Funerals for Americans killed in Mexico ambush draw thousands

Last Updated Nov 7, 2019 7:27 PM EST

Under tight security Thursday, hundreds of people gathered for the first funeral for the nine American women and children killed in an ambush in Mexico this week. A mother and her two sons were laid to rest, and more will be buried in the coming days.

The first victims of the ambush to be laid to rest were carried in coffins handmade by relatives, tailored to the small bodies of those who are gone: 2-year-old Rogan, 11-year-old Trevor and their mother, Dawna Langford, were buried. The six others will be laid to rest in their home towns.

Outside the funeral, there was a heavy police presence.

The horror of the massacre is palpable in voice messages family member Kendra Lee Miller sent to others. The messages were first obtained by CNN.

“Dear God, everybody pray. Officers just came and said my mom’s suburban is blown up, up on the — by the hill.  Everyone, please pray,” they said. “Dear God, pray for us all.”

Robert LeBaron traveled for the funerals. “If we can’t protect our women and children, you’re no longer a country,” he said. 

While Mexican officials believe the attack was a case of mistaken identity in a shootout between rival cartels, some family members — who say they’ve been threatened before — believe they were targeted.

For the eight children who survived the attack, the physical healing will come before the emotional. Family members released a video of 9-month-old Brixton, who is recovering from a shot to the chest and a grazed wrist. Seven-month-old Faith, who lost her mother in the attack, is now back with her father.

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Thousands of migrant children could be detained indefinitely

Watch the full report on “CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell” at 6:30 p.m. ET.

An unprecedented number of unaccompanied migrant children are at risk of spending the rest of their childhoods in federal custody, CBS News learned in an exclusive interview with the head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), the agency that cares for these children. 

The federal government is required to pursue “prompt and continuous efforts toward family reunification” of unaccompanied migrant children, according to a landmark court settlement, but for thousands of kids in ORR care, that reunion may never happen.

“Unfortunately, I have well over 4,000 of those children in my care at this time at the Office of Refugee Resettlement,” the director, Jonathan Hayes, told CBS News in June. “So conceivably someone could come into our care at 15 years old and not have an identifiable sponsor in the United States and remain with us for a few years.” 

On their 18th birthdays, many of the children will be taken from ORR’s youth holding facilities, referred to as shelters, to adult detention centers operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The number of children in this group has risen sharply in recent years, an “alarming” and “deeply concerning” trend, according to three former agency officials who spoke with CBS News. 

Children in ORR custody are labeled internally as belonging to one of four groups: Category One children have an identified parent or legal guardian — referred to as a sponsor — in the U.S.; Category Two kids may end up with a relative; Category Three children have potential sponsors who identify as distant family or close family friends.

The children who may be stuck in federal custody — Category Four — have no identifiable sponsor, according to the government.

As of June, Category Four children represented roughly one-third of all kids in ORR care, a far greater portion than in past years, according to former ORR Director Bob Carey, who served during the last two years of the Obama administration. 

“It’s deeply concerning. It’s a significant increase from what we saw during the Obama administration. I think the numbers were really small, I would think under 10 percent,” said Carey, who is now a policy adviser at the nonprofit Exodus Institute. 

A February 2016 report by the Government Accountability Office called the use of Category Four designations “rare.” 

Another former ORR official, who asked not to be named, called the sudden change troubling. “Having a third of kids be CAT 4, there’s something that’s strange about that,” the former ORR official said. “That’s alarming to me, particularly because the system was never designed for long-term care.”

Why so many migrant kids could be held indefinitely

A landmark 1997 court settlement known as the Flores Agreement requires the federal government to try to unite unaccompanied migrant children with relatives as quickly as possible. However, those efforts may be harder to fulfill than in previous years, according to Mark Greenberg, former Acting Assistant Secretary of the Administration for Children and Families, which oversees ORR. Greenberg said potential sponsors may be too afraid to come forward, a view shared by Carey and the other former ORR official. 

All three said they’ve long feared that the Trump administration’s immigration policy changes would have a “chilling effect” on potential sponsors. They cited the “zero tolerance” initiative that separated children from parents and a now-scrapped 2018 rule mandating that all members of a sponsors’ household be fingerprinted, as well as talk of raids by ICE

Agency statistics show in fiscal year 2018 there was a dramatic drop in the percentage of children released from ORR care compared to previous years.

