TIME Crime

A Mix of Hope and Anger at Peaceful Ferguson Vigil

Protesters light candles as they take part in a peaceful demonstration, as communities react to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 14, 2014.
Protesters light candles, as communities react to the shooting of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 14, 2014 Lucas Jackson—Reuters

Police and a diverse group of citizens held a peaceful vigil and moment of silence for Michael Brown

At 6:20 p.m. Thursday, the crowd bowed their heads and the chants went silent. They were hundreds strong, black and white and Asian, some tattooed, some clean-cut, wearing business casual and Cardinals gear and homemade red armbands in honor of the dead. Standing under the Gateway Arch, an iconic symbol of America’s promise, they raised their hands to the sky in tribute to Michael Brown, the young black teenager whose fatal shooting Saturday in a St. Louis suburb has opened deep wounds and turned a placid suburb into a war zone.

But this scene, one of dozens of vigils organized around the U.S. on Thursday to protest police brutality, looked nothing like the apocalyptic images filtering out of Ferguson, Mo., just a short drive away. There were no clouds of tear gas and no clashes between citizens and cops, who carried no heavy weapons and stood quietly at the fringes of the crowd. The racial unrest that has exploded nearby was nowhere in evidence, as a diverse crowd — about half of them black, half of them white — gathered to pay tribute to Brown. And in Ferguson too tensions were beginning to cool following pleas for calm from President Barack Obama and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon — and in the wake of Nixon’s decision to pull the oft-criticized St. Louis County police force out of the town in favor of state troopers.

Organizers dubbed it the national moment of silence. And once the minute was over, the emotion spilled out. In speeches and interviews, residents of St. Louis and its neighboring suburbs described a poisonous relationship between police and the African-American community that boiled over after Brown’s shooting but had been bubbling for many years.

Locals said the situation was particularly bad in the northern suburbs of St. Louis County, where towns like Ferguson have seen white flight turn mixed communities into mostly African-American enclaves policed by mostly white officers.

“Racial profiling — it happens so much,” said Delancy Davis, 27, speaking quietly under a black St. Louis hat. “It’s really prevalent in the counties, more so than in the city. Young black kids don’t like going out to the county because you’re going to get stopped.”

“We go through this a lot in the suburbs,” said Kim Stauther, 38, of St. Louis. “You get pulled over, just for driving while black. The cops really don’t respect us.”

It remains to be seen if the peaceful scenes in Ferguson and St. Louis on Thursday night were a sign that the tumult may be subsiding. Through their anger, the protesters expressed hope that the police had changed their tune. Some members of the crowd had been spending long hours this week protesting in Ferguson, and said the evening’s atmosphere was proof that the riots were driven by a heavily militarized police force.

“There are more people here” than in any of the violent protests in Ferguson, said Devin Booker, a 28-year-old personal trainer from Ferguson, who recalled running from tear gas and being menaced by police dogs this week. “This is peaceful because the police don’t have army gear; they don’t look like they’re running black ops.”

Nearby, Brown’s mother Lesley McSpadden stood before a bank of cameras, wearing mirrored sunglasses, a black T-shirt with an image of her son and red sandals. Her daughter Deja, Michael’s sister, leaned on her shoulder as a cousin, Eric Davis, described the family’s anger at the Ferguson police, who he said called today for the first time. (The family also received a call today from Attorney General Eric Holder, Davis said, who passed on well-wishes from Obama.)

“We’re in the dark,” said Davis, who described Brown as a quiet, soft-spoken boy. “That’s a hard thing to do when you’ve lost a child.”

As the light began to fade, the crowd toted signs, clasped shoulders and chanted the week’s chilling rallying cry: “Hands up, don’t shoot.” They congratulated each other on the peaceful protest and promised more to come. Many in the crowd expressed regret for the riots, but said that though the clashes had tainted a pure cause, drawing the nation’s attention had positive benefits nonetheless.

“This is the beginning of a big change,” said Moses Grimes, a 29-year-old counselor for troubled youth. “This will be a movement, and I think it will have an effect.”

TIME energy

Amid Federal Safety Push, North Dakota Considers New Energy Regulations

Rail Delays
An oil-tank train with crude oil from the Bakken shale fields of North Dakota travels near Staples, Minn., on April 15, 2014 Mike Cronin—AP

Can a state at the center of the oil boom regulate the industry that propelled it to prosperity?

After multiple derailments of tank cars carrying crude oil, the federal government is weighing new rules to bolster the safety of trains transporting flammable material. But the safety push could run into trouble in North Dakota, the state at the heart of the oil boom and the source of much of the crude sliding along the nation’s rails.

As the shale-oil boom accelerated in recent years, a series of derailments have raised questions about the safety of oil trains. In July 2013, a 74-car train carrying crude oil crashed in a small Quebec town, killing 47. Four months later, broken tracks led to a derailment in Alabama; a month after that, 20 cars of crude exploded after a collision outside Casselton, N.D., forcing residents to evacuate. In April, 17 tanks derailed near downtown Lynchburg, Va., sending a plume of fire spitting into the air outside a children’s museum.

Late last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation released a series of proposals to safeguard oil cars traveling from the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota to refineries around the country, often more than a thousand miles away. Among the proposals were phasing out tank cars that have proven vulnerable to explosions, imposing speed restrictions, and requiring trains to notify local first responders as they pass through states.

“Safety is our top priority,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx of the department’s proposal, which he called the “most significant progress yet in developing and enforcing new rules to ensure that all flammable liquids, including Bakken crude and ethanol, are transported safely.”

