Time editor defends crying migrant girl cover

The top editor at Time, Edward Felsenthal, on Sunday defended the magazine’s controversial cover about the situation at the US-Mexico border.

The cover included a now iconic image of a crying child set against a red background, with President Donald Trump looking down at her.

Some —- particularly pro-Trump news outlets —- have accused the magazine and the mainstream media of misusing the image of the little girl to tell a story about migrant children being separated from their parents and the US and Mexico border.

CNN reported Monday that the government said the girl in the photograph was never separated from her mother. The girl’s father confirmed to The New York Times on Friday the pair were never separated.

But Felsenthal stood by Time’s use of the image. He told CNN’s Brian Stelter on “Reliable Sources” that the image “symbolized this moment in America.”

The photograph is of a Honduran toddler in tears, looking up as police detained her mother. It was widely shared by media outlets last week, including CNN, during a wave of backlash against the Trump administration’s treatment of undocumented immigrants.

It circulated as the separation of children from their parents at the border became a hot-button issue.

Time issued a correction to one online story that initially described the image as depicting family separation. (CNN quickly issued a correction on one article Thursday about the Time cover to correctly describe the image of the crying girl.)

Felsenthal defended the use of the image on Time’s cover last week.

“We chose the photo because this little girl became the face of this story on front pages and home pages and TV screens and Facebook feeds,” he said.

But a barrage of pro-Trump media outlets have pounced on Time and other publications, saying they misrepresented the girl.

The Daily Caller wrote: “The media’s narrative about family separation at the border has been completely demolished, as the truth behind a viral photo of a crying Honduran child tells a completely different story.”

Stelter, the host of “Reliable,” said the conservative outlets are “using this one issue to try to distract from what is a disgusting situation at the border.”

The US Department of Homeland security said earlier this month that about 2,000 children had been separated from their parents at the border between April 19 and May 31 of this year. The separations were caused largely by the Trump administration’s decision to charge every adult caught illegally crossing the border with a federal crime.

Stelter suggested to Felsenthal that perhaps the image of the Honduran girl “shouldn’t have been the face of this story if she wasn’t separated from her mom.”

Felsenthal replied: “None of us in the media who used the photo knew what had happened to the girl after this precise moment. And I actually think part of the power of the image is that unknown.”

Felsenthal earlier defended the cover in a statement issued Friday.

“The June 12 photograph of the 2-year-old Honduran girl became the most visible symbol of the ongoing immigration debate in America for a reason … Our cover and our reporting capture the stakes of this moment,” he said.

—CNN’s Tal Kopan contributed to this report.

Police: Teen reported missing from Texas migrant facility

A teenage boy has been reported missing from a care facility in Brownsville, Texas, a police official said Sunday.

Brownsville Detective J.J. Treviño said police officers were called to the Southwest Key Casa Padre location after reports of a missing 15-year-old boy who ran away from the facility, the largest migrant children’s center in the United States.

Jeff Eller, spokesman for the nonprofit Southwest Key Programs, which runs the facility, confirmed that a teenage boy left the center on Saturday and that facility officials called local law enforcement.

“As a licensed child care center, if a child attempts to leave any of our facilities, we cannot restrain them,” Eller said. “We are not a detention center. We talk to them and try to get them to stay. If they leave the property, we call law enforcement.”

Officers searched the surrounding area and waterways without finding the teen. Police have entered the boy’s information into the missing children’s database.

An official with US Health & Human Services confirmed a boy ran away, but could not confirm what happened to him after that.

Developing story.

Detained mom has no idea where her son is, so she wrote this letter to him

The rainbows and stars on the mother’s handwritten letter belie her agony and fear.

“I love you, my boy. Be strong and fight, don’t get sad,” the letter reads. “God will protect you and we will be together soon.”

But the truth is, the woman doesn’t know when she and her son will be reunited. She doesn’t even know where he is.

It’s been about two weeks since the mother, who doesn’t want to be identified, was separated from her 7-year-old son near the US-Mexico border, attorney Eileen Blessinger said Sunday.

They fled Honduras to escape threats of deadly violence back home, she said. The mother recalled a drug trafficker “coming after her and her family” and trying to snatch their land.

