“We assess those upcoming commemoration events associated with the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre in Oklahoma probably are attractive targets for some racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist-white supremacists to commit violence,” the department said, according to a memo obtained by NBC News.
The memo did not mention any specific events, but Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin said that his forces have plans in place to ensure a Monday visit by President Joe Biden goes smoothly.
“We are going to be hopefully overprepared. I want a bunch of policemen working, and my hope is none of them have to take any action, but we are prepared if need be,” he said during a press conference.
Franklin also said that the public should remain vigilant throughout the weekend, and should report sightings of unattended packages and large vans in odd places. “If anyone sees anything suspicious, across our city, report that, ” he added.
The Tulsa race massacre saw mobs of white residents attack Black residents and businesses in the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921. Somewhere between 30 and 300 people died, mostly Black people, according to the Britannica Encyclopedia.
The massacre destroyed more than 35 square blocks of the wealthiest Black community in the US, CNBC said.
It has been referred to as the “single worst incident of racial violence in American history,” according to the Oklahoma Historical Society.
The single Department of Homeland Security facility in Donna, Texas, that has a capacity of 250 is housing more than 4,000 migrants, including children, the Associated Press reported.
And some pods around 3,200 square feet in size had more than 500 children in them, according to the AP.
One photo shows young children, wearing masks due to the coronavirus pandemic, in a crowded playpen.
According to the AP, the children aged between 3 and 9 are kept apart from everyone else, and are kept in a playpen where they have mats for sleeping. They are the youngest children in that facility’s custody, Oscar Escamilla, acting executive officer of the US Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley, told the AP.
The children in the playpen crossed the US-Mexico border by themselves, Escamilla added.
The Biden administration says that it doesn’t want to turn unaccompanied children away to dangerous conditions, or to send them to someone in the US who has not been properly vetted – leading to crowded centers at the border.
Department of Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Sunday the Biden administration would release video “footage” of the conditions of the inside of migrant detention facilities to assuage concerns amid its continued refusal to allow members of the press inside.
“Let’s not forget that we’re in the midst of a pandemic and we are focused on our operations, executing our operations in a crowded border patrol facility where hundreds of vulnerable migrant children are located,” Mayorkas said.
He made the comments during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” when asked about the repeated calls to let members of the press tour the facilities along the southern border where the DHS is housing child migrants upon their entry into the US.
“We’re working on providing footage so the American public can see the border patrol stations, and I would encourage you and other reporters to see the facilities under the control of the Health and Human Services Department where those children are sheltered, and where they belong, and where we are moving them as quickly as possible,” he said.
By law, unaccompanied children are supposed to be removed from the custody of CBP within 72 hours and transferred to a facility operated by the Department of Health and Human Services.
When “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace pressed Mayorkas on his claim that COVID-19 was preventing press access to these facilities, Mayorkas said DHS was “working on providing access so that individuals will be able to see what the conditions in a border control station look like.”
Mayorkas told NBC News’ Chuck Todd during an appearance on “Meet the Press” that the agency was “not focused on ride-alongs right now.”
A bipartisan pair of senators on Saturday called on the Biden administration to allow the press to access facilities where the US is detaining child migrants, The Washington Post reported. Senators who visited the facilities Friday described crowded conditions and children being detained longer than is legally allowed, according to the report.
The senators’ comments followed their trip to the southern border with Moyoraks to visit a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facility in El Paso, Texas, according to The Hill. The Department of Homeland Security did not allow members of the press to accompany Mayorkas and the senators on the facility visit, citing COVID-19 concerns.
Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Sunday said “the border is closed” in response to the surge in migrants at the US-Mexico border, while staunchly defending the Biden administration’s policy of not expelling young arrivals.
During an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mayorkas said that while the US was sending back families and adults who have attempted to cross into the country, it would not follow the same practice for “young, vulnerable children.”
Mayorkas said the administration was seeking new policies to address the influx of migrants from Mexico and Central American countries. He also criticized former President Donald Trump for having “dismantled the orderly, humane and efficient way” of approaching cases with young children.
“We have a short-term plan, a medium-term plan, and a long-term plan, and the president and I have spoken to this repeatedly,” he said. “We will not expel into the Mexican desert, for example, three orphaned children whom I saw over the last two weeks. We just won’t do that. That’s not who we are.”
Biden’s commitment to a humane approach to immigration has been criticized by congressional Republicans, and progressive lawmakers like Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York have complained about the administration reopening a notorious Trump-era Texas facility to house young migrants.
Mayorkas was also pressed about media access to border facilities, which he said the administration was “working on,” but emphasized that border authorities were “not focused on ride-alongs right now.”
“We are still in the midst of the pandemic,” he said. “Border Patrol agents are focused on operations, on securing the border, on addressing the needs of vulnerable children.”
He added: “We are focused on our operations, in removing children from those crowded Border Patrol stations to the Health and Human Services facilities that can best shelter them. And we are also working on providing access so the American public can in a safe way, without jeopardizing our operations, see what is going on.”
