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Westlake Legal Group > News Releases (Page 94)

ICE deportation raids set to being Sunday after Trump delay, report says

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6052412857001_6052389338001-vs ICE deportation raids set to being Sunday after Trump delay, report says fox-news/us/immigration/illegal-immigrants fox-news/us/immigration/border-security fox-news/us/immigration fox news fnc/politics fnc Edmund DeMarche Brie Stimson article 83fbcf7f-d6c6-5860-be74-a731bc8c178b

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are preparing to conduct raids beginning Sunday to arrest thousands of illegal immigrants across the U.S. just weeks after President Trump announced that he was delaying the operation.

The ICE agents will target at least 2,000 immigrants whose deportations have already been ordered, a New York Times report said, citing one former and two current Department of Homeland Security officials.

Neither the White House nor ICE immediately responded to emails from Fox News seeking comment. An ICE spokesman declined to comment to the Times to ensure the safety of the department’s agents.

BORDER APPREHENSIONS DECLINE 28 PERCENT FOLLOWING US-MEXICO PARTNERSHIP, DHS SAYS

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, told reporters Wednesday that the raids are “going to happen.” He did not elaborate.

The Times report said the raids will include “collateral” deportations, which means illegal immigrants at the scene of the raid who are not the target of the raid could be detained.

The June operation was expected to target 2,000 families in as many as 10 cities, including Chicago, Baltimore, New York, Houston, Los Angeles and Miami. Last month, President Trump announced on Twitter that he wants ICE agents to start the process of “removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the U.S.”

But Trump later delayed the sweeps, saying he would give lawmakers two weeks to work out solutions for securing the U.S.-Mexico border. The decision came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi contacted Trump, requesting that he call off the raids.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

But three administration officials told the Associated Press that scrapping the operation was not just about politics.

They said ICE leaders had expressed serious concerns that officers’ safety would be in jeopardy because too many details about the raids had been made public.

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6052412857001_6052389338001-vs ICE deportation raids set to being Sunday after Trump delay, report says fox-news/us/immigration/illegal-immigrants fox-news/us/immigration/border-security fox-news/us/immigration fox news fnc/politics fnc Edmund DeMarche Brie Stimson article 83fbcf7f-d6c6-5860-be74-a731bc8c178b   Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6052412857001_6052389338001-vs ICE deportation raids set to being Sunday after Trump delay, report says fox-news/us/immigration/illegal-immigrants fox-news/us/immigration/border-security fox-news/us/immigration fox news fnc/politics fnc Edmund DeMarche Brie Stimson article 83fbcf7f-d6c6-5860-be74-a731bc8c178b

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Report: ICE Plans Mass Arrests Of Immigrants This Weekend

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials plan to launch nationwide raids and arrest thousands of undocumented immigrants as soon as this weekend, The New York Times reported early Thursday.

Citing two current and one former official at the Department of Homeland Security, the Times said around 2,000 immigrants who have been ordered deported by the federal government will be targeted.

Agents will also reportedly arrest people who happen to be on the scene, even if they weren’t the target of the raids. These so-called “collateral” deportations could include entire families. Officials said they will be held in detention centers together, where possible.

<img class="image__src" src="https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/5d26c76f3b00003900dac0e5.jpeg?cache=sjcxsomiym&ops=scalefit_720_noupscale" alt="The ACLU reminded undocumented immigrants that they&nbsp;

In a statement to HuffPost, an ICE spokeswoman said that “the agency will not offer specific details related to enforcement operations,” citing security issues.

“As always, ICE prioritizes the arrest and removal of unlawfully present aliens who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security,” the statement continued. “All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and ― if found removable by final order ― removal from the United States.”

President Donald Trump delayed the raids that were scheduled to take place last month in 10 major cities, including Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago. He said he had hoped to work with Democrats to craft a “solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border”:

Congress passed a $4.6 billion humanitarian aid bill just days after that tweet, despite complaints from some Democrats and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that the legislation didn’t do enough to protect migrant children.

The Trump administration has faced heavy criticism for its immigration and refugee detention procedures in the past. In the past two years, thousands of children were separated from their parents under the president’s controversial “zero tolerance” immigration policy. Just this week, the UN’s Human Rights chief decried the “alarming” conditions at U.S. migrant detention centers along the border, saying she was “deeply shocked” by a lack of beds, filthy conditions and the spread of disease.

