PG&E proposes court order for CEO, board to tour town destroyed by wildfire

FILE PHOTO: A statue stands in front of a home destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S., November 17, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester/File Photo

(Reuters) – PG&E Corp on Monday submitted a proposed order to a U.S. District Court judge that would require the power provider’s chief executive and board to visit the California town of Paradise by July 15, to see the destruction caused by a wildfire in November that may be linked to the company’s equipment.

The order, agreed to by the U.S. Justice Department and U.S. Probation Officer, awaits U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup’s signature.

He is also overseeing PG&E’s probation stemming from a felony conviction over a deadly 2010 natural gas pipeline in San Bruno, California, that destroyed a neighborhood and killed eight people.

The judge last week called for PG&E officials to tour Paradise town. November’s Camp Fire leveled the town and killed more than 80 people, marking the most destructive and deadliest wildfire in California’s modern history.

The Camp Fire also pushed San Francisco-based PG&E to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January in the expectation of, potentially, billions of dollars in liabilities. PG&E has said it expects its equipment may be found to have sparked the blaze.

The proposed order also requires PG&E’s chief executive and board to visit San Bruno to meet with victims of the 2010 explosion there as well as city officials and firefighters.

(Reporting by Jim Christie in San Francisco and Rama Venkat in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)

Trump administration seeks emergency court order to continue asylum policy

FILE PHOTO: Central American asylum seekers exit the Chaparral border crossing gate after being sent back to Mexico by the U.S. in Tijuana, Mexico, January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo

By Tom Hals

WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) – The Trump administration rushed to save its program of sending asylum seekers back to Mexico by filing an emergency motion with a U.S. Court of Appeals, asking it to block an injunction that is set to shut down the policy on Friday afternoon.

The government told the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco the United States faced “a humanitarian and security crisis” at the southern border and needed immediate intervention to deal with the surging number of refugees.

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg ruled the policy was contrary to U.S. immigration law. He issued a nationwide injunction blocking the program and ordered it to take effect at 8 p.m. EDT (midnight GMT).

Melissa Crow, an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the groups that brought the case, said the stay should be denied to prevent irreparable harm to asylum seekers who could be unlawfully forced to return to Mexico.

Since January, the administration has sent more than 1,000 asylum seekers, mostly from Central America, back to Mexico to wait the months or years it can take to process claims through an overloaded immigration system.

Seeborg’s ruling also ordered the 11 plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit to be brought back to the United States.

Although it is appealing and the lower court order had yet to take effect, Reuters reporters confirmed that the Trump administration was allowing some asylum seekers from Mexico to return to the United States.

President Donald Trump has bristled at limits on his administration’s ability to detain asylum seekers while they fight deportation, and the administration was in the midst of expanding the program when Seeborg blocked it.

The government’s filing on Thursday night with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asked for two stays: a brief administrative stay, which would remain in place until the parties had argued the issue of a longer stay that would block the injunction during the months-long appeals process.

Judy Rabinovitz, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union who worked on the case, said there did not appear to be any justification for the request for the administrative stay since asylum seekers were already returning to the United States.

“There’s no urgency,” she said. “They are already complying with the court order.”

The 9th Circuit Court has been a frequent target for Trump’s criticisms of the judicial system, which has blocked his immigration policies on numerous occasions.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Tom Brown)

U.S. court order ‘buys time’ for separated immigrant families: lawyers

FILE PHOTO: Immigrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents under a new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration, are shown walking in single file between tents in their compound next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Lawyers for immigrant families separated by the U.S. government at the border with Mexico said a federal judge’s order barring rapid deportations until at least next Tuesday would give them breathing room as they struggled for access to clients.

The families had been separated amid a broader crackdown on illegal immigration by President Donald Trump’s administration, sparking an international outcry and a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The president ordered that the practice be halted on June 20.

Judge Dana Sabraw, in Monday’s order, sided with the ACLU, which argued that parents facing imminent deportation should have a week to decide if they want to leave their children in the United States to pursue asylum separately.

Sabraw asked the government to respond before the next hearing on July 24. Until then, he halted rapid deportations.

The judge’s order gave lawyers more time to “figure out what reunification is going to mean for our clients,” said Beth Krause, a supervising lawyer at the New York-based Legal Aid Society’s Immigrant Youth Project.

In a related ruling in a separate case on Tuesday, the Legal Aid Society won a temporary court order barring the government from moving any of the dozens of separated migrant children the group represents in New York without at least 48 hours’ notice.

The order also required the government to say ahead if children were being moved so that they could be released, detained with their families, or deported.

Legal Aid had asked for an emergency injunction, arguing that the government was swiftly moving children and parents without giving them time to speak to lawyers about the possible legal consequences, including removal from the country.

At least two of its young clients had been due to be moved to a detention center in Texas that was not licensed to care for children, the group said, and other children were due to be moved to undisclosed locations.

