News You May Have Missed: November 10, 2019

You may have noticed that there was some rather remarkable elections news last week. Chrysostom has a full summary. Heather Cox Richardson has an excellent analysis of the elections and what they indicate about the Republican party’s strategies. She now has her nightly analyses of national political events on a website, if you’d prefer to stay away from Facebook.

Another illuminating piece is Emily Bazelton’s piece in the NY Times magazine about the battle between Congress and Trump about whether staff in the administration can testify.


1. What Migrant Protection Protocols really mean

Picture this: you are an asylum-seeker from the Guatemalan highlands who speaks only Ki’che’ and who has entered the United States through a legal port of entry in Eagle Pass, Texas. As part of the Republican administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), you are immediately returned to the Mexican side of the border in Piedras Negras. You are told you must wait there until you are given a hearing date and are left to find food and shelter on your own. When your hearing date arrives in two to four months, you will travel to a “tent court” over 120 miles distant from the city in which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) left you. You will “see” the judge in that court via videoconferencing. You will have no direct contact. If you don’t have a legal representative, you will be provided with an interpreter, also via teleconferencing, who will translate proceedings into Spanish, a language you do not speak. If you do have a legal representative, you will not be provided with an interpreter, so you will have to hope that attorney is fluent in your indigenous language.

In the “broadcast center” DHS attorneys who remain offscreen and have access to electronic technology. You will be subject to humiliating searches on your way into the tent-court, which sometimes have been reported to include body-cavity searches. Your legal representative will have to locate the unmarked entrance to the tent-court, will have to provide official paperwork, and then will be “escorted” by DHS guards the entire time they are in the structure, including when they need to use a bathroom. And your legal representative—unlike those DHS attorneys—will not have any access to electronic equipment, meaning they cannot do any data searches or legal research while they attend your hearing, as an attorney who has been through the process described it to the Hill. If your attorneys need electronic access for any reason, such as scheduling your next hearing date, they will be escorted out of the structure, where they can use electronic devices, then will have to go through all the admissions checks once again and be “escorted” back to the hearing room.

This entire procedure is what is known as the Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP), and all asylum seekers entering the U.S. through San Diego and Calexico California and El Paso, Laredo, Brownsville, and Eagle Pass in Texas are subject to MPP. As of mid-October, some 55,000 asylum-seekers have been subject to the MPP, according to VOA, which points out that a sixth city has been designated as a waiting area for asylum seekers. And the Times points out that some people have been sent back to these “cities” who have no chance at all of asylum.

An immigrant family affected by MPP and a group of organizations, including the ACLU and Jewish Family Service of San Diego, filed suit on Tuesday against the way the MPP denies immigrants access to attorneys, according to the San Diego Union Tribute. S-HP

If you want to advocate for humane treatment for asylum seekers, write to your members of Congress. Addresses can be found here.

2. DACA at the Supreme Court; Senate holds up legislation

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Tuesday on whether Trump’s decision to rescind DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) was a violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. There are 660,000 people who were brought to the US as children covered by DACA–all of whom would be liable for deportation if Trump’s actions are upheld, according to Reuters.

Just a reminder—more than a year after Congressional Democrats rolled over and approved federal budget extensions in exchange for promised DACA legislation, we still have no DACA legislation in sight. In June, the House, which is now Democrat-controlled, passed the American Dream and Promise Act, H.R.6, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for two million “Dreamers,” the Washington Post reported then. That legislation is now with the Senate “under General Orders,” which is Congress-speak for “in over four months Mitch McConnell hasn’t even assigned it to a committee.”

Note that the New York Times has a moving photo essay on DACA recipients. S-HP

 If you want to remind your representatives that the U.S. is the only home Dreamers know, that they are making huge contributions to our nation, and that they need a path to citizenship now, find their addresses here.

3. Kentucky governor who lost asks for election review

Kentucky governor, Matt Bevin, trailing in the vote count in the Kentucky election last week, has questioned the election’s legitimacy and requested a recanvassing, a process by which Kentucky election officials will reprint receipts from voting machines to check for irregularities. This is a largely clerical process that is unlikely to change the outcome of the election. Under state law, if the recanvass affirms the victory of Democratic state Attorney General Andy Beshear, Bevin would have the option to contest the election, which would ask the state legislature–where Republicans have a supermajority–to investigate the election and decide an outcome. The Republican President of the Senate, Robert Strivers has said that unless the recanvass shows significant irregularities, Bevin should concede.