“He and his friends were threatening to kill them,” Blessinger said.

So the mother and child crossed the Rio Grande, illegally. But a Trump administration policy enacted in April meant every person caught crossing the border illegally would be referred for federal prosecution — including those who arrived with children.

That led to children getting taken away and put in federal shelters or foster care across the country as their parents’ criminal cases progressed.

Blessinger said even though the mother entered the US illegally, “she immediately requested asylum” — a protected status that allows people fleeing persecution to live legally in another country. The asylum request is pending.

But what makes this family’s case particularly devastating is the way the 7-year-old boy was separated from his mother, Blessinger said.

“He was sleeping on the floor (of a holding facility), and the guards said, ‘You can leave him sleeping. We’re going to go to court and come right back,’ ” the mother recalled, according to the attorney.

But when the mother returned, her son was gone. Since then, she’s been “hysterically crying,” since no one has been able to tell her where her son is.

So in an act of hope and desperation, the mother wrote a letter to her son:

To: My reason of life

God will help us my beautiful sky [a term of endearment] to see each other again.

I love you my boy.

Be strong and fight, don’t get sad.

God will protect you and we will be together soon.

I love you.

I adore you.

Your mom loves you and they will never separate us.

The mother gave the letter to Blessinger, a Virginia immigration attorney who’s providing pro bono assistance to detainees in Texas. Maybe, the mother thought, Blessinger could find her son. But as of Sunday, neither the mother nor the attorney knew where he was.

After widespread outrage over family separations, President Donald Trump signed an executive order last week to keep parents and kids together in detention.

“It’s about keeping families together, while at the same time being sure we have a very powerful, very strong border,” Trump said.

In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, Ron Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said the majority of recently separated children have not yet been reunited.

“The most recent information we have from DHS (Department of Homeland Security) is they have reunited about 21% of those children that were separated from their families under this new enforcement policy,” he said.

Blessinger, the pro bono attorney, said she’s received letters from other detained parents in hopes those letters might reach their children.

She said after talking to dozens of detainees that many of them are escaping dire or deadly conditions in their homelands.

“Their lives are actually at risk … not every person, but 90% of them,” she said.

“I agree we can’t take everyone. But what is the solution?”

Fox News commentator apologizes for racist remark

Fox News is distancing itself from a racist remark made by one of its paid commentators on Sunday.

The commentator, David Bossie, was arguing on “Fox & Friends” with Democratic strategist Joel Payne, who is black. He told Payne, “you’re out of your cotton-picking mind.”

Payne was stunned by the remark. He told Bossie he had “some relatives who picked cotton, and I’m not going to sit back and let you attack me on TV like that.”

Bossie, a veteran conservative activist, was a deputy campaign manager on the Trump campaign. He also served as a deputy director of Trump’s transition team. He joined Fox News in February 2017.

Fox declined to comment on whether Bossie would be suspended in the wake of the on-air controversy.

But in a statement, a Fox News spokesperson said “David Bossie’s comments today were deeply offensive and wholly inappropriate. His remarks do not reflect the sentiments of Fox News and we do not in any way condone them.”

Four and a half hours after the TV segment, Bossie tweeted an apology.

“During a heated segment on ‘Fox & Friends’ today, I should have chosen my words more carefully and never used the offensive phrase that I did,” he wrote. “I apologize to Joel Payne, Fox News and its viewers.”

The banner on screen during the segment said “PUNDITS CALL TRUMP SUPPORTERS RACIST, NAZIS.” The segment was supposed to be all about heated rhetoric.

After the “cotton picking” comment, Bossie again said to Payne, “You’re out of your mind.”

“Let’s end it on a civil note,” host Ed Henry said.

He moved on, but came back after a break to “address what just happened.”

“I want to make clear Fox News and this show, myself, we don’t agree with that particular phrase,” Henry said. “It was obviously offensive, and these debates get fiery. That’s unfortunate.”

Payne had no immediate response after the segment ended.

Almost 350 migrants are stranded on two boats in the Mediterranean

Almost 350 migrants are stranded on two boats in the Mediterranean, including a Danish cargo ship, as a standoff between nearby European countries deepened on Sunday.