Immigrant enclaves have been rattled for weeks at the prospect of government officials knocking on their doors. In preparation of the expected raids, civil rights groups have been encouraging immigrant communities to study up on their legal rights. The ACLU reminded undocumented immigrants that they were not legally required to grant ICE agents access to their homes without certain kinds of warrants. And upon arrest, everyone was entitled to the right to remain silent and access to a government-appointed lawyer.

Since January, the Trump administration has been operating under the president’s hardline “Remain in Mexico” policy, which forces many of those seeking refuge to remain in Mexico until their applications are processed rather than wait in the United States.

The Department of Homeland Security said this week that the number of arrests along the border had dropped by 28 percent in June, the first time this year the number has declined. But more than 100,000 people were still arrested at the border, the fourth month in a row with that many detentions.

Agency officials claim border facilities have been overwhelmed for months, and DHS Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan said Tuesday that the numbers reflected a “humanitarian crisis.”

“We are past the breaking point and in a full-blown emergency,” McAleenan said in a statement. “This situation should not be acceptable to any of us.”

This story has been updated with a statement from ICE.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Dunkin’ manager created fake employee, collected extra paycheck, cops say

At some workplaces, some employees seem to do the work of two people.

But at a Dunkin’ doughnut shop in Florida, a manager was collecting the paychecks of two people – herself and a fake employee, authorities say.

The manager, identified as 29-year-old Markia Nelson, was arrested Monday and charged with grand theft after authorities alleged she had created the fake employee and deposited that fake employee’s real earnings into her own bank account.

FLORIDA COPS ARREST MAN WHO SAID HE STOLE POOL FLOATS TO USE FOR SEX

“The employee never actually showed up to do any work, and when they researched the employee’s clock-in and clock-out times they saw that it was her inputting it each time,” Pinellas Park police Sgt. Lonnie Lancto told FOX 13 of Tampa.

“The employee never actually showed up to do any work, and when they researched the employee’s clock-in and clock-out times they saw that it was her inputting it each time.”

— Pinellas Park police Sgt. Lonnie Lancto

Westlake Legal Group 5efca178-markia Dunkin’ manager created fake employee, collected extra paycheck, cops say fox-news/us/us-regions/southeast/florida fox-news/us/crime fox news fnc/us fnc Dom Calicchio article 42e9611d-2bd8-5581-a7d0-d5b670f73a39

Markia Nelson, 29, was charged with grand theft, authorities say. (Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office)

The paperwork was done May 15 and Nelson started punching in and out at the Largo store as the fictitious new hire on May 16, logging a total of 235 hours until she was arrested, WFLA-TV of St. Petersburg reported.

The fake employee was paid $8.65 per hour for a total of more than $1,600, the report said.

The store’s owners caught on to the scheme and alerted police, according to FOX 13.

“They met the officer around the corner, showed him all the video that they had, paperwork that they had, timesheets and things like that, and basically presented their case to the officer first,” Lancto told the station.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

Nelson told police she used the extra cash for “life expenses,” according to WFLA.

Nelson was booked into the Pinellas County Jail and was later released, pending further legal action, according to the report.

Westlake Legal Group markia Dunkin’ manager created fake employee, collected extra paycheck, cops say fox-news/us/us-regions/southeast/florida fox-news/us/crime fox news fnc/us fnc Dom Calicchio article 42e9611d-2bd8-5581-a7d0-d5b670f73a39   Westlake Legal Group markia Dunkin’ manager created fake employee, collected extra paycheck, cops say fox-news/us/us-regions/southeast/florida fox-news/us/crime fox news fnc/us fnc Dom Calicchio article 42e9611d-2bd8-5581-a7d0-d5b670f73a39

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Murder suspect mistakenly released from jail arrested in Georgia: police

A suspected killer who was mistakenly released from a Florida county jail in May amid confusion over his charges was captured Wednesday evening in Georgia, authorities said.

Eric Vail, 28, was arrested in January in connection with the murder of 27-year-old Wadarius Harrius, who was found fatally shot in a pickup truck in Pembroke Park in October 2018.

Westlake Legal Group BROWARD Murder suspect mistakenly released from jail arrested in Georgia: police fox-news/us/crime fox news fnc/us fnc Bradford Betz article 9e9664a6-3270-55a2-a568-1181ef846f4e

Eric Vail was released from jail earlier this year amid a mix-up over his charges.  (Broward County Sheriff’s Office)

Vail was initially charged with second-degree murder. In May, that charge was dismissed and upgraded to first-degree murder. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office said it was told the initial charge had been dismissed and didn’t know vail was being held for anything else.

