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News Brief: Border Agents, Iran Nuclear Deal, Restorative Justice

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

You can find toxic content on all corners of social media, but what if it's coming from U.S. federal agents?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Well, the investigative newsroom ProPublica revealed offensive posts about migrants, and those posts were on a secret Facebook group that was said to be designed for current and former Border Patrol agents. Now, it's not clear that everybody on this site was an agent, but ProPublica identified some who appear to be.

And the people targeted by the posts include Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She happened to be part of a group of lawmakers who toured border detention facilities yesterday. Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas was also part of that group.

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JOAQUIN CASTRO: When we went into the cell, it was clear that the water was not running. There was a toilet, but there was no running water for people to drink. In fact, one of the women said that she was told by an agent to drink water out of the toilet.

MARTIN: NPR's Franco Ordoñez is covering the story and joins us in studio.

Thanks for being here, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Thank you.

MARTIN: I'm going to get to that Facebook page, but I want to start with this visit by the Democratic lawmakers to the border. What more did they say about what they saw?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, it was about a dozen members who visited these facilities. And you have to remember, these - some of these facilities in Texas have come under incredible scrutiny after reports of overcrowding and squalid conditions.

This is a group that visited these facilities. And as you just played in that clip, they met with about a dozen women in one facility and did not find running water. As Joaquin Castro said and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have said, they're very concerned that they do not have water to drink and that they're being forced to do so out of unsanitary conditions.

MARTIN: And we should say these are some of the lawmakers who were actually opposed to the congressional bill that was passed passing all this humanitarian aid to the border. They didn't think it was enough.

ORDOÑEZ: Absolutely. This is a group that was very critical of the bipartisan bill that the House and the Senate passed. But this group wanted a lot more tougher protections for migrants, and migrant children specifically. So this visit comes on the heels of that controversy. Therefore, there was already a lot of lack of trust walking in.

MARTIN: So let's get to this Facebook page. This is coming from a report from ProPublica. They are reporting the existence of this private Facebook page that had all these offensive posts. We're not going to say - explicitly describing them, but can you give us a general sense of what these posts say?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. I mean, the group is called I’m 10-15. It refers to a code for migrants in custody. It boasts thousands of members. Current and former - that's still a little bit unclear.

But as you point, what was revealed in these posts is what was really eye-catching - jokes about throwing burritos at these visiting lawmakers, deaths of migrants. One particular issue was a personal illustration of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez appearing to perform a sex act on the president. She responded last night, saying that it showed a violent culture in the Border Patrol.

MARTIN: Misogynistic statements, racist statements - what is the Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection, saying about this?

ORDOÑEZ: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol is saying that this is completely inappropriate, that it's contrary to the integrity of everyday agents, that all employees found will be held accountable. And they are talking about an independent investigation by the inspector general.

MARTIN: All right. NPR's Franco Ordoñez, thank you so much.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you.

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MARTIN: So what remains of the Iran nuclear deal - you know, the one the U.S. dropped out of and that Iran is now exceeding?

INSKEEP: Iran confirmed on Monday that it has gone beyond the limit for enriched uranium that is called for by the agreement with world powers. Iran says it has a right to break that rule because the world powers are not keeping the bargain to boost Iran's economy.

Speaking on Fox, President Trump said Iranians are playing with fire.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They're having a lot of difficulty in their country right now. And hopefully, at some point, they'll come back and they'll say, we're going to make a deal. We'll see what happens.

INSKEEP: Other nations have been trying to save the deal that already exists.

MARTIN: NPR correspondent Deb Amos joins us now from Berlin.

Hi, Deb.

DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: So Iran has now breached a fundamental tenet of the nuclear agreement. How is Europe responding?

AMOS: The statements out of European capitals have all been essentially the same, which is, we're concerned. And they all urge Iran to stick to the nuclear deal but short of next steps.

Now, this breach seems to be intended to pressure the Europeans to deliver on the economic benefits that Iran was promised in the nuclear deal and has been wiped out by these new U.S. sanctions, but it's going to be very hard for the Europeans to deliver.

MARTIN: I mean, how does it even work? Can European nations do business with Iran outside of U.S. sanctions?

AMOS: Well, here's an example. Germany did the biggest trade with Iran - 60 businesses. It has essentially collapsed. So the Europeans have put together this barter system. It's the Germans, the French and the U.K. And they say that it's up and running. It's only going to deliver food and medicine.

But here's a problem with the barter system. You have to have money on both sides. Iran wants Europe to establish a credit line because they can't sell their oil, and Iran just doesn't sell enough pistachios and carpets to make this whole thing work.

And then there's one other thing, and that is European companies don't want to take the risk to trade with Iran, even on goods that aren't under sanctions, because they are so worried they'll get shut out of the U.S. market.