But in North Dakota, such liquid has been the lifeblood of a surging economy. Since the advent of new technology that helped companies tap the Bakken formation, North Dakota has enjoyed a massive energy boom. The unemployment rate has dropped to 2.7%, the lowest in the nation. Incomes are rising. And a sparsely populated state sprawled across the harsh northern prairie is suddenly adding well-paying jobs faster than it can fill them. As the U.S. economy slumped into recession and struggled to fight through a sluggish recovery, North Dakota was a rare bright spot on a bleak economic horizon.

Which may be why Foxx’s comments didn’t go down so well in the state. Last week, when he and U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz attended an energy policy summit in the state capital of Bismarck, Governor Jack Dalrymple jumped on the perceived criticism, asking why Bakken crude has been singled out in federal studies.

“The risk level is higher than we’ve seen in other parts of the country,” Foxx said, according to local reports. “We’ve got to raise our game on safety.”

But it is a matter of dispute whether shale oil from the Bakken is more volatile than traditional oil, and thus prone to explosion. As Washington considers new regulations, the state is undertaking its own study of whether and how companies should treat oil at the wellheads before transporting it.

In the coming weeks, the North Dakota Industrial Commission will hold public hearings to solicit input about the possibility of new requirements, says Alison Ritter, a spokeswoman for the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources. The session will be just the second public hearings on energy in the past three years.

It is unclear whether the state is prepared to effectively regulate the very industry that propelled it to prosperity.

The Industrial Commission is composed of three of the state’s top elected officials: Governor Jack Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring. All are Republicans.

Dalrymple has been a friend of oil and gas concerns. His 2012 election victory was aided by $287,965 from the oil and gas industry, a total that surpasses than any other industry, according to data compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics. The governor’s office did not directly return multiple requests for comment.

Lynn Helms, the state’s top oil and gas regulator, has industry ties of his own. The director of the Department of Mineral Resources, Helms spent years working for energy firms before taking a job with the Industrial Commission in 1998. This is not uncommon, but critics say it raises questions of whether the regulator should also hold responsibility for promoting oil production.

“How can you regulate an industry, and make sure they’re following all the rules and safeguards on Mondays,” says Kenton Onstad, a Democratic representative in the North Dakota legislature, “and then on Tuesday go out and promote it? It should be either one or the other.”

New requirements for treating crude at the well sites could be costly for the energy businesses that operate in the Bakken. Industry groups say the formation’s crude has no unique dangers and should not be subject to special regulations. The North Dakota Petroleum Council, an industry group, paid engineering and chemical analysis firms about $400,000 to produce a report on the characteristics of Bakken crude. The study determined it did not pose any greater risk for rail transport than other types of crude or transportation fuels. “All of this data does not support the speculation that Bakken crude is more volatile or flammable,” said NDPC vice president Kari Cutting.

Ritter said the Industrial Commission would be expected to issue a decision within 30 days of the public hearing. “The goal,” she says, “is to make crude as safe as possible for transport.”

TIME Immigration

Influx of Child Immigrants Strains Courts in Louisiana

Michael's Journey - Immigration in New Orleans
Attendees listen to speakers at the weekly meeting of "Congreso," or the Congress of Day Laborers. This is one branch of the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice, New Orleans, Aug. 6, 2014. William Widmer for TIME

The wave of unaccompanied children streaming across the U.S. border has compounded a court crisis, as advocates warn backlogs and a shortage of lawyers will lead to injustice

For the 1,071 unaccompanied minors who have crossed the southwest border this year and ended up in Louisiana, the path to a future in the U.S. runs through a courtroom on the 24th floor of an office tower in the heart of New Orleans.

Here, past the heavy doors and security guards, a rotating detail of judges determines the fate of the immigrant children streaming across the border and into the state. As they arrive in record numbers, the New Orleans Immigration Court is buckling under the strain.

During the first six months of 2014, the court has taken on 450 juvenile immigration cases, according to government records obtained by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). That number puts the court on pace to shatter last year’s total of 540 cases. Three years ago, it had 71.

New Orleans’ struggle is part of a pattern. Nationwide, immigration courts have become choke points in the border crisis. Overburdened and underfunded, they are sagging under the weight of the new arrivals, with enormous case backlogs and a lack of attorneys able to perform work that must often be pro bono, or without charge.

At the end of June, the number of cases pending in U.S. immigration courts had climbed to a record high of 375,503, according to data amassed by TRAC. The largest backlogs are in states with the biggest immigrant populations, such as California and Texas, which have also received the greatest number of unaccompanied minors.

But as stressed as those states are, legal activists say the situation is worse in places where the number of immigrants may not be quite as high, but where there’s a shortage of lawyers able to represent a spiking population.

New Orleans is a prime example. The large number of Honduran immigrants resident here has made the Crescent City a magnet for kids fleeing the skyrocketing violence in the troubled Central American country. Over the past year, few cities have absorbed more unaccompanied kids than New Orleans. Yet the entire state of Louisiana has only about a half-dozen nonprofit immigration lawyers devoted to serving them, says Jennifer Rizzo, national pro bono promotion counsel for Human Rights First.

As a result, children are regularly summoned to complex legal proceedings that will shape their future without any legal representation. At the end of June, New Orleans Immigration Court had a total of 1,216 pending juvenile immigration cases. In 991 of them—81%—the child has no lawyer. Overall, 87% of immigrants detained in the state lack an attorney, according to a study by Human Rights First.

“Things have reached a crisis point,” Rizzo says.

Legal representation may be the single largest factor in determining whether an undocumented immigrant wins the right to remain in the U.S. According to TRAC’s analysis of 100,000 case records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), immigrant children represented by an attorney are deported by presiding judges about half the time. In cases when juveniles went without an attorney, the success rate for sidestepping deportation was just one in 10.