“We did not have and have not yet located any documentation stating the subject was to be held on another charge,” spokesperson Keyla Concepcion told WSVN in a statement. “Our main priority at this time is to locate and apprehend this dangerous criminal.”

MACKENZIE LUECK MURDER SUSPECT PREVIOUSLY ACCUSED OF RAPE, BANNED FROM UTAH STATE CAMPUS

Vail was arrested Wednesday night at a mobile home Jesup, a small town in Georgia about 70 miles southwest of Savannah, WPLG reported.

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The sheriff’s office said multiple law enforcement agencies assisted in tracking down Vail’s whereabouts. Vail will be extradited to Broward County to face one count of first-degree murder.

Fox News’ Nicole Darrah contributed to this report.

Westlake Legal Group BROWARD Murder suspect mistakenly released from jail arrested in Georgia: police fox-news/us/crime fox news fnc/us fnc Bradford Betz article 9e9664a6-3270-55a2-a568-1181ef846f4e   Westlake Legal Group BROWARD Murder suspect mistakenly released from jail arrested in Georgia: police fox-news/us/crime fox news fnc/us fnc Bradford Betz article 9e9664a6-3270-55a2-a568-1181ef846f4e

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Former NFL player Albert Haynesworth in ‘dire need’ of kidney transplant, asks fans for help

Westlake Legal Group Albert-Haynesworth Former NFL player Albert Haynesworth in 'dire need' of kidney transplant, asks fans for help fox-news/us/us-regions/southeast/tennessee fox-news/sports/nfl fox-news/health/medical-research/transplants fox-news/health/medical-research/rare-diseases fox news fnc/sports fnc Danielle Wallace b915517c-8245-56c6-96fa-faeec968a800 article

Former NFL player Albert Haynesworth took to Instagram Wednesday to inform his followers that doctors told him he’s in “dire need” of a kidney transplant and asked for help to find a donor.

Haynesworth, who’s been battling kidney disease for a few years, said his kidney failed on Sunday. “It’s hard to believe from being a professional athlete to only 8 season in retirement that my body has taken another major blow,” he wrote alongside a picture of him in laying a hospital bed, breathing through a respirator.

WOMAN APPEALS TO HOCKEY FANS FOR KIDNEY DONATION

“First with the brain aneurysm 3 seasons out of the NFL to now my kidneys failing me,” the former defensive tackle said.

He asked those interested to call the Vanderbilt Transplant Center in Nashville at 615-936-0695 and hit option 2. “GOD BLESS thank you for your prayers and thanks for sharing this message,” he said, wrapping up the post.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP 

Haynesworth played with four organizations for over 10 years in the NFL. He played with the Tennessee Titans for seven years. He retired in 2011 with 30.5 sacks, 347 tackles and 65 QB hits, NFL.com reported. He played in two Pro Bowls and was named to two first-team All-Pro teams during his career.

Westlake Legal Group Albert-Haynesworth Former NFL player Albert Haynesworth in 'dire need' of kidney transplant, asks fans for help fox-news/us/us-regions/southeast/tennessee fox-news/sports/nfl fox-news/health/medical-research/transplants fox-news/health/medical-research/rare-diseases fox news fnc/sports fnc Danielle Wallace b915517c-8245-56c6-96fa-faeec968a800 article   Westlake Legal Group Albert-Haynesworth Former NFL player Albert Haynesworth in 'dire need' of kidney transplant, asks fans for help fox-news/us/us-regions/southeast/tennessee fox-news/sports/nfl fox-news/health/medical-research/transplants fox-news/health/medical-research/rare-diseases fox news fnc/sports fnc Danielle Wallace b915517c-8245-56c6-96fa-faeec968a800 article

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Los Angeles business owners put up fences, thorny plants to deter homeless: report

Amid the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles, home and business owners are reportedly planting cacti, thorny rosebushes and other deterrents to keep the homeless from sleeping in front of their property.

The homeless population rose from 16 percent from last year, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Many of the obstructions have been put up on public property without the city’s permission.

“In general, a lot of things people have [put] in the public right of way aren’t permitted,” Ted Allen, Los Angeles deputy city engineer told The LA Times.

HOMELESSNESS JUMPS 12 PERCENT ACROSS LOS ANGELES COUNTY DESPITE $619M IN SPENDING

The Los Angeles City Council passed a motion recently to investigate and remove illegal fencing that “restricts free passage in the public right-of-way and report to council on these efforts” but nothing has been done as of yet.

