1. 900 Children deported alone, no one notified
Since the pandemic began, the U.S. has deported 900 children who arrived alone at the border, sometimes without notifying their families. Children are being sent back to their home countries–or to Mexico–alone even in the middle of the night, with no plan for what might happen when they arrive, according to the New York Times. Ordinarily unaccompanied children are housed in shelters where their asylum process begins, but the U.S. border patrol has refused to follow these protocols under the guise of not spreading the coronavirus–even though NBC News reveals that plans for rapid deportations have been in the works since 2017. Simultaneously, the U.S. has been hastily deporting children already in the country or waiting in Matamoros in the “Remain in Mexico” Program, ProPublica reports. Even when children have asylum cases in progress and relatives to receive them in the U.S., they have been sent away, sometimes to extremely dangerous locations.
ProPublica speculates that their removal relates to the case being supervised by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee, who has insisted that they be released. On May 22, Judge Gee found that the government was still not in compliance with the order, according to the National Center for Youth Law; the NCYL and the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law and the Immigration Law Clinic of the U.C. Davis School of Law filed the suits that resulted in Gee’s decision. The LA Times suggests that some children who could be released are being held in the hope that they will reach the age of 18 in custody and thereby be more easily deported. Reveal describes the circumstances of some 17 year olds who have families or sponsors ready to receive them and who are covered by Judge Gee’s order–but whom the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) will not release. As Leecia Welch, senior director at the NCYL put it, “Given the growing concerns being raised about the impact of COVID-19 on children, it is unfathomable to us that ORR is letting children languish in federal custody when they have fully vetted family members ready to care for them.” RLS
You can call on ORR to comply with Judge Gee’s ruling and ask your Congressmembers to monitor OSS compliance.
2. Trump firing those in charge of oversight
Over the past few weeks, Trump has fired or removed from their positions five Inspectors General (IGs) or Acting Inspectors General for various governmental departments and offices: Michael Atkinson, Inspector General for the Intelligence Community; Mitch Behm, Acting Inspector General for the Department of Transportation; Glenn Fine, Inspector General for the Department of Defense; Christi Grimm, Acting Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services; and Steve Linick, Inspector General for the Department of State, according to the list from CBS News.
Inspectors General are non-partisan appointees charged, among other things, with investigating claims of unethical or illegal behavior within the department or office they oversee. Atkinson is the IG who notified the House of the whistle blower complaint regarding Trump’s July 2019 phone conversation with the President of Ukraine, in which Trump intimated that Congressionally allocated aid to Ukraine would not be released until an investigation of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was undertaken, CNN reports. This is the phone call that launched Trump’s impeachment by the House of Representatives. As the American Independent explains, Behm was in the process of investigating Secretary of Transportation Chao (and wife of Mitch McConnell) for inappropriately giving preferential treatment to the state of Kentucky (the home state of Chao and McConnell) in funding for transportation projects when Trump removed him.
Fine was slated to oversee a commission charged with monitoring coronavirus relief spending, the Washington Post reports. His firing prevented him from leading that commission, a position that required status as an IG. The Washington Post noted that Grimm’s staff had “just completed a report finding ‘severe shortages’ of testing kits, delays in getting coronavirus results and ‘widespread shortages’ of masks and other equipment at U.S. hospitals.” Linick had begun two investigations at the State Department: inappropriate use of staff and resources by Secretary Mike Pompeo and his wife, and, more significantly, the process by which military technology was sold to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates after both houses of Congress had voted to block such a sale. Trump is now filling these positions with administration loyalists, meaning that the next President who is not Trump, and will perhaps be Joe Biden, will have the job of once again ensuring that these positions are nonpartisan. S-HP
It would be a good time to urge Biden to commit himself now to reappointing these IGs who were appropriately responding to whistleblower complaints when Trump “lost faith” in them. Joe Biden c/o American Possibilities, 918 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20003 (202) 456-1111
3. National Guard let go one day short of benefits eligibility
Last week, the Republican administration signaled that it was planning to pull more than forty thousand National Guard troops from their coronavirus pandemic-related work exactly one day short of the length of time that is required for many veterans’ benefits to kick in, including a three-month credit towards retirement and 40% off tuition at public colleges and universities, according to the Military Times. As the Hill reports, Congressional resistance to this move has been strenuous, and the administration now claims it has not made a final decision on this matter. National Guard members on pandemic placements have been providing support to hospitals, enforcement of stay-at-home orders, and body removal, difficult and often deeply unpleasant work. S-HP
You can insist that the administration abandon this plan and call on your Congressmembers to stand up for the rights of National Guard members on the frontlines of the pandemic: Addresses here.
