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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Guatemalan Deportees Stranded in Airport After Three Develop Fever

Guatemalan Deportees Stranded in Airport After Three Develop Fever
by Reuters

GUATEMALA CITY — Migrants deported on Monday to Guatemala from the United States are being held in a temporary shelter at the main airport in the central American nation, authorities said, because three minors on the flight developed fever, a key symptom of coronavirus.
Guatemala, with 36 infections and one death, closed its borders in mid-March to halt spread of the virus, before it resumed flights ferrying home Guatemalans deported from the United States.
Authorities said the three minors were taken to hospital for a checkup and virus test while the other 77 Guatemalans had their temperature taken and will spend the night at the airport awaiting the results.
The incident comes a day after Guatemala reported that a migrant deported on Friday, also from the United States, tested positive for the virus.

Officials of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.
"The people who came on the flight as well as migration officials, are isolated while they're awaiting instructions from the health ministry," said Alejandra Mena, a spokeswoman for the Guatemalan Migration Institute.
It is the second time migrants have been held in the temporary shelter of the capital's La Aurora International Airport. On March 23, health personnel reported two cases of fever in adults from the Texas city of El Paso.
"How can it be that people who may be sick are being deported?" asked Juan Jose Hurtado, director of the Guatemalan migrant association Pop Noj. "What they're doing is compounding the problem."
Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

(Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Editing by Stefanie Eschenbacher and Clarence Fernandez)

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How coronavirus blew up the plan to take down Trump

How coronavirus blew up the plan to take down Trump
by David Siders

For many Democrats, it’s the election of a lifetime. Yet the question preoccupying the party for several days this month was whether their presumptive presidential nominee, Joe Biden, could get the webcast working in his rec room.
It was a telling obsession, one that revealed the extent of the party’s anxiety as it comes to a nail-biting conclusion: Despite all the arguments Democrats have crafted and all the evidence they have amassed against Donald Trump, his reelection is likely to rise or fall on his handling of the coronavirus crisis and its fallout alone.
“It’s the most dramatic example I can think of in my lifetime about how you cannot control the agenda,” said Les Francis, a Democratic strategist and former deputy White House chief of staff in the Carter administration.
“If life were fair,” he said, Trump would already be paying a price for his chaotic handling of the pandemic. Instead, the president’s approval rating has not taken a hit, and the dominant images are of him “at the podium in the White House, quote, in charge,” Francis said. “If those stick and they’re not countered effectively, he could get reelected."
The effect of the coronavirus on Trump’s popularity will not become clear for weeks or months. But the pandemic’s impact on the Democratic Party has already been severe. Primary elections are being postponed, allowing Bernie Sanders to linger in the race and delay until June the ability of Biden to mathematically clinch the nomination and fully turn his focus to Trump.
The public’s unbreakable focus on the virus is narrowing the range of issues on which Democrats can effectively draw contrasts with Trump — temporarily sidelining a broader agenda involving once-pressing issues such as climate change and gun control.
“It was always going to be a referendum on Trump,” said Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2004. “But the referendum was going to be about things like climate change and how you want to reform health care and all these other things. Now it’s only going to be about this one thing — whether Trump is competent and sane.”
Trump, he said, is “a deeply disturbed narcissist who is incapable of being a leader, and that’s what the referendum is going to be on.”
Most Democratic strategists believe, like Dean, that Trump’s reelection prospects will be diminished by the pandemic, with its rising death toll and ruinous effect on the economy. But the general election is more than seven months away and Trump’s public approval rating has ticked up as the coronavirus has spread — though not nearly as high as the last Republican president, George W. Bush, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Scott Brennan, an Iowa Democratic National Committee member and a former state party chairman, said, “If the economy pops back … it’s hard to know what people are going to think.”
In an effort to influence those voters, Biden has resolved the technological difficulties that marred his earliest appearances from his home in Wilmington, Del. He is now making regular appearances, via webcast, to speak about the coronavirus pandemic, including town hall meetings and a rush of TV interviews.