Bevin claims that there were “a number of significant irregularities” in the vote, although he has declined to provide evidence, NPR reports. The claim of election “irregularities” has become a recent part of the narrative around elections, although fraud is rarely found. Experts warn that this is deteriorating the public’s faith in the election process. JM-L

4. Expecting orders, USAID gives grants to Christian groups

According to ProPublica, in a November 2018 email, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) appointee explained in an email to others at the agency “we need to stay ahead of this curve everywhere lest our interventions be dictated to us.” And what “curve” would that be? The Pence-wants-you-to-reroute-aid-to-Christian-groups curve. According to a review of internal USAID communications and forty interviews with current and former foreign aid workers, Pence and his staff have “convinced key decision-makers that unless they fall in line [by redirecting grants to Christian groups], their jobs could be at stake.”

These demands fly in the face of Agency regulations that require awards “must be free from political interference or even the appearance of such interference and must be made on the basis of merit, not on the basis of the religious affiliation of a recipient organization, or lack thereof.” ProPublica has noted that the most recent round of USAID grants to Iraq included grants to two Christian organizations never provided funding before: “One of the groups selected for the newest awards has no full-time paid staff, no experience with government grants and a financial tie that would typically raise questions in an intense competition for limited funds. The second organization received its first USAID direct grant after extensive public comments by its leader and allies highlighting what they described as a lack of U.S. assistance to Christians.” The moral here? It is much more dignified to violate regulations in anticipation of administration desires rather than waiting to be ordered to violate those regulations. S-HP

If you want to remind key committee members about the importance of keeping church and state separate, you can find their addresses here.

5. Dark Money could flow to nonprofits

Proposed rules changes by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) would make it much easier for “dark money” contributions–that is, money from an undisclosed source–to nonprofits to remain hidden. These rules would allow anonymous donors to funnel political contributions through nonprofits. The public can comment on the rule change until December 9. The IRS has actually attempted to make these rules changes before, without the required public comment period, but were ordered by a federal judge to delay implementation until such a comment period had been allowed. In the language of the current rules-change proposal, the IRS had wanted to “reflect statutory amendments and certain grants of reporting relief announced through subregulatory guidance,” with “subregulatory” meaning “our attempt to put these rules in place without public comment.”

Currently, nonprofits are required to provide the IRS with the names and addresses of everyone from whom they received contributions worth $5,000 or more within a single tax year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. The rules change would require nonprofits to collect this information, but end the obligation to report to the IRS without an agency request, making it much more difficult for that information to be accessed by state agencies charged with enforcing state-level tax regulations. As the Brennan Center explains, ultimately the IRS may implement these rules after the public comment period. Without stricter rules than the ones currently up for change being put in place, the general public will be unable to access information about the funding sources for nonprofits. S-HP

You can comment online at the Federal Register website or submit your comment at this address.

6. Whistleblower’s identity leaked by aide to Nunes

The purported identity of the whistleblower whose complaint led to the current impeachment inquiry was leaked by Derek Harvey, currently an aide to Devin Nunes (R-California) and a former member of the National Security Council (NSC), according to The Daily Beast. Harvey has provided what he claims is the whistleblower’s name to Republicans involved in the impeachment investigation, who have apparently been invoking it frequently in secret hearings in hope of its wider release, according to Salon.

While on the NSC, Harvey is reported to have compiled a list of State Department officials “disloyal” to Trump. Harvey also originated a defamation campaign against a member of Adam Schiff’s staff, claiming the staffer and the Whistleblower exchanged information before the whistleblower complaint was filed and that this proved the whistleblower’s complaint was a partisan attack. In fact, such information exchanges did not take place. “We are aware of these unsupported and false attacks on a respected member of our staff,” a senior Intelligence Committee official told The Daily Beast. “It is completely inappropriate, and we have previously urged the Republican leadership to address this situation.” S-HP

Do you think those who leak the whistleblower’s identity should be prosecuted? Write the appropriate committee chairs at the addresses listed here.

7. Domestic employees ordered to work while homeowners evacuated

During the latest round of California fires, as homeowners fled, domestic employees were expected to continue travelling into evacuation zones for their normal business of cleaning and other chores. In the wake of reports about risks undertaken by domestic workers, Frank Polazzi, of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health responded to a query by the Los Angeles Times by affirming that there is no labor code preventing a domestic employer from ordering a domestic worker to remain in a mandatory fire evacuation zone. In general, state and federal workplace safety codes requiring employers to provide safe workplaces do not apply to domestic workers. Additionally, if a domestic worker refuses to work in hazardous conditions, there’s no legal protection from retaliation, including firing. S-HP

If you want to write California’s governor about protections for migrant workers, his address is here.


8. Mexico, too, is arresting child asylum-seekers

The U.S. isn’t the only country arresting minors attempting to enter the country to seek asylum. Mexico is also arresting minor asylum seekers in significant numbers. According to El Sol de Mexico, over the last fiscal year (October 1, 2018-September 30, 2019), during which U.S. Customs and Border Protection arrested 76,000 minor asylum-seekers, Mexico arrested an additional 40,500 on its side of the border. Most of these children were from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. S-HP

You can write to the ambassador to Mexico and ask him to raise the issue of minor asylum-seekers–and to your representatives to ask them to think about the big picture of minors seeking help.

