Over the weekend, the Department of Homeland Security proposed sweeping changes to the so-called “public charge” rule that would effectively block many immigrants from gaining permanent residency or entry to the United States. When immigrants enter the US or apply to change their residency status, the US government has long considered whether immigrants are likely to become dependent on government benefits. The current rule already considers the use of cash benefits—like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Supplemental Security Income—in determining who may become a “public charge.” The proposed rule change would drastically expand the scope of the public charge rule to cover use of “one or more public benefits” by an immigrant. Those public benefits would include Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); Section 8 housing vouchers and other forms of housing assistance; Medicaid; and Medicare Part D. For months, immigrant families have been dropping out of government programs like SNAP for fear of attracting government scrutiny should this rule change go into effect. Goleen Samari of the University of California, San Francisco, spoke out against the public charge rule in a Washington Post op-ed: “Today, people who have immigrated here, like my parents, are facing another targeted, xenophobic attack... These immigrants will not be able to build their lives as my parents did. They will be forced to choose between the programs that help them create a healthy life in a new country and their chance at becoming citizens… Limiting access to social programs decimates the health and well-being of immigrant families. Health resources include health care and insurance, but also jobs, education, social capital and social services — all of which fundamentally support health. DHS itself acknowledges the potential damaging effects, noting in the proposed rule that lack of enrollment in public programs could lead to worse health outcomes, especially for pregnant or breastfeeding women, infants and children. Outcomes include increased emergency room visits, delayed treatment and increased prevalence of diseases. That’s coupled with the chronic stress caused by anti-immigrant policies that contribute to declining heath. Studies have found that in states with more anti-immigrant laws, Latino Americans experience more barriers to accessing health care and higher rates of poor mental-health days. DHS has also determined that the rule may increase poverty for certain families and children, including U.S. citizen children. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that there are 10.4 million citizen children with at least one noncitizen parent and that nearly 6 million children receive public-health benefits. These families could be separated if a parent is considered a public charge and not granted legal permanent residency.”
Jedidiah Purdy writes in the New Yorker about the unequal distribution of environmental hazards in the wake of Hurricane Florence: “The contamination that follows the flood will fall unequally on North Carolinians. The pork industry is rich and politically influential, and in the past two years the state legislature has changed state law to protect hog operations from suits by neighbors whose health and property are damaged by pollution. This is nothing new. The modern environmental-justice movement was born in Afton, North Carolina, in a fight over the state’s decision to dump contaminated soil near a poor, historically African-American community. Wilmington and other down-east towns carry the burdens of Superfund sites and coal-ash ponds, which hold the toxic by-products of coal-fired electricity. A coal-ash landfill near Wilmington has already been breached by floodwaters, though no one is sure how much toxic material has escaped.”
The Guardian reported on a population that may ultimately be among the most affected by Hurricane Florence: migrant farmworkers: “In North Carolina, 75 percent of the cash crops are grown in the eastern part of the state, where the flooding has been the most severe. An estimated 150,000-plus farmworkers pick these crops, often by hand: Most are immigrants or migrant laborers from Central America, and around half are undocumented. Their jobs are already plagued by uncertainty, and now Hurricane Florence could thwart what is usually the most lucrative time of the year. ‘Finding work is going to be really difficult for the families we serve… We have a lot of families who will not have work for the remainder of the season, while the more mobile families are going to seek work elsewhere.”As they go about rebuilding their lives, undocumented workers are reliant on the aid of organizations, since they are often reluctant to seek government assistance to repair their homes. The uptick in immigrant enforcement under Donald Trump has also led workers without legal documentation to question whether to head to a shelter or to seek help at all. Before the storm hit, a Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator said in a news conference that the agency could not “guarantee” that immigrants in shelters wouldn’t be detained and handed off to Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities.”
Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who faces multiple allegations of sexual assault. Blasey Ford described the assault, its lasting effects on her life, and her fear at coming forward to fulfill what she described as her “civic duty,” including the threats she and her family have faced as a result. When asked what her most “indelible” memory of the attack was, she responded, “The laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two and their having fun at my expense.” The Guardian compared yesterday’s hearings to Anita Hill’s experience testifying in front of the same committee (and many of the same white, male committee members) in 1991: “[Blasey Ford’s] powerful testimony, delivered quietly but firmly, evoked images from the 1991 hearing during the confirmation process for the Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, when his former colleague, Anita Hill, accused him of sexual harassment with millions of Americans watching around the country. The specter of an all-male panel questioning a black woman prompted a social movement that culminated in 1992 election being declared the “Year of the Woman” – when the number of women in the US Senate doubled. ‘Our institutions have not progressed in how they treat women who come forward,’ lamented Senator Dianne Feinstein, who was among those women elected to the Senate that year and is now the ranking Democrat on the panel. ‘Too often, women’s memories and credibility come under assault,” she continued. “In essence, they are put on trial and forced to defend themselves and often re-victimized in the process.’ In an interview with National Public Radio, Anita Hill said that a fair process would start with a "real investigation… It's only that kind of a situation if it's set up as that kind of a situation. In a real hearing and a real investigation, other witnesses would be called, including witnesses who could corroborate, witnesses who could explain the context of the experiences of Dr. Blasey Ford and Judge Kavanaugh during that period in their lives, as well as experts on sexual harassment and sexual assault."
Air quality in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties violated federal smog standards for 87 consecutive days between June and September of this year, raising health risks. USA Today reports on the unequal burden of asthma and other respiratory diseases, which disproportionately affect children, communities of color, and low-income communities. “There’s no question that people with pre-existing lung diseases, particularly asthmatics, have had a harder time this year than they would have in previous years where there weren’t so many exceedances,” Michael Jerrett, chair of environmental health sciences at UCLA, [said].
The Washington Post reports on efforts to strengthen and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which is currently set to expire December 7: “A task force of organizations dedicated to fighting domestic violence and sexual assault has been working on how to improve the existing law. In July, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) introduced a reauthorization measure that included the recommended updates. It has 163 Democratic cosponsors, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), but no Republican supporters. There is no companion measure drafted in the Senate… The proposed changes include increased funding for a Rape Prevention & Education Program because demand for such programs has skyrocketed in the #MeToo era, advocates say. It also increases funding for youth-based prevention education for boys to teach about healthy relationships…. But the poison pill for Republicans is the Democrats' inclusion of firearms-related provisions. The Democratic proposal closes the so-called "boyfriend loophole," to ensure dating partners under a protective order are prohibited from having a firearm. Currently, that law only applies to couples who are married, live together, or share a child. It also extends the firearm prohibition to people accused of stalking. Finally, it restricts people under temporary restraining orders from possessing a gun. The task force offers staggering statistics to back up these requests: Nearly half of women killed by intimate partners are killed by dating partners, and 75 percent of women murdered by intimate partners and 85 percent of women who survived murder attempts were stalked first. A 10-city study cited by the task force found that 20 percent of homicide victims with temporary protective orders were murdered within two days of obtaining the order.”
The House of Representatives voted 393-8 to approve a bipartisan package of bills to address the opioid crisis. This opioid package would reauthorize Cures Act funding ($500 million per year) to help states address opioids, create a grant program for comprehensive recovery centers, enable more healthcare practitioners to prescribe medications to treat opioid addiction and expand access to naloxone among first responders, implement new regulations to limit overprescribing of opioids to Medicare and Medicaid patients, attempt to stop illicit shipments of fentanyl, and more. Vox reports on the reaction of public health advocates: “Dr. Leana Wen, the health commissioner of Baltimore (and soon-to-be president of Planned Parenthood), said that the legislation “is simply tinkering around the edges,” and that a far more comprehensive, ambitious response is needed to really deal with the crisis. The big issue seems to come down to money. The legislation makes a lot of legal and regulatory tweaks that will attempt to make addiction treatment more accessible, try to make it more difficult for illicit synthetic opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil to slip through the border, and boost research on non-opioid pain treatments. But it doesn’t pay for a wide expansion of addiction treatment, which is the policy approach that many experts argue is necessary. In fact, the bill would not provide a significant increase in spending for the opioid crisis at all. Even though it authorizes some relatively small grant programs, the actual funding for those will be decided later on by Congress’s appropriations process. Previous estimates by the Congressional Budget Office suggested earlier versions of the bill would add around $8 billion over five years if fully appropriated — which is still far from the tens of billions a year that some experts say is necessary.”