“This information is crucial for our clients – many young children who already suffered enough trauma – to make informed decisions about pursuing asylum or other forms of relief,” Adrienne Holder, the lead lawyer at Legal Aid’s civil practice, said in a statement.

U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain in Manhattan said the order expired on Thursday unless extended or modified by another judge, and that it applied only to Legal Aid’s clients and not to all separated children.

A hearing in the Manhattan case has been scheduled for Tuesday afternoon before U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman.

Jorge Baron, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, said Judge Sabraw’s broader ban on rapid deportations “buys us a little bit of time.”

“I am still uncertain we have made contact with all the parents who are detained in our particular region,” he said.

Baron’s group has secured legal representation for several dozen separated parents sent to government detention centers in Washington state. But even on Monday, he said, he learned of an immigrant mother who had yet to make contact with a lawyer.

“She might have slipped through the cracks,” without the judge’s order, Baron said.

Last month, Sabraw set a July 26 deadline for the government to reunite children who were separated from their parents at the border with Mexico. Many of the immigrants are fleeing violence in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Rosalba O’Brien)

U.S. to reunite only half of young migrant children by Tuesday deadline

FILE PHOTO: Immigrant children now housed in a tent encampment under the new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration are shown walking in single file at the facility near the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, U.S. June 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

By Marty Graham and Tom Hals

SAN DIEGO/WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) – The U.S. government is struggling to reunite immigrant families it separated at the border with Mexico and only about half the children under age 5 will be back with their parents by a court-ordered deadline of Tuesday, a government attorney told a judge on Monday.

U.S. Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego last month ordered the government to reunite the approximately 100 children under the age of 5 by Tuesday, and the estimated 2,000 older children by July 26.

Sarah Fabian, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, said 54 children younger than 5 would be reunited with parents by the end of Tuesday, and the number could increase depending on background checks.

The other parents have either been deported, failed a criminal background check, were unable to prove they were the parent or had been released and immigration agents had been unable to contact them, said Fabian.

The children were separated under U.S. President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy that called for the prosecution of immigrants crossing the border illegally. The separations were in place from early May until Trump stopped the practice last month in the face of intense criticism.

Trump made cracking down on illegal immigration a key part of his presidential campaign in 2016.

The judge directed the government to file a detailed accounting of the reunification process and scheduled a hearing for Tuesday at 11 a.m. PDT (1800 GMT).

Lee Gelernt, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the case, said he did not think the government was complying with the reunification order.

“It is very troubling that there are children and parents who are not in some kind of government tracking system,” he said after the court hearing. He added that nonprofit groups were trying to find parents the government had failed to locate, who are mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

He also questioned if the government’s list of children under the age of 5 was accurate.

Gelernt added, however, that he believed the government had made “significant” steps in the past 48 hours to unite parents with their children, and he called the effort “a blueprint for going forward with the remaining more than 2,000 families.”

Fabian told the judge that once parents and children were reunited, they would likely be released from immigration custody. A legal settlement dating from the 1990s only allows the government to detain children in adult centers for a brief period.

Gelernt said the ACLU was concerned that parents would be put on the street without any money in an unfamiliar city.

The organization and government agreed the locations of the releases would not be disclosed, and the government agreed to work with immigration advocates to ensure the parents had money for a hotel and other necessities.

(Reporting by Marty Graham in San Diego and Tom Hals in Wilmington, Del.; Additional reporting by Yeganeh Torbati in Washington; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Peter Cooney)

Apple, Google Products Target of Court Order

Apple Logo inside Corporate offices

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday said it had identified 63 cases across the U.S. in which the federal government asked for a court order compelling Apple Inc or Google to help access devices seized during investigations.

The cases predominantly arise out of investigations into drug crimes, the ACLU said, adding that the data indicate such government requests have become “quite ordinary.”

Representatives for the Justice Department and Apple declined to comment.

A spokesman for Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc, declined to say how frequently it has cooperated with All Writs Act requests or orders, and how often it has contested them.

The Justice Department previously disclosed that Apple has received 70 court orders requiring it to provide assistance since 2008, which it obeyed without objection.

However, last October Apple contested a Justice Department demand for assistance in a Brooklyn drug case. Since then, Apple has objected to several other government requests for help accessing devices across the country, the company said in a court filing last month.

A U.S. judge in Brooklyn agreed with Apple and ruled that Congress has not authorized the government to ask for the help it demanded of the company. The Justice Department has appealed that ruling.

The ACLU report comes after the Justice Department withdrew a request for Apple’s assistance in California, saying on Monday it had succeeded in unlocking an iPhone used by one of the shooters involved in a rampage in San Bernardino in December without Apple’s help.

Other cases involving government requests for Apple’s help are still pending.

A variety of Apple and Google products have been targeted by court orders, according to the ACLU report. In one, an Apple iPhone 5 was seized by a man arrested in 2013 for importing methamphetamine from Mexico.

A California court ordered Apple to help the Justice Department bypass the passcode and copy data onto an external hard drive. The order does not specify which operating system was running on the phone.

(Reporting by Dan Levine)