Gabe Ortiz

Los Angeles coroner announces independent inquiry into killing of 18-year-old by police

The Los Angeles County coroner's office announced on Tuesday that it will conduct a nearly unprecedented inquest into the police killing of 18-year-old Andrés Guardado, who was shot five times in the back by an LA County Sheriff's deputy this past summer. The independent inquest, which the coroner's office said will be overseen by a former court of appeals justice, is the first such investigation in more than three decades.

"The Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner is committed to transparency and providing the residents of Los Angeles County an independent assessment of its findings in this case," Los Angeles County Chief Medical Examiner-Coroner Jonathan Lucas said. "An inquest ensures that our residents will have an independent review of all the evidence and findings of our office and of the cause and manner of death of Mr. Guardado."

The statement from the Los Angeles County coroner's office said the inquest gives officials power to "subpoena relevant witnesses to testify and documents to present at the inquest," after which retired Justice Candace Cooper "will make findings related to the cause and manner of death." Cooper "will then forward her decision and recommendation to the Medical Examiner-Coroner," the coroner's office continued.

News of the inquest is welcome news for Guardado's family and advocates, who have slammed the secrecy and lack of transparency from the sheriff's department following his killing in June. In just one instance, Sheriff Alex Villanueva placed a hold on Guardado's case, which blocked his autopsy report from release. But in another "unusual move" from the coroner's office, CNN reported, "Dr. Lucas opted to remove the security hold and make Guardado's autopsy results public in July."

Both the independent autopsy performed at the request of Guardado's family and the coroner's office autopsy found that the 18-year-old was shot five times in the back by the sheriff's department. "These findings confirm what we have known all along," his family said according to LAist, "which is that Andrés was unjustifiably killed by a Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy."

That officer, Miguel Vega, has faced previous accusations of misconduct, including "making false statements in an investigation," the Los Angeles Times previously reported. Further damning information against the sheriff's department is court testimony from a sheriff's deputy identifying Vega and Chris Hernandez, the deputy with him when he shot and killed Guardado, as potential recruits for a racist and violent law enforcement gang.

When it comes to Villanueva, his "handling of the shooting and attempts to block information from being made public are among a laundry list of criticisms he has faced in recent months," the Los Angeles Times reports, "leading the county Board of Supervisors to narrowly approve a motion Tuesday to explore options that could lead to his removal from office."

A decision to criminally charge Vega and possibly Hernandez will be in the hands of new district attorney George Gascón, who has met with relatives of people killed by police and "promised to reopen a number of controversial shooting cases involving law enforcement officers that [outgoing district attorney Jackie] Lacey declined to prosecute," LA Times continued.

Guardado's family in June filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county, the sheriff's department, Vega, and Hernandez, alleging they "not only used unreasonable and excessive force in fatally shooting the young man but were possibly acting in connection and in agreement with members of one or more LASD gangs of which they may be affiliated," a release said. "The complaint, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on behalf of Elisa and Cristobal Guardado, seeks to hold the defendants accountable for violating various civil rights as well as the California Bane Act that resulted in the execution of 18-year-old decedent, Andres Guardado."

State Department employees outraged after Pompeo addresses group supporting 'ex-gay' therapy

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is consistently among the most Trump-like of the impeached president's corrupt, trollish officials—and he continued to cement that status after reportedly ignoring internal protests from his own department employees in order to address a right-wing religious organization that supports so-called "ex-gay" therapy, the Miami Herald said.

The report said that Pompeo's speech to the Florida Family Policy Council, a group also affiliated with several other anti-LGBTQ organizations, was covered in red flags, including staffers finding links to conversion therapy—which is torture—on the group's site, as well as anti-gay flyers at the location where the speech was to take place. So Mike—ever-conscious about his employees and his department's alleged pro-LGBTQ efforts—cancelled the speech, right? Nah. He not only continued on with it, he promoted it.

The Miami Herald reports that "[o]ne source described several aides as 'appalled' the event still took place despite the concerns, and that afterward, the secretary highlighted his appearance in his latest 'Miles with Mike' message to department employees." A State Department spokesperson tried to soothe alarm over the speech by later claiming that Pompeo honestly had no idea about the concerns, which maybe someone somewhere would believe if this administration didn't lie like it was going out of style.