Chain-link fencing on sidewalks is illegal but rarely enforced, some business owners told The LA Times. They say the homeless deter customers and clients from their businesses, leave the streets filthy and can be dangerous to their property.

“When someone lights a fire, it burns on the sidewalk and doesn’t burn the building down,” a textile manufacturing plant owner near USC who put a chain-link fence in front of his business told The LA Times.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

The barriers are a temporary solution to the more complicated problem of stemming homelessness in the city. “You can’t address [homelessness] by pushing people around,” a resident who does homeless outreach told The Times. “These issues go unaddressed and allow property owners to do what they want to get people out of sight. That’s a problem.”

Westlake Legal Group AP19182802805941 Los Angeles business owners put up fences, thorny plants to deter homeless: report fox-news/us/us-regions/west/california fox news fnc/us fnc Brie Stimson article 7241b41f-a4b6-54f8-8c63-ff4f1b1d3155   Westlake Legal Group AP19182802805941 Los Angeles business owners put up fences, thorny plants to deter homeless: report fox-news/us/us-regions/west/california fox news fnc/us fnc Brie Stimson article 7241b41f-a4b6-54f8-8c63-ff4f1b1d3155

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Christian views may have kept star player off US women’s soccer team, some say

As the U.S. Women’s World Cup champions continue to celebrate their recent triumph, some observers are wondering whether a top-tier American player was left off the team because of her religious views.

Jaelene Hinkle, 26, a native of Colorado who played college soccer at Texas Tech, is a defender for the North Carolina Courage of the National Women’s Soccer League.

In 2018, Hinkle helped her team win the NWSL championship and previously helped it win a title in 2016 when it was known as the Western New York Flash.

MEGAN RAPINOE POSTERS VANDALIZED WITH HATEFUL MESSAGES AT NYC SUBWAY STATION, POLICE SAY

But in 2015, Hinkle had objected publicly to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage.

“I believe with every fiber in my body that what was written 2,000 years ago in the Bible is undoubtedly true,” Hinkle wrote on Instagram at the time. “This world may change, but Christ and His Word NEVER will.”

Jesus didn’t come to save those who already believed in Him. He came so that the lost, rejected, and abandoned men and women would find Him and believe. I believe with every fiber in my body that what was written 2,000 years ago in the Bible is undoubtedly true. It’s not a fictional book. It’s not a pick and choose what you want to believe. You either believe it, or you don’t. This world may change, but Christ and His Word NEVER will. My heart is that as Christians we don’t begin to throw a tantrum over what has been brought into law today, but we become that much more loving. That through our love, the lost, rejected, and abandoned find Christ. The rainbow was a convent made between God and all his creation that never again would the world be flooded as it was when He destroyed the world during Noah’s time. It’s a constant reminder that no matter how corrupt this world becomes, He will never leave us or forsake us. Thank you Lord for your amazing grace, even during times of trial and confusion. Love won over 2,000 years ago when the greatest sacrifice of all time was made for ALL mankind. ❤️💜💛💚💙

A post shared by Jaelene Hinkle (@jaelenehinkle) on Jun 26, 2015 at 2:04pm PDT

Then in 2017, Hinkle drew criticism when she declined to play in two matches for the U.S. women’s national team, reportedly because she didn’t want to wear special team jerseys recognizing Gay Pride Month.

‘It wasn’t my job’

She later told the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “The 700 Club” that she opposed the jerseys for religious reasons.

“I just felt so convicted in my spirit that it wasn’t my job to wear this jersey,” Hinkle told the program. “I gave myself three days to just seek and pray and determine what [God] was asking me to do in this situation.”

“I just felt so convicted in my spirit that it wasn’t my job to wear this jersey. I gave myself three days to just seek and pray and determine what [God] was asking me to do in this situation.”

— Jaelene Hinkle, pro soccer player

THESE WOMEN’S WORLD CUP CHAMPIONS GIVE ‘GLORY TO GOD’

Shortly after the interview aired, Hinkle was loudly booed in liberal Portland, Ore., when her North Carolina Courage team played against the Portland Thorns, the Irish Times reported.

Contrast with Rapinoe

Later, Hinkle was dropped from the U.S. national team for reasons solely related to soccer, team officials claimed, according to the newspaper. But the report noted that Hinkle’s public persona contrasts sharply with that of Team USA captain Megan Rapinoe, who also plays in the NWSL.

While Hinkle stands by her religious beliefs, the Times noted, Rapinoe has drawn public attention for such gestures as supporting former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protests and for posing nude with her girlfriend, WNBA basketball player Sue Bird.

