News Brief: Migrant Death, Huawei Ban, Iran Sanctions
NOEL KING, HOST:
A teenage boy was found dead yesterday at a Border Patrol station in South Texas.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
He's the fifth migrant child to die after being apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border since December. He was 16 years old. He was from Guatemala. And immigration authorities say only that he was diagnosed with the flu over the weekend. His death comes amid growing concern about the conditions at Border Patrol facilities. On Sunday, Kevin McAleenan, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, spoke of U.S. detention centers on CBS.
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KEVIN MCALEENAN: I'm very concerned about the conditions. These are not appropriate facilities for families and children in particular. These are police stations built for single adults, and that's why we've asked Congress for more resources to address it.
KING: NPR's Joel Rose covers immigration. He's in studio with us this morning. Hi, Joel.
JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Hey, Noel.
KING: So what more do we know about this boy who died?
ROSE: His name was Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez. As you say, he was 16 years old, from Guatemala. U.S. Customs and Border Protection says he was taken into custody after crossing the border in Hidalgo, Texas, which is near McAllen. He entered the U.S., according to CBP, with a group of about 70 migrants. From there, he was moved to a Border Patrol processing center in McAllen.
According to CBP, he received a medical screening when he arrived and another one on Sunday when he reported feeling sick. A nurse practitioner diagnosed him with the flu. And then he was transferred to another Border Patrol facility to isolate him from the other migrants and given medicine for the flu. But he was never taken to a hospital. CBP says he was discovered unresponsive during a welfare check on Monday morning. And his death is under investigation by the FBI, by CBP, by other agencies.
KING: As we said, he's the fifth migrant child to die after being apprehended. But the difference here is that he wasn't taken to a hospital, right?
ROSE: Well, exactly. I mean, five migrants have died after crossing the border in just the last six months. But they were all, you know, either rushed to the hospital or had been in the hospital for some time when they died. Hernandez Vasquez died in the Border Patrol facility. So there are still a lot of questions here - why he wasn't taken to the hospital. It's also not clear why he was still in Border Patrol custody for almost a week. By law, the Border Patrol is not supposed to hold children for more than 72 hours, though we know, in practice, that they've been holding them for a lot longer recently.
In this case, Hernandez Vasquez was supposed to be sent to a migrant child shelter that's overseen by U.S. Health and Human Services. It's not really clear why that was not done. CBP and HHS seem to be sort of pointing fingers at each other. But immigrant rights advocates say the bottom line is he should not have been in a Border Patrol facility for that long. Wendy Young is the president of Kids in Need of Defense. It's a nonprofit that advocates for migrant children.
WENDY YOUNG: The kids that we're talking about are typically arriving at the border exhausted. You know, they've had a very difficult journey, and they've had a difficult experience in their home country. They very often are in poor health, so providing them with the right care from the moment that they're taken into custody is really critical.
KING: All right. And you heard that clip, Joel, from Kevin McAleenan just a few minutes ago, talking about these conditions being inappropriate. What does he mean? What are the conditions like?
ROSE: Well, I think everyone agrees that these facilities are just not equipped for the current situation, which is that thousands of migrants are arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border every day. And immigrant rights advocates say that conditions in these facilities are only getting worse.
The ACLU of Texas sent a formal complaint on Friday to the internal government watchdogs at both DHS and CBP that paints a pretty ugly picture. The ACLU says thousands of migrants have been detained outside because there's just no more room inside the holding cells. Migrants report not having access to showers or medical attention, forced to sleep outside. DHS did not respond for a request for comment on that ACLU complaint.
KING: NPR's Joel Rose covers immigration. Joel, thanks so much.
ROSE: You're welcome.
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KING: All right. How exactly does the Trump administration plan to pressure a giant Chinese tech company?
INSKEEP: The administration has made some dramatic moves in recent days. First, it told U.S. tech companies to stop dealing with Huawei. The U.S. has alleged that this maker of smartphones and cellphone networks is an information security risk. The U.S. move prompted Google to block Huawei's access to software that is used in many, many, many phones. And then yesterday, the U.S. abruptly gave Huawei a 90-day reprieve.
KING: NPR's Aarti Shahani has been following all of this. Good morning, Aarti.
AARTI SHAHANI, BYLINE: Good morning.
KING: So Aarti, what kicked this off? And what's actually being banned here?
SHAHANI: Sure. So it started last week. The Trump administration added Huawei to a shortlist that American companies can't buy from or sell to. The ban affects very big players and also some pretty small ones. Take the small ones - take small mobile carriers, not your Verizons and T-Mobiles, but say your rural carriers. They buy Huawei equipment because it's cheap - now will have to change suppliers.
On the big end, let's take Google. Google and Huawei have licensing agreements, and that's to put Gmail, Maps and the YouTube app on Huawei phones. Now, with the new ban, for any future phones, new licensing agreements are not allowed. The Google apps can't be included, and that will curtail Google's presence in Europe, where Huawei's phones are sold.
KING: All right. That is the context. But the U.S. has actually sort of taken a step back and said Huawei now has 90 more days to operate in the United States. What is that about? Why'd they do that?
