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By RANDALL CHASE, Associated Press

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Roadblocks are continuing to pop up in the Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy case as the organization tries to finalize a reorganization plan built around a global resolution of thousands of sexual abuse claims by former Boy Scouts.

Attorneys for the youth organization filed a motion on Monday asking a Delaware bankruptcy judge to extend a preliminary injunction that halted lawsuits against local BSA councils and sponsoring organizations during the bankruptcy.

BSA attorneys said the filing was necessary because the official tort claimants committee that represents sexual abuse victims refused to consent to an extension, despite doing so several times in the past.

The current injunction expires March 19. The BSA, which hopes to emerge from bankruptcy this summer, is seeking an extension through July 19.

Attorneys for the BSA argue that maintaining the injunction is critical to restructuring efforts, including enabling local councils and chartered organizations to participate in mediation and, ultimately, make “a substantial contribution” to a settlement and global resolution of abuse claims. Allowing lawsuits against local councils and sponsoring organizations to proceed will make it difficult, if not impossible, for the BSA to both equitably compensate abuse survivors and ensure that the organization can continue to carry out its charitable mission, they contend.

“The TCC is apparently willing to gamble with the fortunes of abuse survivors and the debtors when the stakes are the highest,” BSA attorneys wrote, referring to the tort claimants committee.

An attorney for the committee did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday.

Monday’s court filing came just days after the bankruptcy judge heard arguments on a request by insurance companies for permission to serve document requests on 1,400 people who have filed sexual abuse claims and to question scores of them under oath in an effort to determine whether there is widespread fraud in the claims process.

More than 95,000 sexual abuse claims have been filed in the case. Before the bankruptcy filing, the BSA had been named in about 275 lawsuits and told insurers it was aware of another 1,400 claims. The number of lawsuits has more than tripled in the past year to about 860 lawsuits in more than 110 state and federal courts. Roughly 600 were filed after the organization first sought the preliminary injunction.

The Boy Scouts of America, based in Irving, Texas, sought bankruptcy protection last February in an effort to halt hundreds of individual lawsuits and create a compensation fund for men who were molested as youngsters decades ago by scoutmasters or other leaders.

The roughly 250 local councils, which run day-to-day operations for local troops, are not listed as debtors in the bankruptcy and are considered by the Boy Scouts to be legally separate entities, even though they share insurance policies and are considered “related parties” in the bankruptcy case.

Attorneys for abuse victims made it clear from the onset of the bankruptcy that they would go after campsites and other properties and assets owned by councils to contribute to a settlement fund.

But the tort claimants committee has been frustrated with the response by local councils to requests for document production and information on their financial assets. After seeking court permission last year to issue subpoenas for information it claimed was being withheld by the BSA and its local councils, the committee filed a complaint last month challenging BSA’s contention that two-thirds of its listed $1 billion in assets, more than $667 million, are “restricted assets” unavailable for creditors.

More than half of the purportedly restricted assets, $345.4 million, consists of a note receivable from Arrow WV, a nonprofit entity that was formed by the BSA in 2009 and which owns the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia, home to the National Scout Jamboree. The BSA leases the Summit from Arrow WV and provides the services required for its operation.

The tort committee contends that there is no restriction that could be applied to the Arrow WV note.

The BSA’s purportedly restricted assets also include three “High Adventures Facilities” valued at more than $63 million. They are the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, the Northern Tier in Minnesota and the Florida Sea Base. The committee asserts that there are no specific deed restrictions or donor restrictions that preclude the sale of those facilities and use of the proceeds to pay creditors. It also claims that the BSA previously took the position that they were unrestricted.

Attorneys for the BSA noted in Monday’s court filing that the tort claimants committee has received some 327,000 pages of documents regarding local council assets, the nature of restrictions on those assets, and historical transactions.

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Biden Administration: Homeland Security Will Decide Whether to Extend TPS for Haitians

WASHINGTON - The Biden administration has declined to comment on whether Temporary Protected Status (TPS) will be extended for Haitians. 

