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In court filings, federal prosecutors have been withholding the fact that some immigrants they are charging with crimes for entering the country illegally are actually seeking asylum in the United States.

Now, in one of these misdemeanor cases, a defense attorney is questioning the practice, saying the government is omitting the information to veil its attempts to criminalize asylum-seekers, Maya Srikrishnan reports.

On top of that: If the government omits defendants’ asylum requests from court documents when it prosecutes them, it may be able to more easily secure a conviction against them, and then use that conviction to deny them asylum.

Ignoring international law? Treating asylum-seekers as criminals could also violate an international treaty designed to protect refugees.

The treaty, the 1951 Refugee Convention, says that countries shouldn’t be criminalizing asylum-seekers. That means it may not be legal for the United States to be prosecuting asylum-seekers for entering the country, as the Trump administration is doing.

The twist: The government argues that including whether a defendant has asked for asylum would violate his or her privacy rights, among other concerns.

But one defense attorney, Andrew Nietor, argues that prosecutors are using privacy concerns to justify withholding information from judges about why people are trying to enter this country.

“Most regulations dealing with privacy and security are for the protection of the individuals,” he said. “For the government to use a regulation to protect the person as a weapon against that person is a particular abuse.”

The other twist: When the government filed a brief explaining why it kept asylum requests out of criminal trials, it did so under seal — meaning no one can see it. Voice of San Diego this week asked the court to make that brief public. Read our letter to the court here.

Sorry, San Diego, Hilton Pool Access Is a Myth

There are two kinds of urban legends: Either something horrible lurks in some part of the city, or there’s free stuff out there as long as you’re in the right place at the right time.

One of San Diego’s persistent urban legends is that the Hilton Bayfront’s pool is open to the public. Why? The public access, the story goes, came as a condition of subsidies the hotel received from the city, or because of some arrangement with the Port of San Diego, or something.

In response to a question posed by readers, Voice’s Kinsee Morlan gets to the bottom of this legend — which is all it is. The Hilton pool is not, and never has been, open to the public.

But the legend was so pervasive that even some Hilton hotel staffers believed it.

If you have questions – about other urban legends or anything else – submit them to The People’s Reporter.

Still No Answers or an Ease in Tensions in National City

Sheriff’s deputies greeted activists in National City in riot gear on July 24. / Photo by Vito Di Stefano
Sheriff’s deputies greeted activists in National City in riot gear on July 24. / Photo by Vito Di Stefano

Activists disrupted another meeting of National City officials Tuesday night by laying in council Chambers chanting, “You have blood on your hands,” the U-T reported.

Several were arrested while others were greeted outside by police officers in riot gear. Photos and videos show several protesters shouting at a sheriff’s deputy who gripped a wooden baton.

For weeks, protesters have demanded more information about the death of Earl McNeil — a black man who died after being held in police custody — as well as the resignation of the police chief who, they say, has been dismissive and condescending toward McNeil’s family.

A medical examiner’s report is expected to be completed in mid-August, according to KPBS.

Meanwhile, over on the National City Council … Officials dropped some stunning news of their own, as first reported by Robert Moreno of the Star News.

City Councilman Jerry Cano has withdrawn his complaint that Councilwoman Mona Rios sexually harassed him. Cano made the allegation in public soon after Rios requested an outside firm consider whether he had received special treatment for avoiding fines connected to building code violations, according to the U-T.

The city hired an investigator to get to the bottom of both allegations and set aside as much as $50,000 in expenses, the Star News reported.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez called for Cano’s resignation after the revelation that he made up the allegations. “This isn’t a game,” she tweeted.  

  • In yet another unexpected turn of events: the City Council unanimously voted to place a rent control initiative on the November ballot that was pushed by residents. That initiative was previously shot down by the Council in a 2-2 vote with the mayor absent. (Union-Tribune)

Opinion: Separating Families Is Bad for Children’s Brains

Opponents of the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border have a new justification: science.

In an op-ed, Adele Diamond, a professor of developmental cognitive neuroscience at the University of British Columbia, argues that significant stress at a young age can impair the development of the brain to do things like stay focused, regulate emotions and problem-solve.

“The result is that people stay in a permanently heightened state of alert, constantly vigilant for possible danger,” she writes.

Programming Note

We’re putting our weekly North County Report newsletter on hold while we contemplate the best way to cover important stories in North County and other regions across the county. Thanks to our contributor Ruarri Serpa for all of his great work delivering the most pressing stories from across North County.

In Other News

  • A San Diego committee paved the way Wednesday for the Chicano Park Museum and Cultural Center with a 20-year lease. The plan now goes to the full City Council. Two years ago, Kinsee Morlan interviewed neighborhood activists about their archives and plans for the proposed site, which is tucked under the San Diego-Coronado Bridge in Barrio Logan. (Times of San Diego)
  • Parents who oppose Chula Vista’s entry into the pot game cried as the City Council agreed to put a marijuana tax measure on the November ballot. (NBC 7)
  • A City Council committee is asking that the city and SDSU re-negotiate a lease agreement for the former Qualcomm stadium that amounts to a $1 million rent hike. The U-T wrote more about the new lease on Tuesday; it was forwarded to the City Council Wednesday. “The current proposal is an unacceptable deal for taxpayers,” Councilman Scott Sherman said in a statement, “and I hope university leaders will return to the table and reach a fair and equitable deal with the city.”
  • Hotel rooms under construction during the first six months of 2018 increased 81 percent compared with a year ago, fueled by high occupancy rates. (Union-Tribune)
  • Apparently Democratic Rep. Scott Peters is a big fan of Queen Bey. During a video tour of his office with Roll Call, he revealed a What Would Beyoncé Do? plaque. (There was also Ballast Point beer in his fridge, obviously.)

Correction

Wednesday’s Morning Report got some details wrong about the county’s actions on a proposed ballot measure to reform county elections. The Board of Supervisors’ vote not to put the measure on the ballot was 3-1, not 4-1. The board did not elect to put Supervisor Dianne Jacob’s competing measure on the November ballot. The county will research that measure as part of its impact study — both measures are unlikely to appear on the ballot until 2020.

The Morning Report was written by Ry Rivard and Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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