Observers: Trump created migration “crisis,” stoking racial conflict

EL PASO, Tex. (Public News Service) — Close observers of the El Paso border accuse the Trump administration of manipulating migrant policy to create a crisis – with tragic results.

Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network For Human Rights, has been close to the issue for 20 years. He said more people have sought asylum in past years, but the difference now is that Trump is intentionally creating a racially charged conflict for political ends.

He said if the administration was really worried about the build-up at the border, the obvious response would be to hire more asylum officers and immigration court judges to speed up deportation or asylum.

“That didn’t happen,” Garcia said. “The administration saw an opportunity to actually create what I believe this administration is good at – to create chaos, to make it appear as a crisis.”

Trump has regularly described migrants as an “invasion” made up of criminals. With the migrants backed up in camps awaiting processing, the pictures reinforce that notion.

But that view of America under siege also showed up in writings of the suspect in this weekend’s El Paso shooting. Federal immigration agencies had not responded to emailed questions by time of publication.

In the past, the Department of Homeland Security has blamed a lack of funding for the desperate and overcrowded conditions of migrants in detention. But Garcia pointed out the White House has consistently prioritized requesting funds for a border wall.

“He got billions of dollars for infrastructure, so there is no way that they didn’t have money to feed children or to have more asylum officers,” Garcia said.

Studies have shown immigrants in fact create more jobs in communities where they settle, and other studies have argued migrants could help save the Social Security and Medicare systems by paying in more than they take out.

Garcia said the emotional battle over migration could help determine the nation’s future for decades – much as migrants did at the beginning of the 20th century.

“Ellis Island defined the character of the nation,” Garcia said. “But this is the question of what kind of nation we’re going to have: The acceptance that America is not that white any longer, or we’re going to have a border that incarcerates children, putting immigrant families in concentration camps.”

Reporting by Dan Heyman and Cynthia Howard, Texas Bureau


Report: Mixed results for North Dakota’s policies to reduce cancer

BISMARCK, N.D. — A new report assesses how North Dakota is doing when it comes to preventing cancer. The 17th edition of How Do You Measure Up? from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network looks at state legislative activity and gauges how lawmakers are supporting policies that reduce cancer.

The report said the state improved people’s lives by expanding Medicaid.

Deb Knuth is North Dakota government relations director with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

“There is some polling out there showing that the states that have Medicaid expansion, such as North Dakota, they’re seeing an improvement in the citizens’ lives – ability to go back to work, perhaps, and certainly their quality of life has improved,” Knuth said.

According to the report, about 2.3 million people with a history of cancer rely on Medicaid. It also said North Dakota has good laws on the books banning smoking in public places and its tobacco prevention program is well funded.

While the state is doing well in some tobacco-prevention policies, Knuth noted it is falling way behind on its cigarette tax rates. North Dakota is one of two states that hasn’t raised the rate since 2000. State lawmakers last increased the cigarette tax rate in 1993 – even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found tax increases to be an effective policy for stopping smoking.

“It does get adults motivated to quit because of the cost, and it also prevents youths from being interested in starting if the tobacco tax is high enough,” Knuth said.

She said the state needs to focus more on palliative care, which is specialized care that helps relieve a patient’s symptoms, pain and stress from an illness. North Dakota also is one of 33 states that doesn’t prohibit people under age 18 from indoor tanning – an avoidable risk factor for skin cancer.

Reporting by Eric Tegethoff, North Dakota Bureau


More Kentuckians relying on community health centers for medical care

BEATTYVILLE, Ky. – One community health center in eastern Kentucky is reflecting on its 14 years serving rural residents, regardless of their ability to pay or insurance status.

Karen Ditsch runs Juniper Health, a community health center in Lee County, one of 24 federally funded health centers in the state.

She says before her clinic in Beattyville opened, residents had to travel long distances to visit a doctor, dentist or mental health specialist.

“I can remember very vividly, and I can see it in my mind, people literally coming through the door and crying, because they realized, number one, we’re here to serve everybody that walks through our doors, regardless of their ability to pay, and that we have a sliding fee scale that was affordable to them,” Ditsch relates. “Some of these folks in their 40s and 50s were receiving health care for the first time in their lives.”

The number of Kentuckians visiting clinics such as Juniper Health has swelled, mirroring a nationwide trend.

Next year, an estimated one in 12 Americans will seek care at a community health center.

Federal funding for health centers will expire at the end of September unless it’s renewed by Congress.

Last month, a group of health center advocates from Kentucky flew to Washington to press Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other congressional leaders to extend funding before the deadline.

There is bipartisan support among congressional leaders for pending legislation that would funnel $4 billion to community health centers across the country.

Ditsch says consistent funding helps to ensure her clinic can retain and hire health care professionals, and points out that Juniper Health has been a source of jobs and economic stability in Lee County.

“We employ 100 people, and we started years ago – 14 years ago – with 17 people, so we’ve really added to the economy in these small communities,” she states.

According to the latest data, more than 400,00 patients in the Commonwealth receive health care at community health centers, including children, the homeless and veterans.

Reporting by Nadia Ramlagan, Kentucky Bureau


Activists to Gov. Sununu: Give Granite Staters a raise and give back yours!

CONCORD, N.H. — Activists from across the political spectrum are calling for Gov. Chris Sununu to give back his raise and give one to Granite Staters instead.

On Monday, advocates from the group An Economy That Works for Everyone and volunteers for the New Hampshire Democratic Party presented the governor with a banner signed by 755 New Hampshire residents calling on him to sign SB 10, which would establish a state minimum wage.

Holly Shulman, senior communications adviser for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said some constituents are upset that he’s taken two pay raises at taxpayers’ expense without securing a living wage for the state’s most vulnerable residents.

“The signers include Republicans, include independents and include people from all over the state. We’re looking at a wide spectrum of people who are really passionate about this issue,” Shulman said. “And what seems to be preventing Chris Sununu from taking action is siding with corporate special interests, with big businesses, out-of-state corporations, at the expense of everyone else.”

New Hampshire is the only New England state without a set minimum wage. Sununu has long said he opposes a state minimum wage, arguing it should be set at the federal level. Other opponents of the bill say they believe it will hurt small businesses.

The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 for more than a decade.

The minimum wage in Vermont is $10.78 an hour; in Maine, it’s $11; and in Massachusetts, the minimum wage is $12. Each of those is due to increase in 2020.

Shulman said it’s time the Granite State catches up with its neighbors.

“Establishing and raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour, which is what the state House and State Senate proposed – both bipartisan bills – would actually impact more than 100,000 workers directly in New Hampshire,” she said.

According to a recent study by the Federal Reserve in Boston, 24% of children in New Hampshire have at least one parent who makes less than $15 an hour.

Reporting by Jenn Stanley and Cynthia Howard, New Hampshire Bureau

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