But Erick Erickson, a conservative commentator, and John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview in Colorado Springs, Colo., doubt that Hinkle was cut solely for soccer reasons, the Washington Times reported. They believe Hinkle was dropped because of her religious views.

Westlake Legal Group soccer-ball Christian views may have kept star player off US women’s soccer team, some say fox-news/us/us-regions/southeast/north-carolina fox-news/us/religion/christianity fox-news/us/religion fox-news/sports/soccer fox-news/newsedge/sports/womens-world-cup fox-news/faith-values fox news fnc/sports fnc Dom Calicchio article 5ec789a6-94ca-510d-a2c9-7226b7e013ae

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

“If we were talking about just any player, it wouldn’t be really clear,” Stonestreet told the newspaper. “But just because of her abilities – Jaelene Hinkle is a heck of a player – it makes it that much more suspect.”

“If we were talking about just any player, it wouldn’t be really clear. But just because of her abilities – Jaelene Hinkle is a heck of a player – it makes it that much more suspect.”

— John Stonestreet, president, Colson Center for Christian Worldview in Colorado Springs, Colo.

SB Nation’s Kim McCauley asserted that Hinkle was likely invited to try out for the national team only to prevent a lawsuit, the Christian Post reported.

But Hinkle herself doesn’t seem too rattled by the decision to be left off the U.S. roster. As she told “The 700 Club”: “If I never get another national team call-up again then that’s just a part of [God’s] plan, and that’s OK.”

Hinkle also has a Biblical passage posted on her Twitter page: “If you live for people’s acceptance, you’ll die from their rejection.”

Westlake Legal Group soccer-ball Christian views may have kept star player off US women’s soccer team, some say fox-news/us/us-regions/southeast/north-carolina fox-news/us/religion/christianity fox-news/us/religion fox-news/sports/soccer fox-news/newsedge/sports/womens-world-cup fox-news/faith-values fox news fnc/sports fnc Dom Calicchio article 5ec789a6-94ca-510d-a2c9-7226b7e013ae   Westlake Legal Group soccer-ball Christian views may have kept star player off US women’s soccer team, some say fox-news/us/us-regions/southeast/north-carolina fox-news/us/religion/christianity fox-news/us/religion fox-news/sports/soccer fox-news/newsedge/sports/womens-world-cup fox-news/faith-values fox news fnc/sports fnc Dom Calicchio article 5ec789a6-94ca-510d-a2c9-7226b7e013ae

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Los Angeles business owners put up fences, thorny plants to deter homeless: report

Amid the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles, home and business owners are reportedly planting cacti, thorny rosebushes and other deterrents to keep the homeless from sleeping in front of their property.

The homeless population rose from 16 percent from last year, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Many of the obstructions have been put up on public property without the city’s permission.

“In general, a lot of things people have [put] in the public right of way aren’t permitted,” Ted Allen, Los Angeles deputy city engineer told The LA Times.

HOMELESSNESS JUMPS 12 PERCENT ACROSS LOS ANGELES COUNTY DESPITE $619M IN SPENDING

The Los Angeles City Council passed a motion recently to investigate and remove illegal fencing that “restricts free passage in the public right-of-way and report to council on these efforts” but nothing has been done as of yet.

Chain-link fencing on sidewalks is illegal but rarely enforced, some business owners told The LA Times. They say the homeless deter customers and clients from their businesses, leave the streets filthy and can be dangerous to their property.

“When someone lights a fire, it burns on the sidewalk and doesn’t burn the building down,” a textile manufacturing plant owner near USC who put a chain-link fence in front of his business told The LA Times.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

The barriers are a temporary solution to the more complicated problem of stemming homelessness in the city. “You can’t address [homelessness] by pushing people around,” a resident who does homeless outreach told The Times. “These issues go unaddressed and allow property owners to do what they want to get people out of sight. That’s a problem.”

Westlake Legal Group AP19182802805941 Los Angeles business owners put up fences, thorny plants to deter homeless: report fox-news/us/us-regions/west/california fox news fnc/us fnc Brie Stimson article 7241b41f-a4b6-54f8-8c63-ff4f1b1d3155   Westlake Legal Group AP19182802805941 Los Angeles business owners put up fences, thorny plants to deter homeless: report fox-news/us/us-regions/west/california fox news fnc/us fnc Brie Stimson article 7241b41f-a4b6-54f8-8c63-ff4f1b1d3155

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

'Outrageous conflicts of interest': Watchdog groups urge California Gov. Gavin Newsom to fire oil regulators

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — Two consumer groups are calling on California’s governor to freeze all new oil drilling permits and to clean house at the agency that issues them after the organizations uncovered records showing that top state regulators and engineers held investments in Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP, Valero and other petrochemical giants. 

