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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Cindy Carcamo, Los Angeles Times

NOGALES, Ariz. — Moments after Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson took his first tour of a southern Arizona detention facility housing about 900 migrant children in makeshift cages Wednesday, he had a message for Central American parents who are on the brink of sending their children illegally and alone into the United States.

“This journey is a dangerous one, and at the end of it there is no free pass,” he said. “There are no permisos for children, for your children, who come to the United States. The journey from Central America into south Texas is over a thousand miles long. It is hot. It is treacherous and you are placing your child in the hands of a criminal smuggling organization. It is not safe.”

After walking through the facility with Gov. Jan Brewer (R-Ariz.), Johnson reiterated the warning in an attempt to dispel rumors that are contributing to the unprecedented wave of unaccompanied children who are illegally entering the United States through the Rio Grande Valley.

A surge of border crossers, about half of whom are unaccompanied children, has led to what many see as a humanitarian crisis. Faced with such increasing numbers, immigration officials transported some of them to Arizona for further processing, such as the children who are housed in Nogales.

Brewer on Wednesday renewed her criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of the situation.

“This crisis that America is facing with these children, unaccompanied children, is because we have not sent a strong message to these countries that our borders are closed,” she said. “And we need a federal government to step up and secure the borders.”

Although illegal immigration has decreased overall, there has been a jump in the number of children from Central America making the illegal trek without parents or other adult relatives.

Since October, nearly 52,000 unaccompanied children have been caught crossing the border, an increase of more than 90 percent from last year, according to federal officials, who said the number could reach 90,000 this year.

Meanwhile, there is also an influx of single parents from Central America with at least one child.

Although many of these family units and unaccompanied children have said they are escaping crushing poverty and escalating violence fueled by gangs, many have told the Los Angeles Times that they are also coming because of a rumor circulating in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador that there is a new opportunity for a permiso, or pass, that will allow them to stay indefinitely.

“When your child comes here, they are given a notice to appear in a deportation proceeding,” Johnson said in his message to parents.

Johnson again declined to say how many children are actually appearing in immigration court. He also said he couldn’t provide information on the number of single parents with at least one child who have been released and given notices to appear at an immigration office, or whether they were reporting as directed.

Unaccompanied children, though, are often reunited with family members already in the United States while they wait to make their case to stay before an immigration judge. A ruling could take months and even a year.

For now, officials are focusing on processing and housing these children. Plans are underway to house families with children at a federal law enforcement training facility in Artesia, N.M.

In Nogales, about 140 children daily are brought to the facility and about the same number are transferred to the care of the Department of Health and Human Services, which looks to place a child with a parent or family member in the United States, Brewer said. Some of the youths in the facility are pregnant, she said.

“I can tell you that as a mother it breaks your heart to know that they are in the situation that they are in,” Brewer said. “But more than that it breaks your heart that the parents themselves would put their children in harm’s way in the manner of which they have arrived here in.”

AFP Photo/Alex Wong

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White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was forced to defend President Donald Trump's recent attacks on MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday, an unenviable task she nevertheless intentionally signed up for. She desperately tried to divert the attention back to Scarborough — without engaging in the president's conspiracy theorizing — but offered no credible defense of the president's conduct.

Trump has been spreading the debunked theory that Scarborough killed a staffer in 2001 while he was in Congress, even though it was determined she died of natural causes. The staffer's widower wrote a released a letter on Tuesday pleading with Twitter to take down the president's offensive tweets promoting the thoery. He said he was "angry," "frustrated," and "grieved" by the president's promotion of the harmful allegations. Trump is perverting his late wife's memory, he said, and he fears her niece and nephews will encounter these attacks.When asked about the letter, McEnany said she wasn't sure if the president had seen it. But she said their "hearts" are with the woman's family "at this time." It was a deeply ironic comment because the only particularly traumatizing thing about "this time" for the family is the president's attacks, which come nearly two decades after the woman's death.

McEnany refused to offer any explanation of Trump's comments and instead redirected reporters to a clip of Scarborough on Don Imus's radio show in 2003. In that show, Imus made a tasteless joke obliquely referring to the death, and Scarborough laughed at it briefly.

"Why is the president making these unfounded allegations?" asked ABC News' Jonathan Karl. "I mean, this is pretty nuts, isn't it? The president is accusing someone of possible murder. The family is pleading with the president to please stop unfounded conspiracy theories. Why is he doing it?""The president said this morning, this is not an original Trump thought. And it is not," she said, bringing up the Imus clip. But she made no mention of why the president is bringing up the issue 17 years later and with a much larger platform.

When pressed further on the president's conduct, she again diverted blame to Scarborough, saying his morning show unfairly criticizes the president. But again, she offered no substantive defense of Trump.

After McEnany had moved on, PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor brought it up again: "Why won't the president give this widower peace and stop tweeting about the conspiracy theory involving his wife?"

McEnany said she had already answered the question, which she hadn't, and said the onus is on Scarborough to explain the Imus clip."The widower is talking specifically about the president!" Alcindor shot back. But McEnany called on Chanel Rion, with the aggressively pro-Trump outlet OAN, who changed the subject to conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia investigation.

"Are you not going to answer that?" Alcindor called out, still trying to get a substantive response to her question, but Rion spoke over her.

At the end of the briefing, another reporter asked whether Trump was looking for any actual law enforcement steps be taken in response to his conspiracy theory. But McEnany had nothing to add, and simply told people to listen to the Imus clip again. As she hurried out of the briefing room, a reporter asked if Trump would stop promoting the theory — but she left without answering.

Watch the exchange about Klausutis, which begins at 48:45.