Then there's also Mike's record. "Before joining the Trump administration, first as CIA director and then as secretary of State, Pompeo made his views on LGBTQ rights explicit," Mother Jones noted, "opposing same-sex marriage and once alluding to homosexuality as a 'perversion.'" During a Senate confirmation hearing in 2018, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker pressed Pompeo on the term, and asked him if he stood by it. "Senator, when I was a politician, I had a very clear view on whether it was appropriate for two same-sex persons to marry," Pompeo replied. "I stand by that."

Of course, working for a thrice-married adulterer is apparently just fine and dandy. Anyway, that Republicans still continue to tout this administration as pro-LGBTQ is laughable, and made all the more ridiculous considering one pro-LGBTQ effort the administration touts actually belonged to the previous administration. Awkward.

"[T]here was of course no policy that the Trump administration created to fight decriminalization of homosexuality overseas," writer and activist Michelangelo Signorile noted this past summer. "As I wrote in The Washington Post, the Trump administration is simply continuing existing State Department policy put in place by the Obama administration and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in particular—in stark contrast to most domestic pro-LGBTQ polices, which the Trump administration rolled back."

But hey, the Trump campaign enlisted Tiffany Trump to mangle the term "LGBTQ" at a "Trump Pride Event" in Florida this past weekend, where she claimed, "I know what my father believes in. Prior to politics, he supported gays, lesbians, the LGBQIIA+ community." Okay. Maybe whatever this "LGBQIIA+" is might support him—don't think we didn't notice you dropping the "T" there, Tiffany—but when it comes to the LGBTQ community, new polling has 74% of registered LGBTQ voters supporting Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

"Of them, 92 percent said they were 'definitely or probably' voting in the presidential election—and over 80 percent said they felt more motivated to vote now than in any other recent election," the polling said.

Trump staffers worry choosing to work for an authoritarian might not look so great on a resume

Lackeys from the Trump administration aren't one teensy bit concerned about the mess they'll leave behind should their impeached president lose reelection in just under 20 days. Oh no, the fact that they're all on a superspreader tour of the country is proof of that. Like their boss, what they're concerned about instead are their own sorry asses.

Trump staffers, The Washington Post reports, "are hoping the Trump presidency isn't a disqualifying blemish on their resumes or Google footprint as the door revolves the other way and they seek to land, once again, in the private sector." Considering the kinds of horrific crimes this administration has carried out, they should be grateful that not being able to find a six-figure job at a fancy D.C. firm is the worst thing they have to worry about.

Defeating Republicans will require all of us to get plugged in to GOTV efforts. On Mobilize, hundreds of Democratic campaigns are recruiting volunteers for all sorts of get-out-the-vote activities. Just click here, and search via zip code to find an event nearest you, and sign up to volunteer.

Some of former officials have already gotten a taste of a post-Trump life. For former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, "[t]here's been no cushy landing on K Street or high-profile consultancy at a major lobbying or public relations firm," The Post said. While he published a book about being a taxpayer-funded liar, it flopped. Another one of his post-Trump jobs wasn't too pretty either—no really, he wore some hideous dollar store piñata for the 28th season of Dancing with the Stars, where he was the sixth contestant eliminated.

But just because Sean "This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period!" Spicer had trouble doesn't mean other former Trump officials have had the same experience. "Ex-White House chief of staff Reince Priebus is president of the Michael Best & Friedrich law firm," The Post continued. Former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Sec. John Kelly continued cashing in on cruelty and joined the board of a company that operated the now-closed prison camp for migrant children in Homestead, Florida. His successor, Kirstjen Nielsen, didn't really stray far and joined a government council.

Kelly and Nielsen in particular tried rehabilitation tours that really just continued exposing them as liars. They probably wished for the luck of Nielsen's former chief of staff Miles Taylor, who got a CNN contributor's gig after managing to convince enough people that he was shocked, shocked! about shenanigans he saw at DHS even though he was there for two years, from 2017 and 2019. Taylor didn't speak out then as a moral whistleblower to expose hateful policies, but instead until this past summer when it was convenient for him. Nor has Taylor fully apologized for many of the policies he helped carry out.