“There’s a likelihood that these kids don’t know how to obtain legal representation, because nobody speaks English,” says Hiroko Kusuda, whose law clinic at Loyola University in New Orleans is one of just three listed service providers in the state. “If they don’t have legal representation, the chances of them getting relief from deportation is close to zilch.”

Kathryn Mattingly, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), said in an email that EOIR provides interpreter services for immigrant children for whom English is a challenge. But she acknowledged that some go without a lawyer. “Children are not guaranteed representation in immigration court proceedings, but all respondents have a right to representation at no expense to the government,” Mattingly said, adding that various government initiatives are designed to promote pro bono work.

The small community of immigration lawyers in the New Orleans area wants to help. Along with national advocates, they are scrambling to enlist new recruits. Kathleen Gasparian, an immigration lawyer in Metairie, La., started a program called PB&J: Pro Bono and Juveniles, which recruits pro bono attorneys and matches them with immigrant kids who have recently crossed the southern border and cannot afford legal services. Rizzo recently organized a conference to tackle Louisiana’s crisis in immigration representation, and convenes a monthly working group of local stakeholders. “The immigration court system is broken,” Gasparian says.

The issues were multiplying even before children started arriving. Louisiana has just two immigration courts, and the second, in the small city of Oakdale, more than three hours northwest of New Orleans, handles only detention cases. The backlog of pending cases statewide has soared to 6,703, up from just 732 a decade ago. “Now, you don’t even get your first hearing for a year,” says Ken Mayeaux, a professor at Louisiana State University Law Center in Baton Rouge who runs an immigration clinic for students. The average wait time for pending cases in the EOIR has climbed to 587 days.

Compounding that lengthening backlog, the New Orleans court is without a single devoted judge. Instead, a rotating trio of judges handle the docket, usually commuting from the Oakdale facility. Sometimes cases are decided over video conference.

The lack of a permanent judge is a symptom of a national problem, created by a hiring freeze imposed in 2011 by Attorney General Eric Holder as DOJ sought to cut costs in the teeth of the recession. The hiring freeze was lifted in February, but Mattingly declined to say when a new full-time judge will start at New Orleans immigration court.

On a steamy Thursday morning this month, TIME visited the court, on Canal Street downtown, in an attempt to observe proceedings. There were about six cases on the docket for the day, according to a printed list in the entryway, but two security guards barred this correspondent from entering, citing instructions from the presiding judge.

“In certain cases, including hearings involving credible fear reviews, the hearing is closed to the public unless the alien states for the record that he or she waves that requirement,” Mattingly later wrote in an email. On that day, she added, “there were no open cases.”

TIME 2014 Election

3 Reasons Justin Amash Will Likely Hold His Seat Tuesday Night

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., at the Capitol on July 24, 2013.
Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., at the Capitol on July 24, 2013. J. Scott Applewhite—AP

GOP leaders were desperate to defeat Justin Amash, but they may have to try again in two years

The script may seem stale by now. Like so many elections this year, Tuesday’s GOP primary in Michigan’s Third District features an incumbent with a bullseye painted on his back and a seething pack of enemies who say he’s all that’s wrong with the Republican Party. Once again, after all the policy jawing and political hype, the insurgent looks set to fall short.

But while the storyline feels familiar, the race flips the script in an important way. The challenger is a well-funded businessman boosted by the local Chamber of Commerce. And the incumbent, Rep. Justin Amash, is a two-term libertarian loathed by the Republican consultant class.

Amash appears to be coasting toward victory, according to a series of polls that have shown him with consistent double-digit leads. That’s no small feat for a member who was managed to make himself one of the rare incumbents targeted for defeat by his own party. But despite all the teeth-gnashing about Amash, the Michigan Republican has never appeared in any real danger. And on Tuesday, a combination of factors appear ready to him to lift him to victory over challenger Brian Ellis. Here are three reasons why Amash looks set to win:

1. Iconoclasm is in.

Since arriving in Washington in the wake of the 2010 Tea Party wave, Amash has distinguished himself as an independent thinker who’s willing to buck party leaders. A civil libertarian, he’s often a lonely dissident on key Republican votes and sometimes joins with Democrats on issues like National Security Agency oversight. He bucked House GOP leaders so many times they finally booted him off the House Budget committee. But when you’re running for re-election in an unpopular Congress, the back bench can be a prime spot. Amash says he follows the Constitution, not the needs of the his caucus, and posts explanations of every vote he casts on Facebook. A libertarian strain is percolating in the GOP grassroots, and thanks to the constituent-friendly approach and independent streak, many voters see Amash as a rare authentic voice.

2. A money gap never materialized.

Earlier in the election cycle, it seemed Amash might be drowned by a tide of outside money. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce had him in its crosshairs. Karl Rove, the majordomo of American Crossroads, called him the “most liberal” Republican. And Ellis, his opponent, is a wealthy businessman with the support of well-endowed GOP organizations like the local chapters of the Chamber and Right to Life. Amash has been outspent, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, and Ellis has ponied up more than $1 million on his own behalf. But the outside onslaught never materialized. GOP bigwigs steered clear of the race, deterred by yawning gaps in the polls. The U.S. Chamber mostly held its fire, only endorsing Ellis late. And Amash mustered plenty of cash of his own, crushing Ellis among small donors and receiving critical air cover from groups like the Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity.

3. It’s really hard to beat an incumbent.

It’s been the story of this primary cycle: the ballyhooed challenge coming up short. Part of it has been the succession of candidates with significant shortcomings. But incumbents have an inherent advantage that is difficult for even the shrewdest insurgent to overcome. In 2012, 90% of House incumbents won re-election. In 2010—a wave year—the figure slipped to 85%; two years before that, it was 94%. It takes a special alignment of factors for an incumbent to fall. The Washington echo chamber may have made Amash sound vulnerable. But history suggests he was something of a sure thing from the start.