Almost half of the 2,300 well permits issued in 2019 have benefited oil companies investedin by agency officials, the consumer groups said.

The pace at which fracking permits are issued has doubled since Gov. Gavin Newsom took office in January, and thousands of permits for new and re-used oil and gas wells have also been approved, angering environmental and public health groups who hoped for a phase-out of the state’s billion-dollar industry following the retirement of Gov. Jerry Brown.

Despite California’s global environmental reputation, large swaths of the state, including Kern County, Los Angeles and the Coachella Valley around Palm Springs still have the smoggiest air in the nation, largely due to tailpipe emissions and oil production.

Consumer Watchdog and FracTracker Alliance uncovered the regulators’ personal investments and permit data through public records requests, and the two groups shared the documents with The Desert Sun and the USA TODAY Network.

The investments were reported on required disclosure forms completed by agency supervisors or senior officials in March this year. The forms cover 2018 holdings of stock and other securities and show seven senior staff with investments in a dozen of the world’s top petroleum companies.  

The exact amounts are unclear, because the forms ask supervisors to simply indicate whether their investments are valued at less than $10,000 or between $10,001 and $100,000, or higher amounts.  

On Wednesday, the groups asked Newsom to put a freeze on all drilling permits and to clean house at the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources. Specifically, they asked him to fire the supervisors with reported oil investments, along with their top bosses,  including State Oil and Gas Supervisor Ken Harris, who oversees the division​​ and signs off on permits.

“We have uncovered outrageous conflicts of interest at the state agency charged with oil and gas well approval and inspections that endanger the public. Oil regulators should not be invested in the same oil companies that they regulate,” wrote Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog; Adam Scow, senior consumer advocate with the nonprofit; and Brook Lenker, executive director of FracTracker Alliance.

“This scandalous ethical breach is an opportunity to advance your stated goal of curbing drilling and fracking in the state,” they added. “Reform begins with ethical and honest regulation.”

Newsom’s office: We take charges ‘seriously’ 

Asked by The Desert Sun to respond to the allegations, the governor’s office said it was looking into the matter.

“We are aware of the allegations and we are taking them seriously. If a public employee is found to have unethically profited from investments in an industry he or she regulates, that’s unacceptable,” said spokesman Brian Ferguson. “This holds true not just at this particular agency, but across the government — accountability and transparency are guiding principles for Gov. Newsom, and he will hold all officials in his Administration to the highest standards in upholding the government code sections, [California Fair Political Practices Commission] regulations and department policies prohibiting financial conflicts of interest.”

Ferguson did not respond to questions about the 100% increase in fracking permits and other stepped up drilling permits in the past six months. 

The Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, commonly known as DOGGR, did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday. 

Those employees who disclosed oil industry investments included:

  • The agency’s deputy director of programs, David Gutierrez, reporting to the state oil and gas supervisor
  •  The agency’s enforcement unit supervisor, Simeon Okoroike
  •  District supervisors, deputies and senior engineers in various oil-producing sections of the state

Nicholas Abu, a senior oil and gas engineer overseeing the state’s underground gas storage program, reported owning a side gas consulting business called Sandstone Reservoir Solutions.

The Desert Sun reached out to the eight supervisors who disclosed investments and consulting. Only one, Gutierrez, responded.

‘I’m trying to follow the rules’

Gutierrez told The Desert Sun that when he was hired less than two years ago, he informed DOGGR officials he held shares in Exxon Mobil and Magellan Midstream Partners and asked if he should sell them. He said he was told that because California was not currently regulating either company, he didn’t need to divest. He said he was told that if a conflict did arise, “you would just kind of step back” and leave decisions about the company to other agency officials. 

Man-made rumblings: 3 million Americans at risk from human-induced earthquakes this year

According to Gutierrez’s job description, he has “direct program management responsibility” of several statewide well programs and is responsible for compliance with state environmental laws. He’s also charged with formulating and implementing  policies to support DOGGR’s mission “to prevent damage to life, health, property and natural resources, while also encouraging the wise development of oil, gas and geothermal resources to increase the ultimate recovery of these natural resources.”