SHAHANI: Yeah. So everything I just said has a caveat. Last night, the...
SHAHANI: Yeah. The administration issued an update saying American firms could keep engaging in certain existing business with Huawei until mid-August. And you know, that's presumably to give some transition or prep time.
KING: And could the ban possibly get dropped entirely during that period?
SHAHANI: Sure. That's possible, too. And there would be a precedent for that. Last year, President Trump banned another Chinese phone maker, ZTE, for national security concerns. And that basically brought China's president, Xi Jinping, to the bargaining table. That ended in Trump announcing ZTE would pay a billion-dollar fine. So you know, maybe - maybe the Huawei ban is just a move to create leverage for the U.S.
KING: And what is Huawei saying about all this?
SHAHANI: So according to Reuters, Huawei's president told China state TV that America is underestimating his company's capabilities. And you know, meanwhile, we're seeing a very restrained response from other American tech giants. An Intel spokesperson said the chip maker would comply with the law, of course, but wouldn't explain what that meant. Microsoft and Apple both do business with Huawei and each declined to explain how they would implement the ban.
It is worth noting Apple's delicate position in all of this. China is a really important market for iPhones. When the U.S. targets Huawei, either with this ban or other actions, that helps Huawei's popularity in China. OK? Huawei is, in some circles, seen as a martyr in that country's fight against U.S. imperialism. That dynamic is not at all helpful to Apple, which has been going through a sales slump in China. And also, you know, Apple could become the target of Chinese government backlash.
So as this is proceeding, there's a real need to be cautious about the signals that the companies are sending to the government overseas.
KING: And of course, all of this happening in the context of a trade war between the United States and China.
SHAHANI: Correct, an escalating one.
KING: NPR's Aarti Shahani. Thanks, Aarti.
SHAHANI: Thank you.
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KING: The Trump administration has been talking about possibly using military force against Iran.
INSKEEP: And we should be clear - so far there's a lot of signaling, no sign of shooting. The U.S. has deployed additional war ships and planes to the Gulf region in recent days. And top administration officials will brief members of Congress today. The president has warned that the U.S. would use, quote, "great force if" - note the if - "if Iran were to attack U.S. interests."
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They've been very hostile. They've truly been the No. 1 provocateur of terror.
INSKEEP: But he also left some room for negotiation.
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TRUMP: If they called we would certainly negotiate, but that's going to be up to them. I'd only want them to call if they're ready.
INSKEEP: The administration, of course, has been threatening economic steps against anyone doing business with Iran, especially buying Iranian oil. Many companies around the world are scrambling to make sure they don't violate those newly imposed sanctions.
KING: And NPR's Jackie Northam has been looking into the sanctions. Hi, Jackie.
JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Good morning.
KING: All right. So the U.S. is not just hitting Iran with sanctions, they're penalizing companies for doing business with Iran. How does that work? How do they find out?
NORTHAM: Well, the U.S. dollar is the most commonly used currency in the world. And the majority of transactions - whether, you know, it's wire transfers or currency exchanges, payments - are done in the dollar. And those transactions will electronically run through about a half a dozen major banks in the U.S. You can imagine the computers in those banks watch trillions of transactions. And they have software that will alert them if a person or a company on a U.S. sanctions list is trying to do a transaction. They'll then alert the Treasury Department. And
you know, the penalties can be big. Four years ago, the French bank PNB Paribas - BNP Paribas was fined $9 billion for violating those sanctions against business with Iran. And now that those sanctions have been reimposed, companies - let me tell you - are scrambling to comply.
KING: Nine billion dollars...
NORTHAM: That's a lot.
KING: ...I understand the scramble.
KING: What are some of the steps these companies are taking to stay on the right side of this?
NORTHAM: Well, a lot of them are proactively scrutinizing their transactions. And I'm told many international companies are hiring former Treasury Department officials to help make sure they're in compliance and not violating U.S. sanctions.
I dug down into some quarterly financial reports from Amazon and found that they've been going through their transactions with a fine-toothed comb. They have declarations saying they've discovered sales and/or deliveries of books and jewelry and toys - even pet products - to Iranian embassies and consulates since 2012. You know, they even mention a $20 delivery to someone who may have been working with the Iranian government.
So you know, it's better to go back and look rather than face one of these very heavy fines or even be banned from the U.S. financial system.
KING: The U.S. reimposed sanctions on Iran after President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear deal. But other countries still do support the deal. Can they get a reprieve from these sanctions?
NORTHAM: It's really difficult to do that because the dollar is so pervasive. Europe has talked about creating what they're calling a special purpose vehicle to do these transactions with Iran. But it's sort of a separate payment system, and it's usually, as you say, involving oil. But they haven't figured out to do it and it just hasn't got off the ground. You know, companies don't want to appear to be working around the White House and risk getting, you know, cut out of the U.S. financial systems. There's other ways - there's trading and bartering with Iran for goods, but it's cumbersome. And again, it runs a risk of crossing the U.S.
KING: NPR's international affairs correspondent Jackie Northam. Jackie, thanks so much.
NORTHAM: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.