DOJ Lawyer Receives Death Threats After Appearing In Viral ‘Toothbrush’ Video

A group of Central American migrants is questioned about their childrens’ health after surrendering to U.S. Border Patrol Agents south of the U.S.-Mexico border fence in El Paso, Texas, March 6, 2019. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

The Department of Justice official pictured in a viral video clip debating what specifically constitutes “sanitary conditions” under a court decision governing the detention of minors has received “several” death threats since the clip’s contents were reported by a number of news outlets last week, DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec told National Review on Monday.

An edited version of Sarah Fabian’s Tuesday testimony before a panel of Ninth Circuit judges was published on Twitter by NowThis News on Friday under the headline: “A Trump official tried to argue that detained children don’t need soap, toothbrushes, or beds to be ‘safe and sanitary’ while in Border Patrol custody.”

A number of media outlets, including the The Hill and the Huffington Post, then highlighted the videos as evidence of the Trump administration’s willful mistreatment of migrants.

Fabian did not argue that children held in federal custody should not be given basic toiletries — as the viral headlines suggest — but rather suggested that the Flores Settlement agreement, a 1997 court ruling which governs the conditions under which minors can be held in federal custody, does not explicitly require the provision of those specific items.

Furthermore, Fabian’s testimony was related to a challenge of a 2017 ruling that U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, under President Obama, violated Flores by failing to provide children with basic sanitary products. The judge presiding over that case found that those items should be provided under Flores and recommended the appointment of a special monitor to ensure CBP provided the items going forward.

The treatment of migrants at CBP holding facilities has received greater scrutiny in recent weeks amid reports that CBP and the Department of Health and Human Services, which assumes custody of the migrants after they are processed by CBP, are unequipped to safely house and provide medical care for the overwhelming number of asylum-seekers arriving at the border each day.

Administration officials have asked Congress for additional funding to address what they claim has become a crisis at the southern border. They have also pleaded for legislative reforms that would grant CBP agents greater latitude to immediately deny entry to asylum seekers if their claims are clearly illegitimate. Under current law, CBP agents must admit virtually all asylum seekers pending an immigration hearing, which as many as 90 percent of them fail to appear for.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced last week that the Senate will vote in the coming days on a $4.5 billion aid package designed to address the government’s inability to adequately shelter the more than 100,000 asylum-seekers that have begun arriving at the southern border each month.

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