"The longtime GOP strategist who runs a public affairs firm recalled coming close to hiring a former Trump White House staffer until a Google search revealed the prospective hire's track record defending Trump on race and immigration," The Post continued. "It ground the interview process to a halt, the strategist said." But, at the same time, "Americans have short memories," a former Bush and Clinton staffer continued to The Post.

The fact is that from White House aide Stephen Miller to unlawfully appointed acting DHS Sec. Chad Wolf, these officials deserve to become pariahs when the administration is at last finished. They brought it on themselves because they knew what they were signing up for from the start: a vulgarian who bragged about committing sexual assault and a racist who vowed to deport millions of undocumented immigrants even as he exploited many at his own businesses. Don't feel sorry for these officials. Feel sorry for the many people they hurt.

Border officials separated an asylum-seeker and her newborn —  then called themselves heroes

A Honduran asylum-seeker who was separated from her hours-old U.S. citizen infant by border agents has been reunited with her child. The Los Angeles Times had on Friday reported that Border Patrol had ripped the mother from her baby just hours after she'd given birth in Texas. The asylum-seeker, among the thousands forced by the Trump administration to wait for their immigration court dates in Mexico, had crossed in desperation when she gave birth alone in a field.

Molly O'Toole's report said that while border officials at first transported the family to a hospital together, they then separated them and told the mother they were going to send her back to Mexico without her baby. They've since claimed the hospital's COVID-19 policy required the separation, but that's a lie. "That is definitely not the hospital policy," a University Hospital spokesperson told the LA Times. "We do not separate babies and parents."

Border officials had initially and in truly gross form used the rescue as a publicity stunt, tweeting a picture of a border agent holding the child and claiming that "[f]rom #LawEnforcement to humanitarian aid, our agents adapt to any situation." But what they didn't mention in the tweet is what happened after, when agents airlifted the baby to a neonatal ICU hours away while the mom was thrown into detention and forced to sleep on the floor. Yup, truly heroes, these agents.

"Unconscionable," tweeted humanitarian group Doctors for Camp Closure. "This isn't a 'rescue.' Separating mothers from their critically ill infants immediately after birth is inhumane." O'Toole reports that no one from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) gave her a comment prior to the report's publication, but that soon changed after it went public.

"Hours later, Austin Skero, chief patrol agent for the Del Rio sector, responded in a tweet to The Times, saying that agents had to separate the mother and baby due to the San Antonio hospital's COVID-19 policy for the neonatal unit, which the hospital immediately disputed." Spokesperson Leni Kirkman told O'Toole that the hospital has always safely allowed parents to be with their kids, even during the pandemic. "Babies need to be with their parents." We wish Border Patrol thought the same.

Instead, agency chief Rodney Scott angrily claimed in a tweet he was "sick and tired of our agents being villainized," while in the same statement dehumanizing the asylum-seeker as an "illegal alien mother." Asylum is legal immigration, guy. What you also won't hear about in any of Border Patrol's public relations tweets is that Scott was a member of the violent and racist Facebook group where members mocked the death of a child in the agency's custody. But remember, we're the bad ones for point out the bad things they do.

Nor will they mention how the Trump administration's anti-asylum policies directly led to this inhumane separation. The asylum-seeker had been waiting in Mexico with her 6-year-old child when they were kidnapped and held at gunpoint for two weeks. After that, the mother sent the child into the U.S. alone to save the child's life. That child was then taken into Health and Human Services
(HHS) custody, and has since been released to family members in California. The mother, whose name has not been publicly released, then crossed several weeks later.

O'Toole reports that the mother was reunited with her infant at the hospital's neonatal ICU over the weekend. They're now expected to join family in California once the baby is cleared for release, where'll she'll also reunite with her 6-year-old child. How much of this pain and suffering could have been avoided if administration had just allowed this family to safely seek asylum?

How might Trump's nominee rule on immigrants? A hate group just gave her a thumbs-up

How does impeached President Donald Trump's illegitimate nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Supreme Court rank when it comes to rulings on immigration? Well, the fact that Amy Coney Barrett appeared to get a thumbs-up from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), an anti-immigrant hate group founded by dead white nationalist and eugenicist John Tanton, is incredibly worrying, to say the least.

