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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/10/18

CIA-Linked Military Contractor Used Arizona "Black Site" to Secretly Jail Dozens of Migrant Children

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A major U.S. military and CIA contractor has been detaining dozens of migrant children inside a vacant Phoenix office building with dark windows, no kitchen and only a few toilets, according to a new investigation by Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting. Reveal learned about what some are calling the "black site" for migrant children after one local resident filmed children in sweatsuits being led into the building.

The building was leased in March by MVM, a defense contractor that Reveal reports has received nearly $250 million in contracts to transport immigrant children since 2014. We speak with the lead reporter on this story, Aura Bogado, in Oakland, California. She is the immigration reporter for Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting.


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AMY GOODMAN: In San Diego, California, a federal judge will hold a hearing today on whether to delay Tuesday's deadline that mandated the reunification of all children under the age of 5 whom the Trump administration separated from their parents at the border. Under court order, Justice Department released the names of more than a hundred children under 5 who were separated from their parents. The Trump administration is claiming it needs more time to match children with their parents, including at least 19 parents the Trump administration has deported already. The American Civil Liberties Union says less than half the separated children under the age of 5 will be reunited by Tuesday. According to Judge Dana Sabraw's ruling, all separated children must be reunited with their parents by July 26. Last week, HHS Secretary Alex Azar told reporters there are nearly 3,000 separated children in government custody, a figure almost a thousand children more than the 2,047 his department released over a week ago.

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Well, for more on the unfolding crisis of separated families, we turn to a new investigation by Reveal exposing how a major U.S. military and CIA contractor has been detaining dozens of migrant children inside a vacant Phoenix office building with dark windows, no kitchen and only a few toilets. The building was leased in March by MVM, a military contractor Reveal reports has received nearly $250 million in contracts to transport immigrant children since 2014. One local resident filmed children in sweatsuits being led into the building, with one so young that they had to be carried. After Reveal published its story Friday, policymakers spoke out against the facility, and donations of toys were left out front in a gift bag with the words "stay strong" along with a large dollhouse.

For more, we go to Oakland, California, where we're joined by the lead reporter on the story, Aura Bogado, immigration reporter for Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Aura, welcome back to Democracy Now! Talk about what you found.

AURA BOGADO: Thanks, Amy. A few weeks ago, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said that the children who were being taken from their parents at the border would be placed in "foster care or whatever." Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting has been laser-focused on what that "whatever" means. Although we don't know for a fact that these children were indeed separated from their parents at the border, we believe that may be the case because, as you mentioned, some of the children are so young that they don't look like they're old enough to walk. I know, from my many years as an immigration reporter, that children who do cross the desert or who do turn themselves in at a port of entry tend to be teenagers, sometimes preteens. We've never seen toddlers who are unaccompanied. And so, for that reason, we believe that these children may have been separated from their parents. And now we have a better idea of what that "whatever" may mean.

In this case, a contractor, a private contractor with heavy ties to the CIA -- in fact, it was founded by ex-CIA secret agents -- had an office in which neighbors described dozens of children going in over the span of several weeks and never leaving until three weeks later. We were able to obtain video of 32 of those children entering that facility. And this is in an unmarked, unmapped, unlicensed, largely vacant office building right there in Phoenix.

AMY GOODMAN: Aura, you tweeted, "This story was made possible by a tipster, Lianna Dunlap. She was brave enough to take video and ask questions. Our team worked nonstop for a week. We found the contractor. ICE had to issue a comment." I want to turn to Lianna Dunlap in a recent Reveal interview, as she describes her response to seeing white vans filled with immigrant children pulling up to the vacant office building behind her house June 4th. The next day, she videotaped more children being led into the building. Dunlap says she never saw children leave or go outside during the next three weeks.

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LIANNA DUNLAP: A lot of times I would just stare out my window, waiting to see something, and -- or late at night, I would go out in my backyard and just look at that window, waiting to see if I could hear anything or see any lights. It's just like, if there are kids in there and they have those windows blocked off, they're not even seeing sunlight. And how long have they had them in there? There's been times where I drive by and I just start crying, because, you know, it's right behind my house, and I don't know -- and I think that's the worst part, is not knowing what's actually going on in there, and just hoping that they're OK.

AMY GOODMAN: That's Lianna Dunlap, your tipster, Aura Bogado. Some have described this as a "black site" for migrant children.

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