MARTIN: So what now? I realize this is a huge question. But what events does this now trigger - Iran's violation of the deal?

AMOS: So this can be reversed. What everybody is watching for is the next steps. And there's a deadline of July 7, when Iran says that they will have more serious breaches of the nuclear accord. That we have to watch for. It raises the stakes for Europe. There's more meetings in Europe to see if they can find some way. European powers have resisted reimposing their own sanctions.

But ultimately, if Iran goes further, they risk alienating the U.K., France and Germany. Those are the signatories to the deal. Russia and China - those are the other signatories. They will likely side with Tehran if this whole deal collapses. So you're looking at a new fault line if there's any potential conflict.

INSKEEP: You can see the dilemma the Iranians actually face here. The U.S. is banking on the idea that the U.S. is so big, so powerful that it can implode this whole deal, it can wreck this whole deal. The Iranians and the Europeans have been trying otherwise. But essentially, Iran's threat is, if this keeps going, we will destroy the deal, which is what the U.S. actually wants.

MARTIN: Right.

AMOS: And that puts Iran in a tough - that puts the Europeans in a very tough position.

MARTIN: Right. NPR's Deb Amos for us on this.

Thanks, Deb. We appreciate it.

AMOS: Thank you.

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MARTIN: Local prosecutors in Washington, D.C., are experimenting with a new response to crime.

INSKEEP: When that crime involves young offenders, prosecutors can try to connect the suspects with the people they hurt in a process that avoids traditional criminal prosecution.

MARTIN: It's an idea called restorative justice. And our national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson was able to get a close look at how it's playing out right here in the district.

Hi, Carrie.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hey, Rachel.

MARTIN: So tell us about this program.

JOHNSON: You know, it does bring together young people - these are juveniles under age 18 accused of breaking the law in some fashion - with the victims they've allegedly hurt. And the program is designed to be focused on the victim.

There are a few ground rules. It must be voluntary. Victims have to agree to participate. The program is only open to juveniles who don't use guns during their crimes. Serious sexual assaults are also not acceptable to participate in this program.

And then, if the young people actually follow through on the plans that they develop with their victims, their charges get dismissed. It's something that's been around in some form for a long time, but D.C. is trying to turbocharge it.

MARTIN: Is - I mean, do the prosecutors buy into this whole thing? I mean, prosecutors usually like to prosecute people.

JOHNSON: (Laughter) They do, indeed. And there was a lot of skepticism coming in when this program launched. But I've spoken with prosecutors in the office who say they've sat through these sessions, and they believe it actually has the potential to change young people's hearts and minds, making them less likely to commit new crimes. Data is early and sparse, but so far, authorities in D.C. - the D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine says he thinks it looks successful.

MARTIN: So you got a chance to talk to someone, a young man - a victim who actually went through this process. What did he tell you?

JOHNSON: Yeah. Believe it or not, it's a police officer who was himself the victim of an assault. He's with the Metro Transit Police. His name is Jason Dixon. About a year and a half ago or longer, Dixon was trying to break up a fight on the subway system here in D.C. among a group of kids. He took the brunt of the attack as he got in the middle of this scuffle. He actually tore his rotator cuff, strained his knee, was out of work for three months.

But when prosecutors called, Dixon says he opted for a restorative justice session rather than take this case to court.

JASON DIXON: If this was my son and somebody saw an opportunity to help him, I would hope that person would take that opportunity. You know, and I saw something in this young man that I felt like was enough to me to say, hey, I know I'm injured, but I want to see how I can change his life to the point where he doesn't make a decision like this again.

JOHNSON: And here's how this played out. Afterwards, they did one of these restorative justice conferences. Dixon and his wife, who's also in law enforcement, attended. This young man attended with some of his community supporters. And then there were people from the D.C. attorney general's office. They agreed that this young man was going to call Dixon once a week for six months, avoiding a possible criminal record.

And in the end, Officer Dixon, the victim of a crime, wound up offering parenting advice to the 16-year-old who hurt him...

MARTIN: Wow.

JOHNSON: ...Himself a new father.

MARTIN: It's interesting because I was going to ask, why is the focus on young people here? Couldn't it work for everyone? But clearly, they see it as a chance to change someone's life at an early stage. Just quickly, Carrie, are there other jurisdictions considering programs like this?

JOHNSON: You know, a number of states have been opting into some of these programs. The difference here in D.C. is that they've brought it in-house. These counselors and restorative justice personnel work right down the hall from prosecutors, hoping it will cause more prosecutors to appreciate the process and buy into it.

MARTIN: NPR's justice correspondent Carrie Johnson.

Carrie, thank you for sharing this. We appreciate it.

JOHNSON: My pleasure. Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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