4. Child hunger in Puerto Rico
In the last few years, Puerto Rico has been hit with environmental disasters, including hurricanes and earthquakes, and now it is grappling with the coronavirus pandemic. In every one of these crises, Puerto Rico has received inadequate funding to address the full scale of the damage. With the coronavirus, families and communities still recovering from natural disasters are facing food scarcity, and children are going hungry, NPR reports. Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory but does not receive the same level of disaster-response support as the states. As of April 30, Slate points out, no one in Puerto Rico had received a stimulus check. S-HP
You can urge Congress to provide Puerto Rico with ample, timely support to address food shortages, medical needs, and remaining damage from natural disasters.
5. Incarcerated people at risk
Prisons and jails, of course, are not exempt from the coronavirus pandemic and can become hot spots for COVID-19 due to accommodations that make no allowance for social distancing. A North Dakota woman who gave birth while on a ventilator died recently, according to NBC News. The Emergency Community Supervision Act (S.3579 in the Senate; H.R.6400 in the House) mandates the release of inmates who are pregnant, have underlying health issues and are 50 or older. This legislation also limits the use of pretrial detention and in-person supervised release. In both houses of Congress, this legislation is currently with the Judiciary Committee.
The ACLU urges us to advocate for the incarcerated–you can sign their petition. In addition, you can urge swift, positive action on the Emergency Community Supervision Act by both Judiciary Committees and call on your Congressmembers to support this legislation.
6. Four House members vote against anti-lynching bill
In February, the House passed the Emmitt Till Antilynching Act, which would make lynching a federal hate crime, CNN reports. There have been nearly 200 attempts to define lynching in this way, and this act is the closest an antilynching measure has come to being enacted in the United States. The measure is similar to one that passed the Senate in 2019, and is currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
If passed and signed into law by the president, it would impact federal handling of the February death of Ahmaud Aubrey, the unarmed Georgia man killed while jogging.
Four House members voted against the measure, claiming it was overreach by the federal government, according to Newsweek. These lawmakers included 3 Republicans— Ted Yoho of Florida, Louie Gohmert of Texas, and Thomas Massif of Kentucky— and Independent Justin Amash of Michigan. JM-L
7. Ghost guns
Guns made with 3-D printers, often referred to as “ghost guns,” don’t meet the current legal definition of a firearm. As a result, they’re not required to have serial numbers and kits to make them can be purchased without being subject to gun control laws currently on the books, Politico points out. The Untraceable Firearms Act, S.3743 , sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and other Senate Democrats, would require that these weapons have serial numbers and establish provisions to keep them out of the hands of violent felons and domestic abusers. (This legislation is currently with the Senate Judiciary Committee.) As Blumenthal told Politico, gun sales have risen more than 70% compared to a year ago. Since the coronavirus pandemic, “People are more stressed,” he said. “They’re buying more firearms. The incidence of domestic violence has risen.” S-HP
You might the Senate Judiciary Committee to take swift, positive action on S.3743 and ask your Senators to support this important legislation: Addresses here.
8. Coronavirus relief money repurposed to undercut public schools
The CARES Act, which provides coronavirus relief, included $30 billion for educational institutions. Education Secretary DeVos, who has discretion over these funds, has ordered that $180 million of this money be offered as grants to parents hoping to move their children from public to private schools, including religious schools and has earmarked $350 million that was to be directed to struggling colleges to private, religious, and for-profit colleges. Though Congress has blocked these kinds of initiatives, DeVos is using the opportunity of the pandemic to implement them anyway, according to the New York Times. These actions both benefit private schools that are less apt to serve low-income students and threaten the wall between church and state.
Maybe you’d like to tell DeVos to use coronavirus relief to help the neediest schools and students and insist that she honor the church/state separation enshrined in the Bill of Rights? You might also explain to your Congressmembers why you object to DeVos’s inappropriate allocation of Coronavirus relief monies. Addresses are here.
