The Obama administration faces mounting pressure from increasingly diverse quarters to halt the practice of controversial raids to deport undocumented immigrants.
The latest group to join the chorus of those demanding an end to the recent raids is a coalition of three-dozen lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender groups, which sent a letter Thursday to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Johnson has said that “enforcement operations such as these will continue to occur as appropriate.” Two days of raids were carried out the first weekend of January and resulted so far in the detention of more than 120 people, most of them from Central America.
The negative impacts of the raids “are even more harrowing for LGBTQ immigrants that already report higher levels of violence and discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity,” stated the letter, which was signed by the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, and Pride at Work, among others.
Earlier this week, nearly 150 House Democrats also sent a letter to the Obama administration, urging the president to stop the deportations and to “start working towards a solution that provides a practical and humane response to the mothers and children from Central America fleeing for their lives.”
The administration has defended the raids and deportations as necessary to deter an uptick in illegal border crossings in the months prior to the raids. Administration officials say the focus of the operations has been on immigrants who had “exhausted appropriate legal remedies” and have already been ordered to leave the country.
The dispute between Obama and members of his own party over immigration raids has also spilled over onto the presidential campaign trail. Senator Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley both condemned the raids last week, and Hillary Rodham Clinton chimed in on Monday, saying “the raids have sown fear and division in immigrant communities across the country.”
But the administration can at least count on support for its actions from the Republican candidates: After the plans for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids were leaked to the press late in December, Donald Trump tweeted, “Wow, because of the pressure put on by me, ICE TO LAUNCH LARGE SCALE DEPORTATION RAIDS. It’s about time!”
(Photo: Imaginechina/AP/Li zhongxian) Workers install solar panels in China. W orld leaders meeting in Paris this week and next face a monumental challenge: slashing global emissions by 40 percent by 2030, as recommended by the International Panel on Climate Change. In his new book, Greening the Global Economy , economist Robert Pollin contends that large-scale investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency will not only help countries meet those targets, but will stimulate the economy and boost employment around the world. The American Prospect spoke with Pollin about his research and about what needs to be done to stabilize the climate—for the planet, and for workers. This is an edited transcript of that conversation. Economist Robert Pollin, author of Greening the Global Economy . What led you to write this book and focus on green technology and environmental investment? The goal was to put down what I’ve been saying in these much more technical and lengthy studies into a...
University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe’s resignation Monday underscores how even in 2015, majority-white institutions remain potentially unsafe places for black students.
The events leading up to Wolfe’s resignation—the racist verbal assaults on campus, the swastika written in feces in a residential hall, and ultimately the administration’s inadequate response to students’ concerns—are all too familiar to longtime advocates of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
As Darrick Hamilton argues in the Fall issue of The American Prospect, tenacious campus discrimination demonstrates the ongoing and urgent need for HBCUs. Such institutions offer students an environment free both from institutional biases and overt hostility, Hamilton and his coauthors note. Yet HBCUs face the danger of extinction amid mounting financial strain.
“Despite the promise of integration, black students frequently report feelings of isolation and the burden of representing their race in alien spaces,” Hamilton writes. “Some spaces are not only alien, but explicitly hostile.”
In “Why Black Colleges and Universities Still Matter,” Hamilton and his co-authors describe recent incidents at other college campuses that, in the context of the recent Missouri scandal, have an eerily familiar ring. In December of last year, he notes, “members of the Clemson chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity threw a gang-themed ‘Cripmas’ party. The university placed SAE on probation in April 2015 for two years.”
In March at the University of Oklahoma, the same fraternity made headlines after, as Hamilton describes it, “video surfaced of University of Oklahoma SAE chapter members singing, ‘There will never be a nigger at SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he’ll never sign with me. There will never be a nigger at SAE.’ The chapter was immediately shut down, but the damage from this egregious case, which just happened to be caught on video, is done.”
Tensions at Missouri had been brewing for a while (for a timeline of the events, see here), but a catalyzing event was a September Facebook post from Missouri Students Association President Payton Head, written after passersby had called him the n-word.
It wasn’t the first time. A similar incident during Head’s sophomore year was what galvanized him to first seek student office.