Separated from his father, then labeled Category Four

Texas attorney Ricardo de Anda represents a 9-year-old former Category Four boy who was separated from his father in May 2018 as a result of “zero tolerance.” They fled Guatemala after the father, an Evangelical Christian, had been “brutally attacked and tortured by members of (the 18th Street Gang) because of … preaching against a life of crime,” according to a federal court complaint filed by de Anda.

The father was sent back to Guatemala and is in hiding, but has had maintained contact with U.S. attorneys. With no other family in the U.S., the boy was classified as Category Four. During the next nine months he would be moved to four different ORR facilities, breaking his leg along the way, according to de Anda. 

De Anda located a family who wanted to take the boy in, and introduced the boy’s parents to them through a series of video conferences and phone calls. The father signed forms at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala agreeing to designate the family as the boy’s sponsor.

ORR rejected the request, according to court documents. “Per policy, we are not able to reunify any child with people that are not known by the family,” the agency wrote to de Anda. That policy is known as the “pre-existing relationship” rule.

The boy sued and was allowed to go live with the sponsor family. ORR did not respond to questions about the boy’s case.

De Anda thinks more kids should get the opportunity afforded his client. He says the government should get rid of the Category Four classification altogether.

“The reason children are stacking up in in these detention camps is because ORR does not allow qualified American families to take these children in,” de Anda said. “I know for a fact, just from my practice, how many Americans are willing to open their doors to take these children in. But the door is absolutely closed to them. And as a result these children are stacking up and they’re languishing.”

For many kids in long-term ORR care, life can be particularly unstable, said attorney Neha Desai, Director of Immigration at the nonprofit National Center for Youth Law.

“A couple of kids I can think of off the top of my head have been in our custody literally for years, bouncing up and down (between various facilities),” Desai said. 

She said kids are often beholden to the case workers tasked with vetting their sponsors. 

“A case worker that is actively and creatively exploring options for a youth may be able to pursue a potential sponsor that another less zealous case manager may have never identified in the first place,” Desai said. 

Some Category Four children end up in ORR’s foster care system, but the majority remain in ORR’s network of nearly 170 shelters, some of which have been the subject of withering widespread criticism. The largest such shelter, in Homestead, Florida, was criticized in May by some of its own child residents in the form of testimonials filed in court. Children there described fear and anxiety over punishment for breaking seemingly small rules — showering too long, or hugging a sibling in violation of a no-touching policy.  

An Amnesty International report released July 17 found at least 97 Category Four children in Homestead. The facility’s director said that for children without sponsors, the preference is for them to be “repatriated,” or deported, rather than risk that they remain in a non-relative’s home where trafficking could be a risk.

“Amnesty International is alarmed by this rationale, which could result in children being unlawfully returned to harm in the countries that they fled,” the report’s authors wrote. 

Keeping count

As attorneys, advocates and former ORR officials track similar cases, they question how the system could be both seemingly overflowing with unplaceable kids, while also apparently becoming more efficient by the day. 

Agency statistics show the average length of care for migrant children dropping from a high of 93 days in November 2018 to as low as 45 days in June. 

“I’m not sure how those numbers are being calculated, because it doesn’t really make sense if some children are not being released to sponsors and they’re staying in our care,” Carey said. 

He and others said they want the agency to release statistics that differentiate between the average length of care for children who have been released, and the average length of care for all children currently in ORR custody.

ORR did not reply to questions seeking average statistics that differentiate between the average length of care for children who are released, and the average length of care for the agency’s entire population, including those who remain in custody.  

ORR statistics show the overall population of unaccompanied migrant children has decreased from more than 13,000 in June to 10,100 as of Tuesday, amid an annual summertime decrease in immigration across the southern border. It is not clear if the number of children labeled Category Four has also decreased during that time.

“They could be indefinitely in our custody which is not a healthy situation for children, not knowing what their future is, not having access to recreation, education, being separated from their family members. And these children are for the most part already traumatized,” Carey said.

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Run-off from Jim Beam warehouse fire is killing thousands of fish

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Fortnite teen hackers 'earning thousands of pounds a week'

Children as young as 14 are making thousands of pounds a week as part of a global hacking network built around the popular video game Fortnite.

