Listen to children who’ve just been separated from their parents at the border

Este articulo pronto estará disponible en español. The desperate sobbing of 10 Central American children, separated from their parents one day last week by immigration authorities at the border, makes for excruciating listening. Many of them sound like they’re crying so hard, they can barely breathe. They scream “Mami” and “Papá” over and over again, as if those are the only words they know. The baritone voice of a Border Patrol agent booms above the crying.

Who polices the immigration police?

This story was co-published with the Philadelphia Inquirer. Early one winter morning last year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were scouting the last-known address of a fugitive they had labeled Target #147 when they happened upon Isabel Karina Ruiz-Roque. A turkey farmworker for over a decade, Ruiz-Roque had kept her head down and her record clean, never once encountering los ICEs, as she called them. Then two federal agents rapped on her car window and flashed a photo of the immigration fugitive they believed to be her York County neighbor. Ruiz-Roque, 34, said she did not know the woman, and they told her not to worry, that she was not their target.

Sessions turned to convicted fundraiser for advice on U.S. Attorneys

In November 2016, just after the election, President-elect Donald Trump announced Jeff Sessions as his pick for attorney general. His confirmation was still a couple of months away, but the Republican senator from Alabama went quickly to work helping to shape the Justice Department he would soon inherit. One task was to line up U.S. attorney nominees to potentially replace Obama administration holdovers leading offices across the country. It is a common bit of work for a new administration, and recommendations for posts as federal prosecutors typically come from senators of every state, as well as former Department of Justice officials. In at least one instance, however, Sessions wound up turning to a more unorthodox source for recommendations — Elliott Broidy.

Trump’s Labor Department eviscerates workplace safety panels

Last October, Gregory Junemann received a brief email from an official at the U.S. Department of Labor effectively firing him and 15 others from a volunteer gig helping the government reduce hazards to workers. “Thank you again for your continuing service in providing exceptional guidance on improving the health and safety of our federal workforce,” the email said. Junemann, a labor union president, was a member of the Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health, first established by President Richard Nixon. It is one of five panels created by law to advise the labor secretary on how to improve health, safety and whistleblower protections in nearly every facet of the workforce. But under President Donald Trump, the boards have been mothballed or outright killed.

A partisan combatant, a remorseful blogger: The Senate staffer behind the attack on the Trump-Russia investigation

Jason Foster, chief investigative counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, fits a classic Washington profile: A powerful, mostly unknown force at the center of some of the most consequential battles on Capitol Hill. For the last year, Foster — empowered by his boss, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the committee’s chairman — has been the behind-the-scenes architect of an assault on the FBI, and most centrally its role in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to interviews with current and former congressional aides, federal law enforcement officials and others. With Foster in charge of his oversight work, Grassley has openly speculated about whether former FBI director James Comey leaked classified information as Comey raised alarms about President Donald Trump’s possible interference in the Russia probe. Grassley and the other Republicans on the committee have questioned the impartiality of a former member of Mueller’s team, cast doubt on the credibility of the FBI’s secret court application for permission to surveil a Trump campaign associate and called for a second special counsel to investigate matters related to Hillary Clinton. A firm that conducted opposition research on Trump has made clear in court it believes Grassley’s committee, with Foster as its lead investigator, had leaked sensitive information about its business.

Wilbur Ross overruled career officials at Census Bureau to add citizenship question

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross’ decision Monday to add a controversial question on citizenship to the 2020 census came in the face of opposition from career officials at the Census Bureau who fear it will depress response rates, especially from immigrants. Two people with knowledge of the deliberations said career leaders in the Census Bureau, which is part of the Commerce Department, had scrambled to come up with alternatives to adding the question. Those efforts were unsuccessful. In a memo announcing his decision, Ross said that “The Census Bureau and many stakeholders expressed concern that [a citizenship question] would negatively impact the response rate for non-citizens.”

But Ross added that “neither the Census Bureau nor the concerned stakeholders could document that the response rate would in fact decline materially.”

The Census Bureau recently noted greater fear and reluctance to fill out the survey in the current political climate. In a November presentation, a bureau official cited a recent increase in respondents expressing concerns about confidentiality of data related to immigration.

The FBI — ‘Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity’ — still working on diversity

For the FBI, the longstanding failure to diversify its ranks is nothing short of “a huge operational risk,” according to one senior official, something that compromises the agency’s ability to understand communities at risk, penetrate criminal enterprises, and identify emerging national security threats. Indeed, 10 months before being fired as director of the FBI by President Trump, James Comey called the situation a “crisis.”

“Slowly but steadily over the last decade or more, the percentage of special agents in the FBI who are white has been growing,” Comey said in a speech at Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black school in Daytona Beach, Florida. “I’ve got nothing against white people — especially tall, awkward, male white people — but that is a crisis for reasons that you get, and that I’ve worked very hard to make sure the entire FBI understands.”

It’s a charged moment for the FBI, one in which diversifying the force might not strike everyone as the most pressing issue. Trump has repeatedly questioned the bureau’s competence and integrity. Many Democrats blame Hillary Clinton’s defeat on Comey’s decision to announce that the bureau was reopening its inquiry into her emails days before the election.

The Trump administration’s campaign to weaken civil service ramps up at the VA

Last June, President Donald Trump fulfilled a campaign promise by signing a bipartisan bill to make it easier to fire employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The law, a rare rollback of the federal government’s strict civil-service job protections, was intended as a much-needed fix for an organization widely perceived as broken. “VA accountability is essential to making sure that our veterans are treated with the respect they have so richly earned through their blood, sweat and tears,” Trump said that day. “Those entrusted with the sacred duty of serving our veterans will be held accountable for the care they provide.”

At the time, proponents of the bill repeatedly emphasized that it would hold everyone — especially top officials — accountable: “senior executives,” stressed Senate Veterans Committee chair Johnny Isakson; “medical directors,” specified Trump; anyone who “undermined trust” in the VA, according to Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin. Shulkin advocated for the measure, called the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, by highlighting a case in which the agency had to wait 30 days to fire a worker caught watching porn with a patient.

Injured nuclear workers finally had support. The Trump administration has mothballed it.

Nearly three years ago, President Barack Obama responded to long-standing concerns that workers exposed to toxic chemicals at the country’s nuclear weapons labs were not receiving proper compensation. Obama created an advisory board to be composed of scientists, doctors and worker advocates. Their recommendations have led to significant changes, including the repeal of a rule that made it more difficult for workers who’d been injured in the last two decades to get compensation. President Donald Trump and his administration have taken a different approach: His Labor Department has let nearly all of the board member’s terms expire — and so far hasn’t nominated new ones. “For two years our board put a lot of brain power and cutting-edge expertise into developing recommendations,” said Ken Silver, an occupational health professor at Eastern Tennessee State University, who until last month was a board member.

The Trump appointee behind the move to add a citizenship question to the census

In December, the Department of Justice requested that the Census Bureau add a question to the 2020 survey that would ask respondents to reveal whether or not they are U.S. citizens. Since ProPublica first reported the DOJ’s letter, civil rights groups and congressional Democrats have announced their opposition, arguing that in the midst of President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown, the question will lead many people to opt out of the census, resulting in an inaccurate population count. A lot is at stake. The once-a-decade population count determines how House seats are distributed and helps determine where hundreds of billions of federal dollars are spent. But one question regarding the December letter remained unclear.