But the effectiveness of his counterprogramming is unclear, as Biden competes for attention not only with Trump, but with high-profile Democratic governors such as California’s Gavin Newsom, New York’s Andrew Cuomo and Michigan's Gretchen Whitmer, who — unlike Biden — are sitting executives involved in the coronavirus response.
Biden, said Darry Sragow, a longtime California Democratic strategist, “has no control over this at all.”
“To me, it’s like you’re in a bar and a brawl breaks out,” Sragow said. “You’ve got to park your immediate instinct. You have no control over the immediate outcome of the brawl.”
One problem for Democrats is that the nation’s battle with coronavirus — and Trump’s position at the center of it — may go on for months. The party’s marquee political event, the Democratic National Convention, scheduled for July, is the subject of contingency planning in case the coronavirus still precludes large crowds from gathering. DNC officials said last week that planning is moving forward for the Milwaukee event. But many Democrats are doubtful — and fearful of a worst-case scenario in which the pandemic upends the Democratic convention, but not the Republican gathering the following month.
“It matters for this reason,” said Bob Mulholland, a DNC member from California. “That Thursday night speech by our nominee could be seen by 50 to 60 million Americans, most of them who haven’t paid a minute of attention to the primary. That’s the conversation that takes us to winning.”
He said, “If we have to cancel and Trump has a convention with 40,000 people screaming and yelling … that’s an advantage to Trump, because nobody saw us except some text they got, and then they watched Trump.”
Jay Jacobs, chairman of the New York Democratic Party, suggested last week that Democrats should at least consider putting their convention off until late August. Even if the coronavirus pandemic has eased by late spring, he said, “everybody’s going to be absolutely exhausted.”
At a minimum, the pandemic is shortening the time frame with which Democrats will run their fall campaign. And it is changing expectations about the resonance of any issue other than the coronavirus.

Advocates of “Medicare for All” have seized on the pandemic as a way to highlight their concerns about health care. Gun control activists have drawn connections to the crisis, raising alarms about domestic violence and unsafe gun storage with Americans spending far more hours at home. Climate change activists have advanced the “Green New Deal” as a tool for economic recovery, while also pointing to the world’s massive response to the coronavirus as a template for climate mobilization.

Peter Ambler, executive director of the gun control group Giffords, said gun control — which was once a major focus of the Democratic primary — is “baked into our politics and our culture in a way that’s not going to evaporate.”
“I do think it’s important at a time like this for people who care about climate to keep on fighting for climate change solutions, because that challenge isn’t going to go away, the people who care about immigration reform to keep on having that conversation because clearly our immigration system is in need of reform, and likewise when it comes to gun violence,” he said.
Yet there’s little evidence to date that the coronavirus crisis is altering those debates in a material way.
As one strategist who has worked on climate change for several years said, “None of that stuff is happening right now. … It looks tone deaf to not be focused on the thing that’s gripping and changing people’s lives in a once-in-a-lifetime way.”

Mathew Littman, a former Biden speechwriter and the executive director of a new pro-Biden super PAC, Win the West, said in 2016, “Hillary [versus] Trump was, for lack of a better term, exciting.”
This year, he said, “No one is looking at this point for the most exciting race to take place between Biden and Trump. They’re just looking for a really competent leader. … It’s like being in a war. When that happens, if an asteroid hits the Earth, other issues go out the window. This is where we are as a country.”
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said that when Democrats coalesced around Biden in South Carolina, the message “from the backbone of the Democratic Party” was that “before you move ahead, you have to stabilize that which we used to have, including government that is not only competent in a crisis, but doesn’t default to racism and xenophobia.”
Concerns about other issues, she said, will persist within the Democratic Party. “But people need to feel safe, first and foremost," she said, "before they feel bold.”

