, he said, “I need four votes
from the Supreme Court to stop
this,” meaning the number of
justices needed to hear the case.

Those votes did not come, and
the high court denied his habeas
corpus petition without com-
ment shortly before 7 p.m. East-
ern time.
A state prison spokesman said
he was put to death by lethal
injection at 7:47 p.m. Eastern
time, and his final words were:
“Lord forgive them. They don’t
know what they are doing.”
Trotter’s mother, Sandy Trot-
ter, told the Houston Chronicle
that she never wavered in her
belief that Swearingen killed her
daughter. “The overwhelming ev-
idence is not just a coincidence,”
she said. “There was a trial; he
was found guilty, and they agreed
on a sentence.”
Trotter, a student at Montgom-
ery College, now called Lone Star
College, told friends that she and
Swearingen were dating, which
Swearingen said explained why
her hair was found in his truck.

Swearingen was then a married
27-year-old electrician. After
Trotter left a study session about
1:15 p.m. on Dec. 8, 1998, she met
up with Swearingen in the stu-
dent center. Swearingen claimed
he then left the center without
Trotter. Other students said they
saw Trotter eating alone, or with
a different man than Swearingen,
who was wearing a bright orange
jacket. But after 2 p.m. that day,
Trotter was not seen alive again.
Police searched Swearingen’s
trailer twice, where he lived with
his wife and children, after Trot-
ter’s disappearance.
But when her body was found
in Sam Houston National Forest
with a leg of pantyhose wrapped
around her neck, on Jan. 2, 1999,
a third search uncovered what
prosecutors said was the “smok-
ing gun”: another half of panty-
hose that they said was a match.
tom.jackman@washpost.com

Texas executes man convicted of college student’s slaying in ’


Longer child detentions meant to deter migrants


CAROLYN VAN HOUTEN/THE WASHINGTON POST
Under a new Trump administration rule, migrant children such as this one at a Border Patrol center in
McAllen, Tex., could be held beyond the current 20-day limit. A federal judge must review the rule.

“This administration


wants to get rid of the


Flores settlement


precisely because the


Flores settlement


doesn’t allow it to do


what it wants to do.”
Carlos Holguín,
one of the lead lawyers
in the original lawsuit that resulted
in the Flores consent decree

Swearingen’s lawyers,
prosecutors had argued
over the science in case

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