He filled out Form 700 as required this March, checking the boxes showing that in 2018, he owned between $10,000 and $100,000 worth of investments in Exxon and Magellan. 

He said as soon as the agency received a Public Records Act request from the two watchdog groups in late April and he was notified, he “instantly” sold the stocks. He said, “I asked our legal office and I asked our ethics attorneys” and  “they calmed me down and said ‘don’t worry about it.’ ” 

“I’m trying to follow the rules,” Gutierrez said. 

He said he earned about $14,000 by selling 200 shares in Exxon Mobil, and about $25,000 from just under 400 shares he had owned in Magellan. He said he had owned both sets of shares for at least 10 years and had all but forgotten about them. Prior to DOGGR, he said he was in the federal sector, and held a variety of posts in Washington, including “doing national security work.”

Gutierrez also said he is not involved in permitting, and wasn’t aware until April that Aera Energy was a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil, one of the companies in which he owned stock. 

Aera Energy, which is jointly owned by Exxon Mobil and Shell affiliates, has received the lion’s share of fracking permits this year, and says on its website that it spent most of 2017 “educating” DOGGR about why an alternative method to verify well integrity would work. Without DOGGR approval, it “might have been forced to spend millions of dollars abandoning and re-drilling wells.” 

Court, the president of Los Angeles-based Consumer Watchdog, was harshly critical of Gutierrez’ response, saying that the highest-ranking civil servant in the agency overseeing the oil industry should know that Aera and Exxon Mobil are linked, and if he doesn’t, he should find a new job.  

211 fracking permits in first half of 2019

Others said it is not just conflicts of interest that are at stake, but public health. They want the oil industry phased out completely in the Golden State, both to stem climate change and to keep dangerous toxics out of air and water. 

Since Newsom took office, DOGGR has been issuing permits for controversial hydraulic fracking at twice the rate they were issued under Brown, according to a Desert Sun review of records: 211 permits were issued in the first half of 2019, compared to 223 in all of 2018 and 228 the year before. 

Batches of applications are being processed in as little as three weeks, with most going to Aera Energy. Key positions in the agency also continue to be held by former California oil company executives, engineers and other industry staff.

An analysis by the Last Chance Alliance — a network of organizations that says it was  “formed to address the ongoing climate, health, and environmental justice emergency caused by the oil and gas industry in California” — found at least 20 of DOGGR’s appointments and hires during Brown’s tenure came from oil companies operating in the state, and, the group said, all are still there, including two top officials.

William “Bill” Bartling, a DOGGR chief deputy who oversees field operations across the state, previously headed or managed several oil-related companies, and worked for Chevron for 14 years. Chevron has received 616 permits from DOGGR this year for new wells or to rework existing wells. Bartling did not report any investments in oil companies.

The so-called “revolving door” and accelerated permitting has concerned environmentalists. Many hoped for major change under Newsom, who signed a pledge not to take any oil industry donations during his campaign. 

But backers of the industry note that its products play a vital role in everyday life, not just in transportation but in myriad other products. The Western States Petroleum Association or WSPA, a lobbying and trade group, as well as major oil companies, have routinely been among the largest donors to candidates. They are also active in opposing or supporting ballot measures seen as harmful or helpful to the industry. There are 368,000 jobs in California connected to oil and gas operations, with $24.6 billion in tax revenues, according to WSPA’s website. 

Foes of the industry are heartened that Newsom included $3 million in his first budget for a pair of studies: one on how to phase out fossil fuel use in California and the second on accelerating electric vehicle use. But they say that’s hardly enough.

“DOGGR continues to roll out the red carpet for and is doing the bidding of the industry they’re supposed to be regulating,” said Kassie Siegel, Climate Law Institute director for the Center for Biological Diversity, who is based in the Morongo Valley. “The agency has done nothing to change its culture.”

Calls for change for years

DOGGR was often riven by controversy during Brown’s tenure. An independent science commission in 2015 determined there were large, unknown risks due to fracking and a second oil extraction technique. The panel recommended a suite of changes to current policies, including a 2,500-foot buffer between oil production facilities and schools and homes, an end to unlined wastewater pits and other measures designed to protect public health and groundwater aquifers near drilling sites.

Under increasing scrutiny by the legislature since the report, DOGGR has pledged for the past four years to put public health front and center as part of an overhaul.  But it has not instituted a buffer zone or other recommendations.

The Golden State is the fifth-largest producer of oil in the nation, extracting and refining about 200 million barrels per year, though production has been gradually declining since 1990. To tap last bits of oil in largely exhausted fields, energy companies are increasingly turning to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, blasting steam down boreholes to fracture rocks holding remnant crude oil.