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Strengthening immunity against racism through solidarity

Strengthening immunity against racism through solidarity

Strengthening immunity against racism through solidarity
© Getty Images
Pandemics arise when a virus is capable of spreading disease across a wide geographic area. Like the spread of viruses, racism in the form of verbal and physical attacks can also be virulent, traveling like pathogens through populations.
As fears over the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have grown, so too have documented incidents of harassment and violence against Asian Americans. While pandemics do not discriminate based on skin color, racism does. This weakens host resistance by taking hold of the mind and body.
Amid the coronavirus outbreak, protective face masks — an early symbol of defense against the virus — have also emerged as a touchstone for xenophobia, with news accounts of Asian Americans being verbally and physically assaulted for wearing them.
In China, as in many parts of East Asia, face masks are common attire and often seen as a symbol of collective and personal responsibility to reduce the spread of disease. The duality in meaning of masks as both protection against COVID-19 and efficient vectors of racism is palpable.
Fears of coronavirus have also rekindled the racist trope of Asian Americans as “model minorities,” who face little in the way of racial barriers to upward mobility. Increasingly, however, psychological research has challenged this stereotype, demonstrating that Asian Americans, like other people of color, experience considerable discrimination and unfair treatment and that these experiences can have an adverse effect on both mental and physical healthOur own research indicates that beyond overt forms of racism, subtle forms of everyday bias and discrimination are also important sources of stress for racial minorities in general and for Asian Americans in particular. The findings from this research and related qualitative work are beginning to reveal a richly nuanced picture of Asian Americans’ experiences of racism and discrimination in everyday life. Prominent among these racialized experiences are the pervasive, contrasting beliefs that, on the one hand, Asian Americans have “made it” in society and experience little prejudice and discrimination, and on the other hand, are perpetual foreigners and thus “aliens in their own land.”
While the health effects of COVID-19 are serious, concerns about its social impact are no less urgent. At a recent press briefingPresident Trump again referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” and again blamed that country for the outbreak, despite calls from the World Health Organization (WHO) to avoid naming infectious diseases based on their place of geographic origin. Perhaps by doggedly using the phrase, journalists will be forced to repeat it, thereby spreading and reproducing the stigmatizing language. In describing the battle against COVID-19, Mr. Trump has invoked war as an analogy, saying “This is a war — a different kind of war than we’ve ever had.” He is, of course, correct. We are living through an unprecedented moment in history. But the current ‘war’ is not between nations, but between humans and the virus.
Racialized pandemics like Ebola, Zika, SARS and COVID-19 know no borders. In 1876 an outbreak of smallpox in San Francisco was blamed on the local Chinatown. It strengthened calls to stop immigration and contributed to the federal government passing the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act that banned the immigration of Chinese men to the U.S. This act was not fully repealed until the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which ended the longstanding policy of limiting immigration based on national origin. 
Just as mitigating the transmission of pathogens requires a robust immune response, halting the spread of bigotry and fear necessitates mounting a vigorous community response. This will require that we collectively, as an informed and enlightened populace, speak out against acts of discrimination and violence. Perhaps then we will be able to build and strengthen our own immunity against racism, through solidarity.  
Anthony D. Ong is professor of human development at Cornell and professor of gerontology in medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. David R. Williams is the Norman professor of public health and African and African American, and chair of the department of social and behavioral sciences studies at Harvard University. 
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Celebrities, Civil Rights Groups Form Coalition on Census

Celebrities, Civil Rights Groups Form Coalition on Census
by The Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. — Civil rights groups, lawmakers, attorney generals, former Census Bureau directors, former Commerce Department secretaries and actors like Rita Moreno and George Takei said Monday they were forming a coalition to monitor and protect the confidentiality of the 2020 census.
The goals of the coalition of 275 groups and individuals are to monitor and stop any breaches of confidentiality in the data from the 2020 census. Federal law has strong protections against the release of any personal information from the census, but with distrust of the federal government growing over the years, an outside coalition is needed to reassure the public any problems are being monitored, organizers said.
The failed effort by the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census questionnaire also raised suspicions about the confidentiality of the census data among immigrants and minority groups, who may hesitate to participate in the census if they worry their information will be shared with Immigration and Customs Enforcement or other federal agencies, organizers said.
Anyone who feels the confidentiality of their census information has been breached can call four multilingual hotlines. The complaint will be investigated and coalition members will take action, either by publicizing the breach or filing a legal challenge, organizers said.