9. Trump and Republicans fighting vote-by-mail efforts
Trump and Congressional Republicans are fighting efforts to expand vote-by-mail during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the New York Times, despite a spike in COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin among those who voted in-person because additional vote-by-mail provisions were blocked. Forbes reports that a study by the University of Wisconsin and Ball State University found a “statistically and economically significant association” between in-person voting and the spread of Covid-19 weeks after the election. Republicans, who have made disenfranchisement a key part of their 2020 election strategy, claim that vote-by-mail is insecure and likely to allow election fraud; however, a recent Stanford study, the largest of its kind, determined that vote-by -mail does not unfairly benefit either political party, according to the Washington Post. Nonetheless, these same legislators seem to have no problem with tax refunds, social security payments, Coronavirus stimulus checks, draft registration, prescription drugs, passports, and driver’s licenses being delivered by mail. S-HP.
It might be a good time for you to insist on an end to this counterfactual claim about vote-by-mail benefitting one party over another and demand national vote-by-mail to prevent the spread of Coronavirus among those choosing to participate in the 2020 election. Addresses are here.
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT
10. Transporting fracked gas threatens communities
Fracked gas would be transported from the Rockies and Canada across Southern Oregon to Coos Bay, under a proposal from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). A 36-inch fracked gas pipelne called Pacific Connector would travel 229 miles from Malin to Coos Bay, cutting through Klamath, Jackson, Douglas and Coos counties. Once in Coos Bay, it would be turned into liquefied natural gas (LNG) at a giant new terminal, put on large tankers and sent overseas. A FERC notice about the Jordan Cove Liquified Natural Gas Project–infelicitiously called “Petition for Declaratory Order (Petition) finding that the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality waived its authority to issue certification for the Jordan Cove LNG Terminal and Pacific Connector Pipeline under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act”–would deprive the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality of the right to weigh in on this project, thus affirming the rights of corporations over state and local environmental concerns. In 2019, the Oregon Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility ennumerated the dangers of these kinds of projects to community health, including how they exacerbate climate change, create air and water pollution, are prone to accidents, require temporary labor camps with all the social problems that these engender–and more. S-HP
If you want to ask that local voices be honored and to object to this FERC proposal, instructions for commenting are here. Comments must be submitted by June 11.
11. Dam failure due to climate change. Floodwaters overrun toxic waste site.
The dams that failed in Central Michigan could be just the first of many, as the climate crisis leads to heavier rainfalls, overwhelming aging infrastructure, according to the New York Times. In 2017, the American Society of Engineers gave the nation’s dam system a grade of “D”; American dams are sixty years old, on average. The floodwaters from the Michigan dam have now reached the Dow Chemical facility and Superfund site, Common Dreams reports, so they are now intermingled with toxic waste that Dow declined to clean up. The Trump administration refused to enforce the executive order for superfund sites to upgrade their families. As Common Dreams notes, Climate Power communications director Meghan Schneider tweeted, “Dow’s facilities appear to be at the heart of the floodwaters—this has the potential to be a major environmental disaster.” RLS
- See the Americas of Conscience Checklist for quick, clear, effective actions you can take.
- Do you postcard? Start with Sarah-Hope’s list.
- If you want to advocate for the HEROES act, the Postal Service, nurses, the Navajo nation, and much more, see Rogan’s list.
- Martha’s list offers opportunities to comment for the public record. She says that regulations are still a moving target as some are extended or suspended, supposedly temporarily. Ending soon are two items related to the National Environmental Policy Act – one from EPA, the other from Dept of Energy. The entire act was recently up for comment, you will remember. Rodenticide review is back, and there is a new item about endangered Mexican wolves. Look at USDA food policy relating to aid to farmers – will this round go to Ag-business again? And note work requirements for food-stamp recipients, and more.
- For daily updates of coronavirus cases and deaths, in country by country reports, see Our World in Data.
- Check out Chrysostom’s incredibly comprehensive election coverage–House, Senate, state, local.
- Heather Cox Richardson has commentary on the NY Times front page, above, along with the Inspectors General firings and much more.