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Gov. Cuomo’s office: ‘We’ve been sued virtually every day’ over COVID-19 actions

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Agudath Israel of America on Thursday filed a lawsuit in a federal court to prevent Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) from limiting how many people can gather in places of worship in certain parts of the state, The Yeshiva World reports.

The organization, which was founded in 1922 to serve the American Orthodox Jewish community, took the action after months of what it claims is Gov. Cuomo’s targeting and ostracizing of Jewish communities during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We’ve been sued virtually every day for every action taken. We’re concentrating on reducing the virus in these hot spots and saving lives, period,” NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

Recent outbreaks in New York City have been mostly confined to certain areas of Queens and Brooklyn, which have been called “red zones.” Many Orthodox Jewish communities live in these red zones. For this reason, Gov. Cuomo earlier this week stated that he might ban large gatherings at houses of worship, which has been met by large Jewish protests and condemnation from Jewish political and religious leaders.

Gov. Cuomo’s office responded to SaraACarter.com and told this reporter: “We’ve been sued virtually every day for every action taken. We’re concentrating on reducing the virus in these hot spots and saving lives, period.”

The governor’s executive order comes consequentially as the Jewish community commemorates their high, holy days. In light of that, the lawsuit claims that the order is “depriving them of their religious worship and holiday observance.”

Furthermore, the lawsuit argues that the order is unconstitutional for discriminating against individuals practicing their religion while secular events comparable in size and social distancing are allowed. Additionally, they argue that, while the order targets all religions, because the restrictions apply to these “red zones” where many Jewish people live, it disproportionately targets them and their faith.

According to the Yeshiva World article, the fact that Orthodox Jews cannot drive on certain holidays essentially prevents them from attending services at synagogues outside the red zones.

Agudath Israel of America was not available for immediate comment. This story will be updated if and when a comment is received.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Guatemala is investigating U.S. NGOs for child trafficking, seeks Texas AG collaboration

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Guatemala’s Attorney General is investigating ongoing criminal claims that a number of American tax payer funded non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating both inside and outside the United States are complicit  in the ongoing trafficking, abuse and disappearance of children from its nation, according to an official Guatemalan letter obtained by this investigative columnist.

The Guatemalan government is seeking full cooperation from the State of Texas, where the accusations of abuse have been reported, government officials told SaraACarter.com.

A letter from Guatemalan Attorney General María Consuelo Porras was sent to Attorney General Ken Paxton on Saturday. Porras asked Paxton for immediate assistance with investigations into recent criminal reports filed with Guatemala’s Public Ministry alleging that unaccompanied minor children and adolescents being trafficked into the U.S. from Guatemala have allegedly suffered sexual and physical abuse at facilities operated by U.S. tax payer funded NGOs.

The Biden Administration has granted tens of billions of dollars in U.S. tax payer money in the form of grants to NGOs working to house, feed, educate and provide resources to illegal migrants entering the country. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank in Washington D.C. documented the astonishing cost of an open border to American taxpayers.

Guatemalan Secretary General Angel Pineda with the Public Ministry spoke with  SaraACarter.com Sunday night. He said he is seeking collaboration from Paxton and the state of Texas in this ongoing criminal investigation.

“As a Prosecutor’s Office, Ministerio Publico of Guatemala, have received a criminal complaint that states some criminal actions, which we see with great concern,” Pineda told this investigative columnist.  “Due to the situation that is happening in Texas, regarding different forms of abuses of some Guatemalan children and adolescents, when the institution received that criminal complaint, the institution has started investigations, so it is necessary to work on this matter in an integral way.”

He added “that is why, I have been authorized to ask for the collaboration of prosecutor Paxton so we can work together and protect Guatemalan children, and have sent a letter in that matter. “

Texas Attorney General Paxton could not be reached immediately for comment.

According to sources, the allegations of abuse are currently under investigation and are focused on facilities contracted by NGOs that have been poorly managed, and or have allowed for the sexual assault and physical abuse of children from Guatemala. In other cases, the Guatemalan government is investigating NGOs, some of which are operating in Central America, that are aiding and abetting the child trafficking organizations by supplying the necessary resources to move the unaccompanied children to the United States border without guardians or parental supervision.

“These Guatemalan children have reportedly been placed in shelters and organizations throughout Texas under the guise of providing them with a family environment,” Porras states in the letter. “Disturbingly, there have been reports and documented situations of sexual abuse in these shelters, which is a huge violation of the rights and dignity of these children.”

“The State of Texas bears much of the responsibility for these lost children, who have been transferred to the border and processed migratory (through migration procedures)  in Texas apparently fully aware of this situation,”  the translated letter from Spanish to English states.

In her letter to Paxton, Porras goes on to say, “you know, deficiencies in security and diplomacy related to the border between the United States and Mexico have resulted in a significant increase in drug trafficking, but also a devastating emergence of human trafficking. In relation to the new complaint that has been filed with this institution, a horrifying pattern of the disappearance of children from Guatemala has been brought to our attention, and it has been reported to the Public Ministry that a complex network involving Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) operating within Guatemala, who collaborate with specific entities in the State of Texas, are implicated in the abuse of Guatemalan children when they are away from their parents and do not have someone to protect them.”