Vox's Nicole Narea reports that in her three-plus years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Amy Coney Barrett has mostly decided against immigrants, siding with the Trump administration on its discriminatory "public charge" rule punishing working families, and in another case deciding against a U.S. citizen who sued after his wife was denied permanent residency under disturbing circumstances on the part of the federal government.

"In January 2019, Barrett refused to reconsider a case brought by a naturalized US citizen, Moshin Yafai, whose wife, Zahoor Ahmed, a citizen of Yemen, was twice denied a green card," Narea reported. "The consular officer had denied Ahmed's green card on the grounds that she allegedly tried to smuggle her two children across the border, even though Ahmed and her husband had provided documentation to the embassy that their children had died in a drowning accident."

That case appeared to strike a particular chord with CIS. "One of the eugenicist John Tanton's favorite think tanks is praising Trump's Supreme Court nominee thanks to her decisions denying certain brown people access to visas," tweeted investigative journalist Jean Guerrero, who has previously detailed the group's sordid association with White House aide and noted white supremacist Stephen Miller.

Narea writes that in another anti-immigrant decision by Barrett, she waved away a case brought forward by an asylum-seeker who sought protection in the U.S. after he witnessed gang members murder a friend in El Salvador. Gerson Alvarenga-Flores' case, however, encountered an obstacle due to an inconsistency that could have been due to a language issue. "He claimed that he had been attacked by gang members while in a taxi and, on another occasion, said he was approached by them on a bus," Narea reported.

"But the judge nevertheless concluded that his account of being targeted by gangs wasn't credible," she continued, "without even considering whether he would have deserved humanitarian protection." Barrett sided with the immigration judge, also pointing to the discrepancy.

In one of the last Supreme Court decisions of her life, Bader Ginsburg ruled against the Trump administration's unlawful move ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Should the impeached president get his Supreme Court nominee installed and then manage to remain in office next year, he'll again move to end DACA and deport hundreds of thousands of young immigrants—and this time will likely have the hyper-conservative court he needs to ensure a ruling in his favor.

"Confirming Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court would be a disaster for immigrant communities across this country," tweeted Daniel Altschuler, managing director of Make the Road Action. "Americans need Supreme Court Justices who will defend the Constitutional rights of every American and deliver equal justice for all under the law," tweeted Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith. "Amy Coney Barrett's record makes it clear she will not."

Republicans are finally bothering to hold a confirmation hearing for unlawfully appointed Chad Wolf

Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Sec. Chad Wolf defied a subpoena ordering him to appear before the House Homeland Security Committee last week. A photograph by Getty from that hearing showed a place card bearing his name at an empty seat. But this is the Trump administration, meaning he might be getting a promotion instead of being held accountable as he should be.

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New poll finds Biden trouncing Trump among Latino voters

On the heels of recent polling finding 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden holding a significant lead over impeached president Donald Trump among likely voters nationally, a NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll also finds the former vice president also holds a significant lead among registered Latino voters nationally, and in particular Latino voters under 40.

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New polling confirms the 'Trump effect': Americans increasingly love immigrants

Here’s even more of that other “Trump Effect” we’ve talked about before: new polling from Pew Research this week continues to confirm that Americans have only become more welcoming of immigrants and refugees since 2016 and Donald Trump’s ensuing xenophobic presidency.

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A critic of the Russian government sought asylum in the US — and was treated shamefully under Trump

Gregory Duralev has been seeking asylum in the United States since 2016 after exposing corruption in Russia’s economy. It’s no exaggeration to say that this could be a matter of life or death, when critics of the Russian government continue to die “mysteriously.” But Politico’s Natasha Bertrand reports Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has sought to deport Duralev to exactly that—and even as he’s been allowed to legally remain in the U.S. while his asylum claim plays out.

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Hurricane Laura worsens already inhumane ICE conditions

Detained people already suffer dangerous conditions while in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, including inhumane living arrangementsmedical mistreatment or no treatment at all, and systemic patterns of abuse. The novel coronavirus pandemic has only piled on the suffering. It’s hard to imagine how these facilities could become any worse—but Hurricane Laura has figured out a way.

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