The boats include German rescue ship, Lifeline, which picked up 234 people and 17 crew members off the coast of Libya on Thursday; and a cargo ship operated by Danish transportation company Maersk, which picked up another 113 migrants off the coast of Libya on Friday morning.

Both boats have been barred from docking at nearby Italy and Malta, as the countries urged other European nations to take in the stranded migrants.

The standoff comes weeks after Italy and Malta refused to accept another rescue ship, the Aquarius, which was carrying over 600 migrants. After two days drifting in the Mediterranean the migrants were accepted by Spain, exposing the tough new policies of Italy’s hardline interior minister and leader of the anti-immigration League party, Matteo Salvini.

‘Dear Salvini, we have no meat on board, just humans’

Salvini doesn’t appear to be backing down on his tough stance anytime soon. Last week he warned the Dutch-flagged ship operated by the German nongovernmental organization Lifeline, currently stranded in the Mediterranean with over 200 migrants on board, not to dock in Italian ports.

“You (Lifeline) did a show of strength by contravening the indications of the Italian and Libyan coast guard. Now, you’ll carry this human load to the Netherlands,” Salvini said in a Facebook live video from his office.

On Sunday, Lifeline responded to Salvini in a Twitter post, saying: “Dear @matteosalvinimi, we have no meat on board, but humans. We cordially invite you to convince yourself that it is people we have saved from drowning. Come here, you are welcome!”

Maersk answers Italy’s call for help

Similarly, Italy has also refused to allow the Maersk cargo ship, which is carrying over 100 migrants and is located south of Sicily, to dock in its ports. That’s despite the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Center calling Maersk on Thursday night and asking for it to rescue the migrants, a Maersk spokesman told CNN.

The cargo ship had been traveling between Libya and Italy at the time, the spokesman said, adding that “it is now denied a port of entry and the company is awaiting further instruction from authorities.”

The ship is roughly three sea miles from the port of Pozzallo in Sicily, Italian Coast Guard press officer Commander Cosimo Nicastro told CNN. He added that of the 113 migrants rescued, five have since been brought to shore for medical reasons, including an eight-months pregnant woman and her partner, and a young girl that needed medical assistance with her mother and sister.

Lifeline ship near the coast of Malta

Axel Steier, a spokesman aboard the Lifeline, told CNN on Saturday night that the ship is around seven to 10 hours from the Maltese coast.

However Malta has refused to allow the ship to dock, with Prime Miniser Joseph Muscat saying in a government statement that the rescue had taken place in the Libyan rescue zone and that it had been coordinated by the Italian authorities, and later by the Libyan authorities.

Given these circumstances, Malta is under no obligation to take in the ship, he said, even though the vessel is in the Maltese rescue zone.

That said, Malta has twice given food and drink supplies to the stranded ship, the Malta Ambassador to Italy, Vanessa Frazier, told CNN.

Blame game continues

Meanwhile, the fiery exchange between Italy and Malta continued over the weekend, with Italian transportation minister Danilo Toninelli calling the Maltese decision not to allow the Lifeline to dock “inhumane” and “absurd” on his Facebook page on Saturday.

Malta’s Minister for Home Affairs and National Security, Michael Farrugia, responded with tweets asking Toninelli to get his facts right and accusing Lifeline of breaking “international rules.”

Immigration continues to be a controversial issue for EU member states. During the recent federal election campaign that led to Italy’s new government — a coalition between the anti-immigrant League and anti-establishment Five Star Movement — Salvini promoted his party with an “Italians first” slogan and pledged to deport half a million migrants.

At an informal EU summit on immigration in Brussels on Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared keen to manage expectations that European leaders could reach a broad agreement on migration, telling journalists that countries will need to work on bilateral and trilateral deals with one another instead of waiting for all 28 EU member countries to come to an agreement.

Desperate migrants on a deadly route

The Mediterranean remains the world’s deadliest migration route, despite sharp falls in the number of people trying to reach Europe by boat. That drop is partly ascribed to a deal struck between Italy and Libya last year, in which the southern European country pledged to bolster Libya’s coast guard so it could spot departing migrant boats and house migrants attempting to cross.

As of June 6, there had been an estimated 785 deaths on the route this year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said, with the majority of the 33,400 migrants and refugees arriving through Greece and Italy.