Oil extraction, production and use have been linked to air and water pollution and serious illness. The Central Valley, greater Los Angeles and the Coachella Valley have the worst ozone smog in the nation, according to air quality regulators. About 80% of that pollution comes from cars, trucks and trains that use petroleum, while another large chunk comes from refineries that process the oil into fuel.

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U.S. Prepares to Arrest Thousands of Immigrant Family Members

Westlake Legal Group 10dc-ice-1-facebookJumbo U.S. Prepares to Arrest Thousands of Immigrant Family Members United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Morgan, Mark A McAleenan, Kevin K Immigration and Customs Enforcement (US) Illegal Immigration Humanitarian Aid Homeland Security Department Deportation

Nationwide raids to arrest thousands of members of undocumented families have been scheduled to begin Sunday, according to two current and one former homeland security officials, moving forward with a rapidly changing operation, the final details of which remain in flux. The operation, backed by President Trump, had been postponed, partly because of resistance among officials at his own immigration agency.

The raids, which will be conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement over multiple days, will include “collateral” deportations, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the preliminary stage of the operation. In those deportations, the authorities might detain immigrants who happened to be on the scene, even though they were not targets of the raids.

When possible, family members who are arrested together will be held in family detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania. But because of space limitations, some might end up staying in hotel rooms until their travel documents can be prepared. ICE’s goal is to deport the families as quickly as possible.

The officials said ICE agents were targeting at least 2,000 immigrants who have been ordered deported — some as a result of their failure to appear in court — but who remain in the country illegally. The operation is expected to take place in at least 10 major cities.

The families being targeted crossed the border recently: The Trump administration expedited their immigration proceedings last fall. In February, many of those immigrants were given notice to report to an ICE office and leave the United States, the homeland security officials said.

Matthew Bourke, an ICE spokesman, said in a statement on Wednesday that the agency would not comment on specific details related to enforcement operations, to ensure the safety and security of agency personnel.

The threat of deportation has rattled immigrant communities across the country, prompted backlash from local politicians and police officials and stoked division inside the Department of Homeland Security — the agency that is charged with carrying out the deportations. The Trump administration’s goal is to use the operation as a show of force to deter families from approaching the southwestern border, the officials said.

Agents have expressed apprehensions about arresting babies and young children, officials have said. The agents have also noted that the operation might have limited success because word has already spread among immigrant communities about how to avoid arrest — namely, by refusing to open the door when an agent approaches one’s home. ICE agents are not legally allowed to forcibly enter a home.

Immigration defense lawyers are likely to file motions to reopen the families’ immigration cases, which would significantly delay, if not stop altogether, their removal from the United States.

For weeks last month, the ICE director at the time, Mark Morgan, signaled that agents would escalate efforts to round up families. Days before the operation was to begin, Mr. Trump forecast the plan on Twitter, blindsiding ICE agents whose safety officials feared would be compromised as a result.

In early June, the Department of Homeland Security’s acting secretary, Kevin K. McAleenan, told Mr. Morgan to call off the operation. Mr. McAleenan did not support the raids, officials said at the time, in part out of concern that undocumented parents could be separated from any of their children who are American citizens.

Mr. Morgan then directly lobbied Mr. Trump to move forward with the raids. He is now the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, another arm of the Department of Homeland Security.

In a tense meeting with White House officials on June 21, two days before the raids were scheduled to begin, Mr. McAleenan again outlined the challenges of the operation, including the separation of families and the logistics of housing them until they can be removed. If undocumented parents are found to have children who are United States citizens, for example, ICE agents will need to wait with the children in a hotel room until a relative in the United States can claim them.

Homeland security officials also worried that many of the families that the administration had hoped to detain might have left the addresses known to ICE after Mr. Trump tweeted the agency’s plans.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Mr. Trump after his tweet and urged him to halt the operation, which in a statement hours later she described as “heartless.”

Mr. Trump then tweeted that he would delay the effort at the Democrats’ request. But he also threatened to resume the deportations if Democrats refused to join with Republican lawmakers to “work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border.”

Days later, the Senate passed a $4.6 billion humanitarian aid package for the border.

Migrant crossings have declined since May, when 144,200 migrants were taken into custody at the southwestern border — a 13-year high.

Last Friday, Mr. Trump said the raids would begin “fairly soon.”

“I say they came in illegally, and we’re bringing them out legally,” the president told reporters.

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