April 9, 2018; Laredo, TX, USA; A United States Border Patrol agent catches a man along the banks of the Rio Grande after watching him illegally cross the river from Mexico into the United States in Laredo, Texas.

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Suit Adds to Pressure for Immigration Bill

A class-action lawsuit over the treatment of teenage migrants detained in Virginia added to the mounting pressure for immigration reform.

June 22, 2018 - 12:40 pm
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(KMOX/AP) - Illinois Senator Dick Durbin held a news conference to discuss President Donald Trump's policy of separating families at the border and his executive order.

He says Chicago has 66 kids, and a third of them are under the age of 5.

"We have got to stand up and speak up for these young people and their families," Durbin says. "They make these deadly, dangerous journeys to our border, not because they're looking for a vacation - they are looking for safety."

The senator's news conference marks the first time a public official has specified how many migrant children are in the Chicago area. They remain separated from their parents after Trump this week signed an order to stop separating families who cross the border illegally. 

The children are being cared at shelters run by Heartland Alliance, a non-profit human rights organization. 

Previous reporting:

By The Associated Press

A class-action lawsuit over the treatment of teenage migrants detained in Virginia added to the mounting pressure for immigration reform. But President Donald Trump told fellow Republicans in Congress to give up on immigration legislation until after November. A look at the latest developments: 

TRUMP TELLS GOP TO ABANDON IMMIGRATION REFORM 

Trump on Friday told fellow Republicans in Congress to "stop wasting their time'' on immigration legislation until after November, dismissing his party's struggle to surmount internal divisions. 

The president's tweets came just days after he insisted Congress needed to act to resolve the problems at the U.S.-Mexico border. But stubborn differences between conservative and more moderate Republicans in the House have stalled immigration legislation on Capitol Hill, with a vote on a compromise measure delayed until next week. 

Even if a measure passes, Trump said, it's doomed in the Senate. 

VIRGINIA DEMS DEMAND ANSWERS AFTER ABUSE CLAIMS 

Two Democratic senators from Virginia are demanding an explanation after six Latino teens made sworn statements claiming they were physically abused at an immigrant detention facility in the state. 

Lawyers for the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center have denied the allegations. 

Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine on Friday asked the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement whether regulators had received any other complaints about the facility near Staunton, Virginia. 

Young immigrants participating in a federal class-action lawsuit said they were beaten while handcuffed, locked up for long periods in solitary confinement and left nude and shivering in concrete cells. Children as young as 14 also said the guards stripped them of their clothes and strapped them to chairs with bags placed over their heads. 

Federal officials have refused to comment on the allegations. Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered state officials to investigate. 

BORDER CONFUSION ENDURES 

Immigrants entering the U.S. and federal officials alike appear uncertain as to what they can do since Trump reversed the federal policy that detained thousands of migrant children and separated them from their parents. 

Congress has failed so far to approve measures aimed at reforming the nation's "zero tolerance'' immigration policy. The president tweeted Friday that the Senate and House should abandon the issue until after November elections. 

Nonetheless, there are signs of softening policy. In McAllen, Texas, federal prosecutors unexpectedly did not pursue charges against 17 immigrants. And federal official indicated agencies are working to set up a centralized reunification process for the remaining separated children and their families at a Texas detention center. 

MOTHER AND SON REUNITED 

A 7-year-old boy and his mother, who were separated a month ago, were reunited Friday after she sued in federal court and the Justice Department agreed to release the child. 

They were reunited at Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Maryland, hours after the government relented. 

The mother, Beata Mariana de Jesus Mejia-Mejia, had filed for political asylum after crossing the border with her son, Darwin, following a trek from Guatemala. She said that she cried when the two were reunited and that she is never going to be away from him again. 

MILITARY BASES TO HOUSE IMMIGRANTS 

The Trump administration is drawing up plans to house as many as 20,000 migrants on U.S. military bases. Officials have given differing accounts as to whether those beds would be for children or for entire families. 

A Pentagon memo to members of Congress, obtained by the AP, said the military has been asked to make the facilities available as early as July, through the end of the year. 

FAMILY IMMIGRATION: NOT A NEW PROBLEM 

President Barack Obama also struggled with the issue of immigration and came under some criticism when photos appeared during his tenure showing children in cages in an Arizona detention facility. 

More than 60,000 family "units'' which the U.S. government defines as a parent and child were stopped along the border in 2014, a fourfold increase from a year earlier. In the last fiscal year, that number exceeded 70,000. 

That administration initially released mothers and children with notices to attend immigration hearings, then later held them together in family detention centers. 

HIGH STREET GRAFFITI FASHION 

The first lady is well known for her expensive tastes in fashion. So Melania Trump must surely have known she would cause a stir Thursday when she wore a graffiti-adorned raincoat from high-street retailer Zara when she traveled to Texas to visit detained children. 

The back of the coat read: "I really don't care, do u?'' 

She has not explained if the statement refers to anything, but the president indicated his wife has had enough of negative press. 

Melania Trump released a statement through her office earlier this week saying she "hates'' to see families separated at the border.