9. High levels of lead in Canadian water

33% of 12,000 households tested in Canada had dangerously high levels of lead in their water, the AP reported. Testing for lead is not mandatory in Canada, and there is no systematic record-keeping of results when tests are done. Especially in children under six, ingesting lead can cause multiple problems, from developmental delays and learning delays to gastrointestinal symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic. Lead in drinking water usually results from deteriorating lead pipes; cities may replace the pipes they control, but homeowners are usually responsible for the $5,000 it costs to replace the pipes from the street to the home. While running the water whenever it has sat in the pipes for more than six hours can lower lead to acceptable levels, if residents do not know that the water has lead, they will not know to run the water.

As Martha Mendoza pointed out in her piece for the AP, the presence of lead was documented not by health officials but by reporters: As she put it, the information about lead emerged from “a yearlong investigation by more than 120 journalists from nine universities and 10 media organizations.”

First Nations in Canada have even more acute water quality issues, Human Rights Watch reported in October. Though First Nations communities have raised the issue for years, there are still 56 drinking water advisories in place–that is, 56 communities in which the water is not safe to drink. RLS


10. New study shows sea level rise to be more devastating than thought

A paper published in the journal Nature Communications details how long standing projections regarding sea level rise are based on faulty data and that the real numbers are much worse. The problem isn’t the rate at which the sea is rising or the amount of melt water going into the oceans; it’s that old data about the elevation of coastal areas are incorrect and many low-lying coastal areas are even closer to sea level than previously thought. This recalculation has enormous implications for dozens of coastal cities, especially throughout Asia, and means that sea level rise will put 150 million people living below sea level at high tides by 2050, Rolling Stone explains. That is the equivalent of the entire populations of Mexico and Australia being displaced in thirty years. At a minimum, billions, if not trillions, of dollars will have to be spent in order to keep seas at bay from major cities. JC

11. New “unstickable” adhesive developed

As the demand for rare metals grow,s the need to recycle so-called “e-waste” has become increasingly important. One large barrier to mass recycling of consumer electronic items is that many of them are put together using lots of adhesive in order to achieve the thin form factor customers demand. Adhesives are a serious problem for would-be recyclers, as there is no good way to dismantle components so that their valuable metals can be processed economically. A research paper submitted to the European Polymer Journal might just provide a solution, reports. Researchers found that by putting tiny metal particles into the adhesives and then subjecting the set glue to an alternating magnetic field, they could loosen the adhesives and allow for components to be separated. Particularly helpful is that this process seems to work across a wide array of adhesives and can easily be adopted into current manufacturing processes. JC

12. Keystone XL pipeline leaks 383,000 gallons of crude oil

The Keystone XL pipeline suffered a major leak in late October, releasing approximately 383,000 gallons of oil into North Dakota wetlands, one of a number of leaks that have occurred along the four-stage pipeline project during its construction, the Washington Post reports. Nonetheless, the State Department is accepting comments through November 18 in response to a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) regarding a new “Mainline Alternative Route” for a section of the pipeline.

While the report does acknowledge that construction would disturb sacred land (not the government’s term for it) along the Trail of Tears, it does not acknowledge that the area being “studied” has not undergone any substantial review of environmental or cultural resources in the last ten years.  That means that any new environmental vulnerabilities or new cultural sites discovered in that period have not been taken into consideration in the SEIS. Aside from the problems with the SEIS, there are ongoing concerns about leaks, the particularly polluting tar sands oil the pipeline will carry, and the role the pipeline will play in delaying our move away from fossil fuels while we are in the middle of a planet-threatening climate crisis. S-HP

You can comment on the problem of using old data to make decisions about the Keystone XL pipeline for the public record. Instructions are here.


  • The Americans of Conscience Checklist has clear information about quick actions you can take to make a difference.
  • If you want to use Sarah-Hope’s list for postcarding, here are all the action items together.
  • Martha’s list, which lists opportunities to comment for the public record, has some critical items this week: Several proposals on drilling in Alaska, diverting the Sacramento River, relaxing standards for dumping coal waste into rivers, and the final nail in the coffin for the Clean Water Act–along with a proposal to charge fees to immigrants/asylum-seekers.
  • Rogan’s list has a way to add your voice to that of the 11,000 scientists who declared a climate emergency this week. She also tells us how to insist that elections are secure, suggests that we advocate for impeachment, and reminds us that enrollment has opened for the Affordable Care Act. It’s important to pass the word on the ACA as open enrollment has not been advertised at all.