TIME Immigration

This Baptist Charity Is Being Paid Hundreds of Millions to Shelter Child Migrants

Contractors have taken on the huge task of sheltering thousands of unaccompanied child migrants

In the late afternoon of July 9, Air Force One touched down at Love Field in Dallas. President Barack Obama ducked into a private room at the airport for a discussion about the crisis of undocumented children crossing the southwest border. Assembled around a wooden table were top Texas officials, including Governor Rick Perry and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, as well as the leaders of several faith-based charities. One of them was a man so anonymous, the White House pool report misspelled his name.

Kevin Dinnin is the CEO of a faith-based, nonprofit organization called BCFS, formerly known as Baptist Child and Family Services. This obscure charity has emerged as one of the biggest players in the federal government’s response to the influx of more than 57,000 unaccompanied children who have trudged across the southern border so far this year. It runs two of the largest facilities for temporarily housing immigrant children, as well as six permanent shelters in California and Texas. Since December, BCFS has received more than $280 million in federal grants to operate these shelters, according to government records. On July 7, two days before Dinnin met Obama in Dallas, the Department of Health and Human Services awarded BCFS $190,707,505 in a single grant.

BCFS is just one part of a sprawling system of shelters for unaccompanied children across the country. As the numbers of children entering the country balloon, so do the dollars required to care for them. To shield vulnerable kids from angry opponents of immigration and the media spotlight, the government declines to disclose the locations and activities of many of the facilities operated by BCFS and similar organizations. That protectiveness comes at a political cost. Governors in states across the U.S. have assailed the federal government for sending kids to their states without notifying local officials, and congressional critics say that massive amounts of taxpayer money are being spent without proper oversight.

A dormitory at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio where unaccompanied migrant girls are being housed. Health and Human Services Administrations—The New York Times/Redux

Senator Charles Grassley, the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell on July 17, requesting information about BCFS contracts to ensure that taxpayer money wasn’t being misused. “Despite being almost completely dependent on the public, BCFS has faced heavy criticism for attempting to avoid public scrutiny,” the Iowa Republican wrote. “This aversion to basic transparency is extremely disturbing.”

BCFS began in 1944 as a home for orphaned children. In recent years, a sleepy San Antonio–based charity grew into a global nonprofit with regional offices around the U.S., as well as in Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa. On contract for the federal government, it has provided temporary shelter and emergency services in the wake of natural disasters ranging from Texas hurricanes to Haitian earthquakes. When the state needed to relocate the members of a Texas polygamous sect in 2008, it turned to BCFS, which provided emergency housing. The current crisis is the largest and longest response BCFS has ever faced. It has deployed some 1,400 personnel to manage the temporary shelters this year.

For BCFS executives, the work can be lucrative. According to federal tax records, Dinnin received nearly $450,000 in compensation in 2012. At least four other top officials earned more than $200,000. The median salary for the CEOs of nonprofit organizations like BCFS was about $285,000 in 2011, according to a 2013 survey by Charity Navigator.

The salaries, BCFS spokeswoman Krista Piferrer says, are determined by factors in the group’s contract with HHS. When disaster situations strike, a crisis pay scale replaces a regular one to account for extended 12-hour shifts in two-to-three-week stints. In 2012, an influx of children at the border required an emergency response, according to Piferrer. “It is similar to making an appointment to see a primary-care physician vs. going to the emergency room,” she says. “The emergency room is more expensive.”

The federal grant money for sheltering unaccompanied children, provided by HHS’s Administration for Children and Families, has so far totaled $671 million during the 2014 fiscal year. BCFS has received 40% of those funds, making it the largest recipient of money disbursed to contractors to temporarily house unaccompanied children until they can be reunited with family members or placed in foster care. Dozens of other organizations are involved in the effort, including Southwest Key Programs, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

BCFS is responsible for running two of the three temporary facilities recently set up to house large numbers of undocumented children apprehended by federal agents. One is at the Department of Defense’s Joint Base Lackland, in BCFS’s home city of San Antonio. Lackland is currently housing more than 700 children and has processed more than 3,600 overall since opening in May, says Kenneth Wolfe, an HHS spokesman. Another is Oklahoma’s Fort Sill, which is currently holding about 400 children and has discharged nearly 1,500 to date. Children stay at these facilities for an average of less than 35 days while the government works to find a family member with whom to place them. Because they are temporary shelters, some journalists, faith leaders, members of Congress and foreign dignitaries have been allowed into the facilities at Lackland and Fort Sill. Both facilities are expected to close by the end of August.

These facilities make up just a fraction of the extensive network in place to house child migrants. The Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Unaccompanied Alien Children program (UAC) has been given custody of more than 53,000 children over the past several months. The majority have been cycled through this network of about 100 smaller, permanent facilities, scattered across 14 U.S. states.

Unlike the temporary shelters, the permanent facilities are largely inaccessible to media and the taxpayers that fund them. Their locations are not officially disclosed, and they are “generally unnamed or unmarked,” according to Wolfe. Contractors are prohibited from speaking with the media without permission, BCFS says. As a result, it’s hard to gauge the conditions under which thousands of children are being held, or to assess whether taxpayer money is being well spent.

Wolfe, the HHS spokesman, says the secrecy stems from federal policy designed to protect the children’s privacy and ensure their safety. “We don’t identify the permanent facilities for the security of the children and the staff and the program,” he says. “Like any grant, we have federal staff assigned to oversight.”