“I realized I had a decision to make,” Head told the student news source The Maneater after the Facebook post went viral. “I could go back down South to the historically black college that was still offering me a scholarship, but then I realized, what would I be doing if I left?” he wrote. “This place is my home, but I want my home to be better.”
Only about 7 percent of Mizzou students are black. However, as Dave Zirin pointed out in The Nation, more than two-thirds of the school’s beloved football team, the center of a loyal sports culture and a huge cash cow, are black. It was those athletes who ultimately forced administrators to respond.
At historically black colleges and universities, discrimination takes a financial, if not a social toll. Loss of state support and declining revenues for public and private HBCUs are putting their existence at risk, Hamilton and his colleagues note. Private HBCUs received far less revenue per student than their traditionally white counterparts, and HBCUs rely more on government funding. Black students in turn rely more heavily on loans, many of them predatory or risky.
While the postwar GI Bill infused unprecedented amounts of money in higher education, blacks were still shut out of many historically white schools and had far more limited access to federal aid. The student group behind many of the protests at Missouri in the past few months is Concerned Student 1950, a reference to the first year the university admitted a black student. Sixty-five years later, disparities still exist.
McCarthy’s election was by no means certain—just yesterday, the conservative Freedom Caucus decided to back Representative Dan Webster instead—but things were looking pretty good for the California Republican. “How the dusty, deep red Bakersfield, California, shaped his life—and might shape his speakership,” said the subtitle for a Politico magazine story posted today, anticipating the outcome of today’s Republican conference vote (which Boehner has now postponed).
But the greater surrender is that of the Republican Party. It has given up on a premise as old as the party itself: that Republican speakers (like the best of Democratic speakers) would lead the whole House and seek to keep the chamber functioning. … But [Boehner’s] tepid regard for governing was too much for his caucus. And for a party that has no real need for a speaker of the House because it has lost interest in what Republicans historically understood as governing.
The federal poverty line was first developed in 1963, and since then has been updated for inflation. Beyond the fact that it does not vary by geography (it’s a lot more expensive to live in New York City than in Tennessee), there are a number of flaws in the measurement. For instance, it was calculated by multiplying the cost of groceries by three (which consumed a larger portion of a family’s budget in the 1960s), while neglecting to factor in exact costs like housing, health care, child care, and transportation. But the costs of necessities like these have changed significantly in the past five decades.
In 2011, the Census Bureau released the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which was meant to improve our understanding of the state of U.S. poverty by accounting for regional variances as well as other costs such as child care. It also factors in assistance programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is important for demonstrating how federal policy can play a role in alleviating poverty.
But an even more nuanced measurement of economic well-being is the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator, which was updated yesterday to include 2014 numbers. The EPI calculator estimates how much it costs to “attain a secure yet modest living standard,” and provides data on ten different family sizes (one or two parents, with zero to five children) across 618 distinct geographic areas and cities. The new tool factors in community-specific expenses for housing, food, child care, transportation, health care, other necessities, and taxes, and the numbers it yields are startling.
For instance, in Morristown, Tennessee, which has the lowest cost of living, a two-parent, two-child family has a budget of $49,114—more than twice the 2014 poverty threshold of $24,008 for that size family. And forget economic security if you’re making the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour in Morristown, even if you’re single with no children: Your monthly budget of $23,458, according to the calculator, is still well above the $15,080 in wages you’d take home in one year.
(Courtesy of the Economic Policy Institute)
One of the key findings of the updated calculator is the wide range of child-care costs across different regions, highlighting a limitation of the SPM, which applies geographic variability only to housing. According to the EPI calculator, a family of four in 500 of the 618 areas can expect to pay more for child care than for housing.
(Courtesy of the Economic Policy Institute)
Perhaps surprising to only a few, Washington, D.C., had the highest cost of living, according to the EPI calculator. That same family of four would need an annual budget of $106,493, which even the city’s higher minimum wage (set to increase to $11.50 an hour in 2016) would fall far short of. Another prominent calculator of living wages, that of MIT, finds similar discrepancies between actual costs of living and federal poverty thresholds, which can determine eligibility for certain assistance programs and provide a picture of how many Americans live with severe economic instability.
Even still, these calculations do not include such middle-class luxuries as saving for retirement or job loss, or paying for summer camp or sports programs for children—or even saving for college. It’s a more secure standard of living than our current poverty levels, but the emphasis is still on “modest.”