The Biden administration on Saturday evening mobilized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to respond to a major influx of migrant children arriving at the US-Mexico border.
The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that FEMA will be assisting in “a government-wide effort over the next 90 days to safely receive, shelter, and transfer unaccompanied children who make the dangerous journey to the US southwest border.”
Data from the Customs and Border Protection agency show a skyrocketing rate of apprehensions at the US-Mexico border in recent months, similar to the numbers in 2019 when hundreds of thousands of migrant families journeyed to the US from Central America, seeking asylum.
In February, CBP recorded a whopping 100,441 apprehensions at the border, most of them either unaccompanied minors or members of families that had traveled together.
The numbers of migrants arriving in the US vastly outstrip CBP’s resources – particularly when it comes to detaining and processing children. Typically, unaccompanied children at the border are first processed by CBP officials, then sent to shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services, which places the children with relatives or other sponsors while their immigration cases are processed through the court system.
But both CBP and HHS are struggling to make space for the children. One recent New York Times report revealed that under the Biden administration, border officials had detained more than 1,360 migrant children longer than the mandatory 72-hour limit permitted by US law.
President Joe Biden has vowed to set a new tone with his immigration agenda and rid the federal government of the Trump administration’s “cruel and senseless policies” toward migrant children. But already, a number of reports have documented similar instances of severe overcrowding, and unsanitary and inhumane conditions.
Several nonprofit lawyers who visited a Border Patrol tent facility in Texas found children packed together and sleeping on the floor due to the lack of mats. The lawyers said some children had to wait five or more days for a shower, often without any soap available.
Their observations echoed similar reports during the Trump era, in which migrant children endured inedible food, undrinkable water, open toilets, exposure to illnesses, and no soap, toothbrushes, or showers to clean themselves. Some were detained in tents, others in freezing cold Border Patrol facilities, and others still in open-air enclosures in parking lots. Several children even died in Border Patrol custody.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas noted in a statement on Saturday that “a Border Patrol facility is no place for a child.”
He continued: “We are working in partnership with [the Department of Health and Human Services] to address the needs of unaccompanied children, which is made only more difficult given the protocols and restrictions required to protect the public health and the health of the children themselves.”
President Joe Biden ordered several intelligence agencies to review domestic terrorism in the US in the wake of the January 6 Capitol siege, however, his plans face a number of obstacles.
On Friday, the Biden administration announced that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and the Department of Homeland Security will work together to create a domestic terrorism threat assessment that could be used to determine policy, the Associated Press reported.
“The Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol and the tragic deaths and destruction that occurred underscored what we all know: The rise of domestic violent extremism is a serious and growing national security threat,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.
However, experts have said that Biden could face legal, political, and cultural obstacles. The Washington Post reported that even before the January attack, the FBI had warned about rising domestic terror threats, but critics have accused the agency of being “more primed” to focus on international threats over those at home since the 9/11 attacks.
“We have overlooked, not just over the last four years, but much longer than that some of the extremists within this country,” Sean Joyce, a former FBI special agent who served as deputy director from 2011 to 2013, told The Post.
Joyce said white supremacists have become a much greater threat than they were as a result.
John Brennan, who served as CIA director and White House homeland security adviser in the Obama administration, told The Post that similar to extremists during 9/11, white supremacists and those who stormed the Capitol have been radicalized through misinformation and “taught” that violence is an acceptable means to get their desired political outcome.
On January 6, Trump supporters breached the Capitol building and clashed with law enforcement, halting a joint session of Congress as lawmakers met to certify Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. The mob was motivated by unproven claims about mass voter fraud spread by Trump. The riot resulted in the deaths of five people.
While there have been calls to instate new laws that target domestic terrorism, some have expressed opposition, citing concerns that such laws could target minority groups and further erode civil liberties. Rep. Rashida Tlaib is leading a call to not expand the security state.
“The Trump mob’s success in breaching the Capitol was not due to a lack of resources at the disposal of federal law enforcement, and in this moment we must resist the erosion of our civil liberties and Constitutional freedoms, however well-intentioned proposed security reforms may be,” Tlaib, and nine other Democrats, wrote in a letter to Congressional leadership. “We firmly believe that the national security and surveillance powers of the US government are already too broad, undefined, and unaccountable to the people.”
Brennan also told The Post that there may be many legal obstacles in pursuing domestic terrorists.
“How do you uncover these types of incubating threats while at the same time not violating or infringing upon those principles that we’re trying to protect?” Brennan asked. “It was a problem after 9/11. It is even moreso now, because you’re talking about US citizens and persons.”
Additionally, law enforcement cannot surveil citizens based on their political views, even if they are hateful or anti-government. And while federal law defines the concept of domestic terrorism, there isn’t a specific charge for it.
“We really do want to be very careful about criminalizing ideologies, no mater how poisonous and awful,” David Kris, a former senior Justice Department official, told The Post. “You’re entitled to have an opinion and entitled to express that opinion no matter how noxious. But when you cross the line from having or expressing an ideology to acting on it in ways that are violent, you’ve crossed the line.”