A spokesperson for Southwest Key Programs, a Texas nonprofit that has been awarded more than $122 million in federal grants since December to shelter unaccompanied children, making it the second largest recipient after BCFS, said the organization was required to refer press inquiries to HHS. On a recent July afternoon, after multiple emails went unanswered, a TIME reporter drove to a Southwest Key facility in Phoenix. It was a colorful building ringed by tall metal bars and “No Trespassing” signs, situated off a freeway in a part of town where most signs are in Spanish. There was no guard out front to greet visitors, and entry required punching in a code at the locked gate.

The level of secrecy surrounding the facilities is unusual, says Neil Gordon, an investigator for the Washington-based Project on Government Oversight. But observers say it may be warranted. From Arizona to Michigan, clusters of citizens have held armed protests to oppose the relocation of undocumented children to facilities in their communities. “This situation is pretty unique in that they don’t want the mobs to come out and cause problems,” Gordon says. “That might be the reason they’re being so tight-lipped.”

A temporary shelter for unaccompanied minors who have entered the country illegally is seen at Lackland Air Force Base, in San Antonio on June 23, 2014. Eric Gay—AP

A string of scams have also highlighted the importance of shielding the residents’ privacy. Grifters have been preying on the relatives of unaccompanied children, promising to help reunite them with their family members for fees ranging from $300 to $6,000, according to the Associated Press. The FBI is investigating the scams, which have targeted the families of children staying at BCFS facilities like Lackland, the AP reports.

Critics in Congress say the federal government is skirting transparency obligations. On July 1, Oklahoma Representative Jim Bridenstine, a Republican, was denied access to the BCFS facility at Fort Sill. “There is no excuse for denying a federal representative from Oklahoma access to a federal facility in Oklahoma where unaccompanied children are being held,” he said. “What are they trying to hide?” Soon after, the conservative media erupted over reports that BCFS planned to purchase a Texas hotel and turn it into a 600-bed facility for housing unaccompanied minors. (BCFS scuttled the idea, citing a backlash fed by inaccurate reporting.)

The UAC grant applications provide a glimpse of the extensive requirements to which organizations like BCFS must adhere. In addition to meeting all state and federal statutes, shelters must provide two hours per weekday of outdoor activity, offer classroom instruction on subjects like reading and science, supply counseling and personalized medical care, and grant phone calls to family members and access to visitors. The documents dictate that providers “utilize a positive, strength-based behavior-management approach, and shall never subject [residents] to corporal punishment, humiliation, mental abuse or punitive interference with the daily functions of living, such as eating or sleeping.”

Immigrant advocates say unaccompanied children are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. In January, the National Immigrant Justice Center issued a policy brief based on interviews with hundreds of unaccompanied children in the Chicago area. The minors reported grim conditions in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security, before transfer to shelters run by contractors. According to the policy paper, 56% said they had been placed in three-point shackles, which restrain individuals at the wrists, waist and ankles. More than 70% reported being placed in unheated cells during the winter. Some said they were barely fed.

The lack of public or congressional oversight of the facilities sheltering unaccompanied children should not be construed as concealing anything untoward, say groups that have visited them and worked with BCFS. The care at BCFS sites is extensive, Piferrer says, with the chief of the respiratory-disease branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention embedded at the site to track every illness the children faced, from broken ankles to fevers to GI-tract infections. “You don’t find another organization like this,” Gary Ledbetter of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention says of BCFS. “It’s basically a turnkey operation.”

“There’s not one bit of care that those kids were receiving that wasn’t first class,” says Chris Liebrum of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, a Baptist network with which BCFS is affiliated. “The federal government has come to Kevin. When the government says, ‘We need thousands of kids taken care of, can you do it?’ He’s done it.”

TIME 2014 Election

Michelle Nunn’s Leaked Memos Offer Rare Glimpse of Campaign Calculation

Michelle Nunn speaks to her supporters after winning the Democratic primary for Georgia Senate on May 20, 2014. Akili-Casundria Ramsess—AP

The leaked documents offer a rare inside look at campaign strategy

As a Democrat in a Southern state, Senate candidate Michelle Nunn has a tough path to victory. The road became a little bumpier Monday, when a conservative magazine published a series of internal strategy memos outlining the Nunn campaign’s perceptions of the candidate’s weaknesses.

The memos are a guide to practically everything the Nunn campaign worried about last winter—except how to run damage control on the memos themselves.

Obtained by reporter Eliana Johnson of National Review, the documents detail the challenges Nunn must surmount to win election as a moderate Democrat in conservative Georgia. Among the vulnerabilities identified are the perception that Nunn is “too liberal,” that she is “not a real Georgian” and that Republicans will tie her to national Democratic leaders who are deeply unpopular in the Peach State.

The documents warn of weak spots stemming from Nunn’s role as CEO of a nonprofit foundation. They reveal the campaign’s clinic assessment of how it must mobilize traditional liberal constituencies, like African-Americans, Jews and Asians. And they expose the campaign’s plan to sell Nunn with “rural” imagery that might soften up Georgia voters skeptical of a candidate reared partly in the suburbs of Washington, where her father served as a Georgia senator.

According to National Review, the documents were briefly posted online in December.

Beyond the potentially damaging aspects, the memos offer a rare, unvarnished glimpse into the mechanics of running a campaign. They cover everything from scrubbing a voter file to modeling turnout (1.4 million votes is Nunn’s magic number, according to a memo from Democratic strategist Diane Feldman). The documents map the architecture of Nunn’s outreach machine and detail which constituencies to target. Much of the information will reinforce negative impressions of how campaigns work, including suggestions for how to drive a message week-by-week and the ways it can whack Republican opponents.