This isn’t the first time NGOs have come in the crosshairs of lawmakers for failing to abide by the law or for failing to protect those being trafficked. In February, Paxton announced that his office was suing the Annunciation House — a Catholic NGO that operates “several houses of hospitality” for migrants and refugees in El Paso, Texas; and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The NGO is an “entry point” for illegal immigrants being trafficked to the United States.

Paxton stated in February, “the chaos at the southern border has created an environment where NGOs, funded with taxpayer money from the Biden Administration, facilitate astonishing horrors including human smuggling. While the federal government perpetuates the lawlessness destroying this country, my office works day in and day out to hold these organizations responsible for worsening illegal immigration.”

In fact, this year the Office of Inspector General (OIG) began raising concerns about the Department of Health and Human Services placement and safety protocols regarding unaccompanied alien children (UACs).

Lawmakers in the United States highlighted the issues with the UAC program that is administered through the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Within those reports, along with testimony from whistleblowers, numerous allegations of sexual abuse of children and misplaced children by HHS/ORR have surfaced.

Allegations of abuse often occur at contracted facilities according to those sources who testified before Congress. In fact,  even after lawmakers became aware that ORR lost the location of more than 85,000 children in the United States that had been placed into sponsors homes the situation still remains dire, according to sources.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) statistics, suggest that the number of unaccompanied alien children (UACs) who arrived at the border has swelled from 33,239 in fiscal year 2020 to more than 146,000 in fiscal year 2021 and more than 152,000 in fiscal year 2022. That is roughly a 500 percent increase in the trafficking of unaccompanied children.

In February 2023, The New York Times published an expose on migrant children working brutal jobs across the country, many of which violate child labor laws. At the time the story was written, over 130,000 unaccompanied minors had entered the nation that fiscal year.

In April, 2023 the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Integrity, Security and Enforcement interviewed HHS whistleblower Tara Lee Rodas. At the time she was detailed with HHS at an Emergency Intake Site in Pomona, California, and told the committee “I thought I was going to help place children in loving homes.”

“Instead, I discovered that children are being trafficked through a sophisticated network that begins with recruiting in their home country, smuggled to the U.S. border, and ends when [Office of Refugee Resettlement] delivers a child to a sponsor — some sponsors are criminals and traffickers and members of Transnational Criminal Organizations,” she said. “Some sponsors view children as commodities and assets to be used for earning income — this is why we are witnessing an explosion of labor trafficking.”

In 2019, I interviewed Guatemalan Attorney General Porras in Guatemala. Her focus then was the ongoing crisis of child trafficking in the region and in her nation. She reiterated that the government of Guatemala’s first priority was its children.

And the increase in the flow of unaccompanied children is shocking. On one particular visit to Guatemala in 2018, with Chris Farrell from Judicial Watch, an investigative nonprofit in Washington D.C., we were briefed on the rescue of seven unaccompanied children under the age of 10 that were to be trafficked into the U.S. for nefarious purposes.  These children were rescued by the Guatemalan government from a trafficking organization operating within a large caravan of people that were were monitoring along the Guatemalan border.

“Our nation’s children are the main priority and many of these children are living in poverty and from regions where they have no resources to protect themselves from these predators,” Porras told me during an interview in Guatemala City.

She reiterated those same sentiments in her letter to Paxton, who is also opening his own investigations into the NGOs operating in the state of Texas.

The criminal complaints addressed in the letter allege that the “non-governmental organizations operating in Guatemala and the State of Texas that may be involved in child trafficking operations are “Save the Children,” “Changing the Way We Care,” the World Childhood Foundation, Arise, and La Unión del Pueblo Entero is concerning. What could be particularly alarming about these organizations is that some of them receive federal funds from American taxpayers. I have been informed that other non-governmental organizations operating in Guatemala and Texas could be accomplices to child trafficking, possibly supporting this trafficking and other issues with unaccompanied children and adolescents traveling, but they have proven unsuccessful in protecting children in Guatemala.”

The NGOs in this letter could not be reached immediately for comment with regard to the ongoing investigations. This column will be updated when and if they respond.

As for Guatemalan officials now investigating these claims, they told this reporter they will utilize all resources to target the traffickers and any NGOs aiding in the trafficking of children.

The letter to Paxton states that the investigation is to “protect the human rights and interests of the inhabitants of the Republic of Guatemala, will spare no effort and exhaust all necessary efforts to locate and criminally prosecute those responsible for this enormous tragedy. Be assured that the Attorney General and Chief of the Public Ministry of the Republic of Guatemala will zealously execute her legal mandate to eradicate this epidemic of child trafficking and to hold those who commit these crimes against humanity accountable.”

Porras asked that Paxton’s office contact Guatemalan officials to coordinate in the investigation.

You can follow Sara A Carter on X @SaraCarterDC and on Truth @SaraCarterOfficial

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