“By law, TPS designations are made by the Department of Homeland Security after consultation with the appropriate agencies,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price told VOA. “So, we wouldn’t want to comment on any sort of internal deliberations when it comes to TPS.” 

TPS is a designation made by the secretary of homeland security to individuals from countries severely impacted by natural disasters or armed conflicts. It allows beneficiaries to live and work in the United States for a period of time. 

The TPS status Haitians currently hold was enacted by the Obama administration on January 21, 2010, nine days after a massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit the island nation, killing at least 250,000 people and displacing 5 million others. 

In October 2020, then-candidate Joe Biden made a campaign stop in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami, Florida, where he courted the Haitian-American vote and promised to act on an immigration issue high on their list of priorities, the TPS program. 

More than 55,000 Haitians are enrolled in the program, according to the National Immigration Forum. 

The Trump administration had planned to end TPS in September 2021. But the Department of Homeland Security issued a Federal Register notice on December 9, 2020, announcing that TPS beneficiaries from Haiti would retain their status through October 4, 2021. 

Biden’s Department of Homeland Security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, who is Cuban-American, was confirmed by the Senate on February 2. He made history as the first Latino and first immigrant to hold that position. 

Haiti’s position  

Haiti’s ambassador to the U.S., Bocchit Edmond, has called on the Biden administration to work with Congress to find a solution.

“We do hope that the Biden administration, with the help of the U.S. Congress, will find a final resolution to this very sensitive issue impacting a number of Haitians. The human impact should be considered,” Edmond told VOA. “The Embassy of Haiti will continue to work with U.S. officials as we advocate for Haitians in the United States.”

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holder Kerlyne Paraison, foreground, of Haiti, holds up a sign as she demonstrates during a rally for a permanent solution for TPS holders in front of the Citizenship And Immigration Services Field Office.

Prominent Haitian immigration advocate reaction   

Reacting to the State Department’s stance on TPS, the Miami-based Family Action Network Movement (FANM), a grassroots immigration advocacy group, called on the Biden administration to act quickly. 

“This is something FANM has been advocating for, along with other immigrant rights organizations. The time to do this is now," Marleine Bastien, executive director of FANM, told VOA. 

What’s happening in Haiti?

Haiti has battled political turmoil and a spike in violent crime over the past year. President Jovenel Moise is at odds with members of the opposition about when his term expires. He plans to step down on February 7, 2022, when a newly elected president takes power. But the opposition cites an article in the Haitian constitution that states Moise’s term should have ended on February 7, 2021. 

Moise was sworn in on February 7, 2017, for a five-year term after winning a 2016 presidential election. That vote was a re-do after the 2015 election results were annulled over fraud allegations. 

The U.S. and much of the international community back Moise’s claim that his term will end next year. 

However, both the Trump and Biden administrations have repeatedly criticized Moise for ruling by decree since January 2020, when two-thirds of the parliament’s terms expired. They have also called on him to organize elections as soon as possible. 

The United Nations, the Organization of American States and the European Union have expressed the same concerns. 

Moise defended his decision not to organize elections last year, citing the pandemic, a crippling economic crisis, a spike in violent crimes and “peyi lok,” a series of massive anti-government protests that halted operations of businesses, schools and transportation. 

Moise announced in February that a constitutional referendum was planned for April and legislative and presidential elections would be held in September. 

New wave of asylum seekers?

Asked by VOA if the current political instability in Haiti could cause more Haitians to seek asylum in the U.S., the State Department's Price did not give a direct answer.

“What I would say is that it is the responsibility of Haiti’s government to organize elections in 2021 that are free, that are fair, that are credible,” Price told VOA. “We join the international community in calling Haitian stakeholders to come together to find a way forward. What we have said is that the Haitian people deserve the opportunity to elect their leaders and to restore Haiti’s democratic institutions.”

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