In short, the memos are a classic example of what is known in Washington as a Kinsley gaffe: when a politician errs by accidentally revealing the truth. (The phenomenon is named after the journalist Michael Kinsley, who coined the phenomenon.) The existence of the memos is not a surprise; any campaign worth its salt undertakes a study of its perceived weaknesses. The Nunn memos are remarkable less for their judgments than for the fact that a hapless adviser apparently posted them on the Internet.

“Like all good plans, they change. But what hasn’t changed and is all the more clear today is that Michelle’s opponents are going to mischaracterize her work and her positions, and part of what we’ve always done is to prepare for the false things that are going to be said,” Nunn campaign manager Jeff DeSantis told The Hill.

From time to time, these leaks happen. In 2007, internal strategy memos from Mitt Romney’s first presidential campaign were obtained by the Boston Globe, including a 77-page PowerPoint presentation dotted with analyses of both Romney’s weaknesses and those of his GOP rivals. Around the same time, Rudy Giuliani’s strategy blueprint materialized online after a leak. The Atlantic nabbed similar documents from Hillary Clinton’s team the following year, revealing her campaign’s concerns about “frontrunner-itis” and its strategy for exploiting Barack Obama’s “lack of American roots.”

Recent polls have shown the Democrat in a tight race with Republican nominee David Perdue, who edged Rep. Jack Kingston in a Republican Senate runoff last week. A Democratic Senate Campaign Committee memo released (intentionally) last week assails the GOP businessman’s “record of putting himself first,” a signal that Nunn’s campaign will borrow a page from the populist playbook President Obama’s advisers deployed against Romney. As they fight to hold control of the Senate, Democrats view the race as a rare pickup opportunity on an unforgiving electoral map.

How much will the leak hurt Nunn’s prospects? It’s tough to say. But when you’re trying to sell a candidate as authentic, a long look at the careful packaging can’t help.

TIME Immigration

Obama Eyes Major Immigration Move

Barack Obama, Joe Biden
President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, speaks about immigration reform on June 30, 2014, in the White House Rose Garden in Washington. Manuel Balce Ceneta—AP

The President may be preparing to provide temporary legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants

When President Obama issues executive orders on immigration in coming weeks, pro-reform activists are expecting something dramatic: temporary relief from deportation and work authorization for perhaps several million undocumented immigrants. If the activists are right, the sweeping move would upend a contentious policy fight and carry broad political consequences.

The activists met privately with the President and his aides June 30 at the White House, and say in that meeting Obama suggested he will act before the November midterm elections. They hope his decision will offer relief to a significant percentage of the estimated 11.7 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. “He seems resolute that he’s going to go big and go soon,” says Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-reform group America’s Voice.

Exactly what Obama plans to do is a closely held secret. But following the meeting with the activists, Obama declared his intention to use his executive authority to reform parts of a broken immigration system that has cleaved families and hobbled the economy. After being informed by Speaker John Boehner that the Republican-controlled House would not vote on a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. immigration law this year, the President announced in a fiery speech that he was preparing “to do what Congress refuses to do, and fix as much of our immigration system as we can.”

Obama has been cautious about preempting Congress. But its failure to act has changed his thinking. The recent meeting “was really the first time we had heard from the administration that they are looking at” expanding a program to provide temporary relief from deportations and work authorization for undocumented immigrants, says Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

The White House won’t comment on how many undocumented immigrants could be affected. “I don’t want to put a number on it,” says a senior White House official, who says Obama’s timeline to act before the mid-term elections remains in place.

Obama has a broad menu of options at his disposal, but there are two major sets of changes he can order. The first is to provide affirmative relief from deportation to one or more groups of people. Under this mechanism, individuals identified as “low-priority” threats can come forward to seek temporary protection from deportation and work authorization. In 2012, the administration created a program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), that allowed eligible young unauthorized immigrants to apply for a two-year reprieve from deportation and a work permit.

The most aggressive option in this category would be expanding deferred action to anyone who could have gained legal status under the bipartisan bill that passed the Senate in June 2013. According to a Congressional Budget Office analysis, the Senate bill would have covered up to 8 million undocumented immigrants. It is unlikely that Obama goes that far. But even more modest steps could provide relief to a population numbering in the seven figures. “You can get to big numbers very quickly,” says Marshall Fitz, director of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank.

One plausible option would be to expand DACA to include some family members of those already eligible. Says a Congressional aide: “While there are several options to provide temporary deportation relief, we expect an expansion of the DACA program to other groups of individuals to be the most clear opportunity.”

It’s hard to pin down how many people this would cover; it would depend on how the administration crafts the order. But the numbers are substantial. According to the CBO, there are an estimated 4.7 million undocumented parents with a minor child living in the U.S., and 3.8 million whose children are citizens. Around 1.5 million undocumented immigrants are married to a U.S. citizen or lawful resident, but have been unable to gain legal status themselves.

Obama could also decide to grant protections for specific employment categories, such as the 1 million or so undocumented immigrants working in the agricultural sector, or to ease the visa restrictions hindering the recruitment of high-skilled foreign workers to Silicon Valley. Either move would please centrist and conservative business lobbies, who have joined with the left to press for comprehensive reform, and might help temper the blowback.

The second bucket of changes Obama is considering are more modest enforcement reforms. Jeh Johnson, Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security, is deep into a review of the administration’s enforcement practices, and it is likely Obama will order some changes to immigration enforcement priorities. But if these tweaks are the extent of the changes, it would be a blow to activists expecting more. “That’s crumbs off the table compared to the meal we’d be expecting,” says Sharry.

Until now, Obama has frustrated immigration-reform activists by insisting he has little latitude to fix a broken system on his own. To a large extent, he’s right. Any relief the President provides would be fleeting; it’s up to Congress to find a permanent solution by rewriting the law. Deferring deportations does not confer a green card. It only offers a temporary fix.