About 20 hackers told the BBC they were stealing the private gaming accounts of players and reselling them online.

Fortnite is free to play but is estimated to have made more than £1bn through the sale of “skins”, which change the look of a character, and other add-ons.

This fuels a growing black market.

Hackers can sell player accounts for as little as 25p or hundreds of pounds, depending on what they contain.

The items are collected as in-game purchases but are purely cosmetic and do not give gamers any extra abilities.

Fortnite-maker Epic declined to comment on the investigation but said it was working to improve account security.

The game has more than 200 million players.

‘Felt horrible’

One British hacker said he got involved at the age of 14 earlier this summer, when he himself became the victim of a hack.

Speaking from his bedroom via a video chat, wearing a baseball cap and bandana to hide his identity, the teenager said he had spent about £50 of his pocket money to build up a collection of skins, when he had woken up to a message that changed everything.

“The email said that my password had been changed and two-factor authentication had been added by someone else. It felt horrible,” he recalled.

Two-factor authentication meant his account could only be accessed by entering a code sent to an email address or app registered by the perpetrator.

Like many victims, he turned to Twitter to vent his frustration.

That was where he saw new accounts containing even better items on sale.

“I was approached by someone who said I could buy an account for 25p and I could clearly see the account was worth a lot more,” he recalled.

“I bought it.”

He knew he was playing on a stolen account but with so many others doing it online and making lots of money, he was soon drawn into the world of “Fortnite cracking”.

“I was approached by a cracking team and they told me what it was and all about ‘combos’, ‘proxies’ and I guess they showed me how to crack,” he said.

‘Lucky dip’

He said they showed him where to find the vast lists of usernames and passwords published online from other data breaches over the years.

They showed him where to buy “off-the-shelf” hacker tools needed to input those credentials into the login page of Fortnite. Once inside an account, they showed him how to take it over and then sell it to the hungry online community.

He insisted that he only carried out one cracking session. But in that single day he managed to access more than 1,000 Fortnite accounts.

“It’s lucky dip basically, you either get a good account or you don’t. People like the rarity of the ‘skins’ and it’s about the look of them and showing off to friends.”

The hacker said he was now a middleman for other crackers, selling on accounts he knew to be stolen. In his first few weeks, he made around £1,500 and bought himself some games and a new bicycle.

He said he knew what he was doing was illegal, but his parents were aware of his activities and had not stopped him.

Offences like this fall under the Computer Misuse Act and carry a possible prison sentence of two years.

Some hackers show no signs of remorse or concern. One of the most prolific is a 17-year-old from Slovenia, who sells through his own website.

“You can’t get caught, nobody checks it,” he told the BBC from within the game.

Amidst the gunfire and wall-building, he said he had made £16,000 in the seven months that he had been cracking.

He said his mother was an accountant who was helping him save for a first car. He sent screenshots of his Paypal accounts and Bitcoin wallets to confirm his business was real.

Another hacker showed proof of earnings ranging from £50 a day to almost £300.

The 15-year-old from France said his best week netted him £2,300.

“Yes I have done other stuff but nothing too big,” he added, referring to identity fraud among other cyber-crimes.

The National Crime Agency says there is a long-standing link between video games and hacking, and that publishers need to do more to prevent players being tempted into crime.

“What we want to see these companies do is not look at this from a purely technical standpoint,” said the agency’s lead on gaming, Ethan Thomas.

“What we’d like… is the gaming industry engaging more with law enforcement and looking at early intervention messaging on their platforms to divert [youngsters] on to a more ethical and legal path.”

Debbie Tunstall runs rehabilitation days for low-level hackers who have been caught.

She is concerned about networks like Fortnite’s cracking community.

“We know that these sorts of activities are linked to organised crime and we know that they are being egged on by more dangerous people behind the scenes,” she explained.

“There is definitely cyber-crime grooming taking place and if we don’t act they could easily get taken down that route.”

The issue of account hacking on Fortnite was first brought to the attention of Epic in March, when it said it was looking into the problem.

Hackers say it makes it extremely hard for them to access an account if players add two-factor authentication to their own accounts.

Epic encourages the security measure by rewarding those who adopt it with in-game accessories but has opted not to make the step mandatory.

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