Newsletter: An asylum policy on shaky ground

Asylum seeker Oswaldo Ortiz-Luna sells candy at a busy intersection in Mexicali, Mexico.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Officials warn the Trump administration appears to be violating the law in forcing asylum seekers back to Mexico.


An Asylum Policy on Shaky Ground


Under protocols known as “Remain in Mexico” set by the Trump administration, the government has pushed more than 37,000 asylum seekers back across the U.S. border. Some of them have been attacked, extorted and sexually assaulted. Records show a number have later died. In an L.A. Times exclusive based on dozens of interviews and court proceedings, current and former officials, judges, lawyers and advocates for asylum seekers say that Homeland Security officials implementing Remain in Mexico appear to be violating U.S. law. Some officials have refused to comply with the policy at risk of being fired.

More Politics

— President Trump is denying a Washington Post report that he has told officials he would pardon them if they’re convicted of breaking any laws in the rush to complete several hundred miles of border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border ahead of the 2020 election.

— The Trump administration has unveiled new rules that will make it harder for children of some immigrants serving in the military to obtain citizenship.

— Former Defense Secretary James N. Mattis is warning of bitter political divisions that threaten American society, echoing themes he often cited before he resigned from the Trump administration in protest.

— New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has dropped out of the 2020 race for president after failing to qualify for the next Democratic debate. The Sept. 12 event will, however, offer Democrats the face-off many have been waiting for: former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren on the same presidential debate stage for the first time.

— MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell has retracted his story about supposed Russian ties to Trump’s finances and apologized for reporting it — just as Trump’s lawyer had demanded.

‘It Creates Fear’


The assailants locked the doors and emergency exits. Then they doused the strip club with gasoline and set it on fire. The inferno that engulfed a bar in southern Mexico this week killed 27 people and injured more than a dozen others. The likely motive? An act of retaliation after the bar owner refused to let a gang sell drugs there, according to Veracruz Gov. Cuitlahuac Garcia. And with that comes fears that Mexico’s criminal groups may be returning to the kind of spectacular acts of violence that once shook the country.

Illicit Pot Farms, Public Lands

Cailfornia Gov. Gavin Newsom has said he would call the National Guard to stop them. Proposition 64 was supposed to help eliminate them. But illegal marijuana-growing operations are still rampant, particularly across wide swaths of national forests in the state. They leave behind a trail of garbage, human waste, dead animals and caustic chemicals — not to mention all the water that is stolen for irrigation. Authorities say nearly all of these farms are the work of Mexican drug trafficking organizations, which also pose a threat to unsuspecting hikers.

A Failing Grade

As Los Angeles grapples with a homelessness crisis, there are new questions about the outreach agency that was meant to move hundreds of people from the streets into housing, shelters or treatment for mental illness and substance abuse. An audit released by City Controller Ron Galperin says the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has failed dramatically to meet the goals of its contract with the city. The authority’s executive director is defending its efforts.

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On this date in 1970, former L.A. Times columnist and KMEX-TV news director Ruben Salazar was killed when an L.A. County sheriff’s deputy fired a tear-gas projectile during an anti-Vietnam War protest that Salazar was covering in East Los Angeles. The 42-year-old became a cultural icon.


— The battle over charter schools is over, for now, thanks to a deal just struck in Sacramento for new restrictions on charters — a rare compromise between groups that have poured millions into their fight over public education dollars.


— A homeless man who was a beloved musician and mentor on skid row was burned to death after a man allegedly set his tent on fire. Dwayne Fields, 62, was known for his blues guitar playing in the community.

— A settlement blocking the city from clearing skid row encampments has survived a challenge, but a judge said business owners can file a separate claim if they can show the agreement has adversely affected their property.

— Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the mother of Anthony Avalos and her boyfriend, who are accused of torturing the 10-year-old boy for days before his death last year.


— Hollywood does more to perpetuate the myth of “real Americans” — you know, residents of the Midwest or folks with “working-class” jobs — than any politician, or any other cultural force in the world, writes columnist Mary McNamara.

— Is Trump falling out of love with Fox News? His complaints suggest the honeymoon is over. But the network’s advertisers are counting on him to keep watching.

— It was supposed to be a star-studded Netflix movie. Instead, it was a $14-million scam, prosecutors say.


— The highly anticipated film “Joker” is not exactly what we’ve come to expect in a comic-book movie. Director Todd Phillips explains how he’s delivering a fresh take on the origin of arguably the comic world’s most iconic villain. The trailer (watch it here) reveals it to be quite gritty.


— Nine weeks out from Brexit, Boris Johnson made his first big power play as prime minister, raising the prospects of a chaotic departure, a bruising general election or both. His move to suspend Parliament marks a major gamble, given the Tories’ one-seat majority, and one opposition leader called it “a very British coup.”

Dorian became a Category 1 hurricane as it struck the U.S. Virgin Islands, and forecasters say it could grow to Category 3 status as it nears the U.S. mainland as early as the weekend.

— Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro may have spurned France’s offer of help to fight Amazon rainforest fires, but he’s accepted four planes from Chile.

Italy may still have a government. Its Five Star Movement and Democratic Party, long at odds, struck a tentative coalition deal — apparently scuttling far-right leader Matteo Salvini’s gambit to force elections his League party would be favored to win, and letting Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte keep his job.


Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, dropped anchor in New York, more than two weeks after setting sail from England in a 60-foot yacht for the trans-Atlantic crossing. She refused to fly because of air travel’s emissions.


Apple is sorry for encroaching on iPhone users’ privacy with its Siri voice assistant and says it will no longer keep audio recordings of your interactions with her.

— California has too much solar power. That might be good for your bank account.


— The once-powerful Trona High football program is struggling to keep going after the Ridgecrest earthquakes last month.


UCLA football is aiming to make its season opener at Cincinnati tonight the beginning of a turnaround.


— The lesson in the kerfuffle over New York Times columnist Bret Stephens’ overreaction to being jokingly called a bedbug is about power, the professor who made the joke writes — “how we build it, how we deploy it, and how we use it responsibly.”

— If Brexit is inevitable, Boris Johnson must seriously negotiate a backstop alternative that inspires confidence across the Irish Sea and apply his beloved “can do” spirit to avoiding crashing out of the EU without a deal, The Times Editorial Board writes.


— Before Amazon pulled the plug on a controversial plan for a second headquarters in New York, it had been keeping a burn book — a private dossier of remarks from the deal’s most vocal critics, and a testament to its sensitivities. (Wall Street Journal)


— Does the great American road trip need a rewrite? (CityLab)


After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on this date in 2005, a trove of tapes from producer-songwriter Allen Toussaint’s Sea-Saint Studio was thought to be lost. Years later, the priceless musical archive showed up at a swap meet at the border of Torrance and Gardena. How did it get there and who found it? Read on.

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