But legal experts say Obama does have the authority to take the kinds of executive action he is thought to be considering. “As a purely legal matter, the President does have wide discretion when it comes to immigration,” says Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration scholar at Cornell University Law School. “Just as DACA was within the purview of the president’s executive authority on immigration, so too would expanding DACA fall within the president’s inherent immigration authority.” According to a recent report by the Center for American Progress, categorical grants of affirmative relief to non-citizens have been made 21 times since 1976, by six different presidents.

Even if Obama is on firm footing from a legal standpoint, he would be wading into political quicksand. Republicans would assail him for extending mass “amnesty” to undocumented immigrants at a moment when the southern border faces an unresolved child-migration crisis. Immigration would become a signal topic in the fall elections, and given that Obama’s handling of the issue has slipped to just 31%, that wouldn’t necessarily favor the President’s party. It would likely damage vulnerable Democratic incumbents in red states, including several whose re-election could determine control of the Senate. And Congress’s incipient failure to reach an agreement on an emergency supplemental bill to address the border crisis muddies the waters even further.

At the same time, Obama will be pilloried by Republicans no matter what he does. Despite the short-term political consequences, in the long run a bold stroke could help cement the Democratic Party’s ties with the vital and fast-growing Hispanic voting bloc. And it would be a legacy for Obama, a cautious chief executive whose presidency has largely been shaped by events outside his control. In the case of immigration, he has the capacity to ease the pain felt by millions with the stroke of a pen.

“There are two ways this could go,” says Fitz of the Center for American Progress. Obama will be remembered as either “the deporter-in-chief, or the great emancipator. Those are the two potential legacies.”

With reporting by Alex Rogers and Zeke J. Miller/Washington

TIME Foreign Policy

Russian Television Under Spotlight After Malaysia Airlines Crash in Ukraine

Russia Putin
Employees of RT prepare for a visit from Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on June 11, 2013. Yuri Kochetkov—AP

The crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 exposes the truth about RT, the Russian English-language propaganda outlet

In late 2009, the British journalist Sara Firth became a Russian propaganda mouthpiece.

The decision seemed to make sense at the time. Firth had just earned a postgraduate diploma in investigative journalism when she was offered a role as on-air-correspondent for RT, a Russian television network that is broadcast for foreign audiences in English, Spanish and Arabic. The gig came with an attractive salary, vibrant colleagues and the chance to report big stories in global hotspots. Firth had ambition, a sense of adventure, and a fascination with Russia. She took the job.

Founded in 2005, RT is billed as a counterweight to the bias of Western media outlets. In reality, the broadcast outlet is an unofficial house organ for President Vladimir Putin’s government. Under the guise of journalistic inquiry, it produces agitprop funded by the Russian state, and beams it around the world to nearly 650 million people in more than 100 countries. RT is Russia’s “propaganda bullhorn,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said recently, “deployed to promote President Putin’s fantasy about what is playing out on the ground.”

Firth was no dupe. She knew the politics of her paymasters. “We are lying every single day at RT,” she explained Monday afternoon in a phone interview from England. “There are a million different ways to lie, and I really learned that at RT.”

Since a Malaysian jetliner crashed in a wheat field in eastern Ukraine last week, RT’s pro-Putin packaging has been exposed in grim detail. In the aftermath of the tragedy, which killed all 298 souls on board, the outlet—like the rest of Russian state media—has seemed as if it were reporting on an entirely different crime. As the international media published reports indicating the plane was shot down by pro-Russian separatists, RT has suggested Ukraine was responsible, cast Moscow as a scapegoat and bemoaned the insensitivity of outlets focusing on the geopolitical consequences of the crime.

For Firth, the coverage was the last straw. She announced her resignation on July 18, as her employer broadcast a flurry of reports that read more like Kremlin press releases. She described a five-year fight to uphold the principles of journalistic integrity in a place where every reporting assignment comes with a “brief” outlining the story’s conclusion. “It’s mass information manipulation,” she says. “They have a very clear idea in their mind of what they’re trying to prove.”

RT is neither the first nor the only outlet that exists to serve the state rather than its citizens. Nearly every major country has a thriving state-sponsored media. (The U.S. funds media organizations like Voice of America and Radio Free Asia that target foreign populations through the Broadcasting Board of Governors.) In Russia, the domestic media have long been lapdogs, and reporters who bite their masters sometimes turn up dead. “The media in Russia are expected to be mouthpieces for power,” says Sarah Oates, a professor of journalism at the University of Maryland who studies the Russian media. “RT follows this model. They’ll mix a little bit of reality with a little bit of smearing, and they’ll steer the viewer into questioning things.”

RT’s motto is “Question More,” which sounds like a worthy credo. In practice, it arranges those questions to light the way to specific answers. The formula is well-honed. RT hires young, telegenic correspondents who speak fluent English and believe, as Firth does, that a flawed media ecosystem benefits when broadcasters challenge the dominant narrative. And it pays them lavishly to report from far-flung battlefields or its gleaming studios. “They want you to be on air looking young, looking sexy, looking fresh. Being a bit quirky,” says Firth. “They’re after impact. They don’t mind too much about the fact checking.”

In the aftermath of the crash last week, the RT machine kicked into overdrive, churning out a steady stream of strange reports. In an effort to implicitly assign blame on the Ukrainians, it noted the proximity of Putin’s own plane. It quoted a Russian defense ministry source asking why a Ukrainian air force jet was detected nearby. And it quoted another anonymous Russian official, who volunteered the juicy claim that a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile was operational in the vicinity at the time of the incident. This is how RT works, explains Firth: by arranging facts to fit a fantasy.

