Multiple new reports on dire conditions children face in migrant detention centers surfaced in the last week. Elora Mukherjee, a professor at Columbia Law School and the director of the school’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic who has been working on the Flores settlement, which sets standards for how the US government must care for unaccompanied migrant children in federal custory, since 2007, reported what she observed visiting detention facilities. Mukherjee said that she had “never seen such degrading treatment of children… An overwhelming number of children who I interviewed had not had an opportunity for a stable shower or bath since crossing the border [days or weeks earlier]. They were wearing the same clothing that they had crossed the border in. Their clothing was covered in bodily fluids, including urine and breast milk for the teenage moms who are breastfeeding. Nearly every child I spoke with said that they were hungry because they’re being given insufficient food.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection rejected donations of soap, diapers, and other basic items to the child migrant detention centers. Adults in immigration detention also face hunger due to insufficient food, limited to no access to showers, and overcrowded, unsanitary conditions. A father and daughter from El Salvador drowned crossing the Rio Grande, attempting to claim asylum in the US after being held in a migrant camp in Mexico that did not have adequate food and was exposed to extreme heat while they waited for an opportunity to claim asylum. On Thursday, the House passed a $4.6 billion emergency funding bill, with most of the funding going toward humanitarian aid, though some congresspeople expressed concerns that funding will also go to more aggressive immigration enforcement.
A new report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council this week warns that the world is heading toward “‘climate apartheid’... where the rich buy their way out of the worst effects of global warming while the poor bear the brunt… ‘Climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction… It could push more than 120 million more people into poverty by 2030 and will have the most severe impact in poor countries, regions, and the places poor people live and work."’
A UC Berkeley School of Public Health study finds that, since the 2016 presidential election, Latino youth who were born in the US and have at least one immigrant parent are experiencing increased anxiety over US immigration policy and worse sleep. “Whereas previous studies have looked at Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients or undocumented immigrants, [Dr. Brenda] Eskenazi's research focused on U.S. citizens. ‘They are citizens by birthright,’ she said. ‘The implications are that the impact of the U.S. policies are further-reaching than we had known before.’
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to ban the sale of e-cigarettes in the city until the Food and Drug Administration can review the products and issue guidance. Juul, which manufactures one of the most popular brands of e-cigarettes and is based in San Francisco, is pushing a ballot initiative that would overturn the ban -- in fact, the ballot initiative as currently written would not only overturn the e-cigarette sales ban but would also overturn the city’s ban on flavored tobacco products (including e-cigarette cartridges in flavors that appeal to kids), weaken enforcement of state and city bans on sales of tobacco products to people under age 21, and preempt future regulation of tobacco products by the Board.
The Los Angeles City Council condemned a proposed rule from the Department of Housing and Urban Development that would revoke federal housing aid to mixed-status immigrant families, warning that approximately 11,000 Los Angeles families could face eviction or loss of assistance. Councilman David Ryu described the proposal as “not housing policy -- this is family separation policy.”
The Guardian reports on the threat lead continues to pose to children’s health and the need to take a primary prevention approach by evaluating and addressing home and school environments, rather than waiting until lead shows up in children’s blood to take action, a move estimated to cost $400 billion over 10 years. “[T]he history of the rise of lead in American manufacturing, as well as its eventual phase out, is often framed as a public health victory already won. But this national narrative obscures a horrifying truth about lead, which is that sudden mass exposure can happen anywhere, anytime – as it did in Flint, Michigan when improperly treated water began corroding lead pipes and releasing harmful chemicals into the tap water in 2014. And due to a complex mix of factors including the various competing pressures on physicians and weak regulations about how to report this data, there is no federal system that can quickly identify lead exposure emergencies as they happen. When it comes to lead exposure in America, we still don’t have a clear picture of how many children are being exposed to the neurotoxin and where they are. This leaves hundreds of thousands of children vulnerable to the dangers of lead, and compounds inequality in the form of cognitive and behavioral deficits that can hamper communities for generations. Experts say that it’s possible to eradicate lead from American infrastructure, but that we don’t prioritize it. “We are currently doing things backwards [by] using children’s blood as detectors of environmental contamination,” said Dr Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who famously uncovered elevated levels of lead in her pediatric patients and linked it to a new water source in Flint, Michigan. “The screening that needs to happen is in the environment before children are ever exposed.””