“What they do is a very smart, slick way of manipulating reality,” she says. “In Ukraine, you’re taking a very small part of a much wider story, totally omitted the context of the story, and so what you wind up with on air is outright misinformation.”

Sometimes the end result is anything but slick. In March, a group of alumni and students from the Mohyla School of Journalism in Kiev, along with associated journalists, launched a fact-checking site to chronicle false reporting about the Ukrainian crisis. The site, Stopfake.org, features a long menu of whoppers from Russian media. Among the most egregious, the group’s founder told TIME, is the case of a blond actress who has cropped up in different roles over the course of conflict. The actress, Maria Tsypko, has been interviewed on state TV and identified as separatist camp organizer in Odessa, a political refugee in Sevastopol and an election monitor in Crimea, according to the site. The only thing that never changes is her affection for Mother Russia.

These outlandish flubs are a problem for the Russian propaganda effort, which forks out millions to cloak spin as truth-telling. It’s hard to maintain the illusion when the audience can see the strings and wires behind the scenes. “It’s been a particularly effective means of propaganda, and a very effective voice for the Russian state,” says Oates. “But if you’re going to engage in propaganda, you have to do it well. They have completely embarrassed themselves.”

RT did not respond to an interview request from TIME. According to Firth, you can reliably glean management’s perspective from the opinions they allow their employees to parrot. Many, Firth says, are like herself: committed journalists who thought they could persevere and take advantage of the opportunity to report important stories, the goals of their bosses notwithstanding.

“For five years, you’re kind of fighting against this—and with your colleagues you’re rolling your eyes and making jokes,” she says. “The worst-kept secret is that RT is blatant propaganda. I’m one in a very long line of people who have left for the same reason. Everyone has their breaking point. I wish I had done it sooner. But I didn’t.”

TIME 2016 Election

2016 Conservatives Take the Common Core Test

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 14, 2014.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 14, 2014. Jacquelyn Martin—AP

The state standards are becoming a defining issue for GOP presidential hopefuls

If you’re searching for signs that a Republican politician is serious about a 2016 presidential run, watch what he or she says about Common Core.

Over the past several months, the state education standards developed by a bipartisan group of governors and educators have become one of the conservative movement’s biggest bugbears. Common Core is now “radioactive,” as Iowa GOP Gov. Terry Branstad put it recently. And the animus toward it within the Republican base has sent the politicians who are vying to be their next leader scrambling to distance themselves from the policy.

On Friday, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin became the latest 2016 contender to ditch the standards, issuing a one-sentence statement calling on the Badger State legislature to repeal Common Core and replace it “with standards set by the people of Wisconsin.” But Walker is hardly the first national figure to revisit his position toward Common Core as the conservative outcry intensifies.

Earlier this week, New Jersey governor Chris Christie signed an executive order creating a commission to examine the efficacy of the standards. The move was a hedge by Christie, who has supported Common Core, and may buy him cover to move further away from the policy later if the politics continue to sour.

Other likely 2016 hopefuls have been less equivocal. In April, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed legislation dropping Common Core. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, whose state adopted the standards in 2010, issued executive orders last month to spike the policy—against the wishes of his state’s education superintendent.

These GOP governors are at the back of the pack of 2016 hopefuls when it comes to ditching Common Core. Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed a law banning the standards in his state. Senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio all came out in opposition last year as the backlash built, fed by the (inaccurate) perception that Common Core is a federal takeover of education foisted on the states. By now, the only potential 2016 GOP candidate unambiguously in favor of the standards is former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush—and his embrace of the policy is a major reason many believe his brand of conservatism is out of step with the national mood.

The irony in this trend is that key features of Common Core—including tougher standards, state-drawn curricula and teacher accountability—reflect conservative values. (So much so that the American Federation of Teachers, the influential union, is now backing away from the policy.) But political winds can blow away policy convictions when they’re inconvenient. Just ask Barack Obama. He spent much of his presidential campaign attacking No Child Left Behind, the national education standards championed by George W. Bush. Once he entered the Oval Office, Obama set about promoting his own set of national standards.

TIME energy

New Poll Shows Americans Won’t Give Up Their Cars

Stuck in Traffic
Cars stuck in traffic. Maureen Sullivan—Getty Images

Our car-crazy culture lags behind global competitors in using public transportation

Gas prices are high, roads are clogged and driving alone is worse for the planet. But Americans still prefer to commute in their air-conditioned cocoons.

A new global survey conducted for TIME on attitudes toward energy reveals that Americans are more reluctant than international counterparts to ditch their cars for public transportation.

Only 16% of Americans prefer using public transportation to get to work, compared with 41% of respondents overall in the poll, which compared U.S. attitudes toward energy and conservation with those in Brazil, Germany, India, South Korea and Turkey. Just 8% of U.S. respondents said they always take public transit instead of a personal vehicle, sharply below the overall total of 27%.

Americans’ reluctance to ditch their cars may be a symptom of their overall disinclination to take steps to reduce their carbon footprint. One in three U.S. respondents said they were willing to change their behavior in their name of conservation, 10 percentage points below the overall average and ahead of only South Korea.

Or it may stem from our long-running love affair with the automobile. A full 79% of respondents from the U.S. said they rely on their car for transportation, about double the overall average of 39%. (Germans were the second biggest gearheads, with 47% relying on cars to get around.) Just 9% of Americans said they lean most heavily on trains, metro systems or public buses.

The survey was conducted among 3,505 online respondents equally divided between the U.S., Brazil, Germany, Turkey, India and South Korea. Polling was conducted from May 10 to May 22. The overall margin of error overall in the survey is 1.8%.

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