"I don't anticipate a breach but really the pledge is an effort to reassure the general public who doesn't have an awareness about how strong census privacy laws are," said Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “There's nothing wrong with having a watchdog on the outside.
Takei, a former star of the original television series, “Star Trek,” noted that during World War Two Census Bureau information helped identify where Japanese-Americans were living. About 120,000 people of Japanese descent on the West Coast, including a young Takei and his family, were sent to internment camps.
“I was one of them and I'm mindful of that history," Takei said Monday on a conference call.
The formation of the coalition comes as increasing numbers of U.S. residents have grown aware that the once-a-decade head count of the nation is taking place, with blacks more likely than whites and older people more likely than younger ones to have heard something about the 2020 census, according to a new survey released Monday.
Between early January and early March, those who had seen or heard something about the census grew from half to two-thirds of respondents, the Pew Research Center survey found.
The Pew Research Center conducted two surveys, one in early January and another in late February and early March. In between the two surveys, the U.S. Census Bureau launched a $500 million outreach campaign to convince U.S. residents to participate in the head count, and about half of the money was devoted to a media campaign that will pay for more than 1,000 ads.

The 2020 census will help determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state gets, as well as the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal spending.
Those who definitely or probably will participate in the 2020 census went from 78% to 80%, and those who are most enthusiastic — saying they definitely will participate in the census — went from 55% to 59% during that time, according to the latest Pew survey.
The head count started in late January in rural, native villages in Alaska, but the rest of the country wasn't able to start answering the questionnaire until the second week of March. The coronavirus crisis pushed back the deadline for finishing the 2020 census from late-July to mid-August and forced the suspension of field operations for a month from mid-March to mid-April.
Of those who have heard something recently about the census, 70% said some of that information came from advertising and 61% said it came from the news. More than a quarter of respondents heard about the census from the social media posts of people they know, the Pew survey said.
The survey indicated that the media blitz is penetrating some racial and ethnic groups more than others. Hispanic respondents were more likely than white or blacks to say that information on the census they saw or heard came from an ad, the news or social media, according to the survey.
The latest Pew survey of 3,456 U.S. adults was conducted from Feb. 25 to March 9, right before fears of the novel coronavirus in the U.S. took off. At the start of that time-frame, the CDC reported the first U.S. patient who had gotten the virus from an unknown origin and the end of that time frame was just two days before President Donald Trump announced he was restricting travel from Europe to the U.S. for 30 days in an effort to slow the virus's spread. The questioning of survey participants also finished more than a week before governors of several states started issuing stay-at-home orders.
Separately, a Census Bureau watchdog warned that a telephone system used to answer the questions of people filling out their census forms wasn't used during a test run of the 2020 census in Rhode Island in 2018. The new, off-the-shelf system for the Census Questionnaire Assistance operation “presents significant risk" because of the lack of time for testing, according to last week's report from the Office of Inspector General.

The Census Bureau said in a response that while the system hasn't undergone testing in a “live, public environment,” it has undergone numerous internal tests and passed each one.

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Poll: Biden leads Trump by 10 points as economic pessimism grows

Poll: Biden leads Trump by 10 points as economic pessimism grows
by Jonathan Easley

Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Trump by 10 points nationally in a new poll, bolstered by an advantage with independents.
The poll also shows pessimism about the economy growing, a factor that could help Biden and hurt Trump in the poll.
The latest Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll finds Biden getting 55 percent support, versus 45 percent for Trump. Biden has 96 percent support from Democrats, while Trump has 89 percent support from Republicans. Independents break for Biden by a 54 to 46 percent margin.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has yet to drop out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, also leads Trump, winning 53 percent to Trump’s 47 percent. However, Biden has a near-insurmountable lead in delegates over Sanders. Biden leads Sanders among Democrats nationally by 36 points, 58 to 31 percent.
The president’s job approval rating is at 48 percent positive and 52 percent negative, just off its all-time high of 49 percent positive.
The coronavirus is by far the biggest issue on the minds of voters, and 50 percent said they approve of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus.
A strong majority, 72 percent, said they’re watching the daily White House press briefings. A plurality of those, 43 percent, said the briefings have given them a more favorable view of Trump. Thirty-seven percent said the briefings make them view Trump less favorably.
“While attitudes toward the economy are tanking, politics seem almost frozen in time,” said Harvard CAPS-Harris polling director Mark Penn. “Trump is gaining in approval but people are taking a very wait and see attitude with handling the virus the determining factor. The presidential horse race remains unchanged but not sure it is very meaningful at this point — it’s the Democratic primary that is now locked with Biden as the candidate but the overall race remains in flux.”
Views of the economy are deteriorating fast.
Fifty-five percent said the economy is on the wrong track, compared to only 41 percent who said the same last month. Forty-three percent said the economy is weak, a massive swing from the 70 percent who described it as strong last month. Fifty-five percent said they expect a recession in the near future and the same number said they’ve experienced a decrease in income because of the virus.
“The plunge in economic satisfaction is the biggest shift I’ve seen in decades of polling,” Penn said.
Still, 54 percent approve of Trump’s handling of the economy.
Fifty-eight percent said they support a balanced approach to addressing the coronavirus aimed at stopping infections and preserving jobs. That figure breaks along partisan lines, with 51 percent of Democrats saying that the government’s only concern should be minimizing infections, against 67 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of independents who support the balanced approach.
Trump is eager to reopen the economy, saying last week that he hoped things could begin returning to normal by April 12. However, on Sunday, the president announced federal guidelines urging Americans to avoid nonessential travel and in-person gatherings would be extended until at least the end of April.
About two out of three voters believe Republicans and Democrats are playing partisan games with the coronavirus.
The Democrats get the most blame, with 37 percent of respondents saying they are politicizing the fight, compared to 23 percent who say Republicans are politicizing the issue.
Sixty percent of voters said Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been too partisan, compared to 52 percent who said the same of Trump.
“Pelosi and the Democrats … are seen as acting in ways more partisan than the president and they need to take heed of that trend,” Penn said.
The Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll of 2,410 registered voters was conducted between March 24 to March 26 and has a 2 percentage point margin of error.
Results were weighted for age within gender, region, race/ethnicity, marital status, household size, income, employment, education, political party and political ideology where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.
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Pandemic threatens monster turnout in November

Pandemic threatens monster turnout in November
by Zach Montellaro

Time is running out to allow millions of Americans to vote this fall without fear of contracting the novel coronavirus.
Mail voting — the voting method that best preserves social distancing — is infrequently used in many states, and those that don’t have extensive mail voting might be unable to implement systems before November. And while 33 states, including most 2020 presidential battlegrounds, already allow any voter to cast a ballot by mail who wants to, a number of those states aren’t prepared to handle the crush of mailed-in ballots that could be coming their way in November.
In interviews with POLITICO, eight election administrators and voting rights advocates said it is still too difficult for many voters to cast absentee ballots, even as two-thirds of American adults say they would be uncomfortable going to a polling place to vote, according to a new Pew Research Center survey — and as local, state and federal governments encourage or require Americans to stay home.
The consequences could shake the 2020 elections: Turnout had been expected to break modern records but instead could turn sharply downward, based on the path the coronavirus pandemic takes over the next few months. The patchwork system has thrown a wrench into every 2020 campaign, from the presidential hopefuls down to state and local candidates, as they navigate different state laws and emerging policy changes to make sure their voters can cast ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Election officials and voting rights groups continue to call for a major investment from the federal government ahead of the general election to help states adapt to the coronavirus threat. Advocates have called for, at a minimum, the expansion of no-excuse absentee voting — which allows anyone who wants to vote by mail to do so — across the country, along with significant investments in election infrastructure to protect in-person voters and poll workers and manage changes in voting.
“It is going to be a real challenge to do these kinds of fundamental shifts,” said Trey Grayson, a Republican and former Kentucky secretary of state. “Election administrators have their work cut out for themselves. The country and the states need to make decisions now to put those administrators ... in [the] position to pull these things off.”
The coronavirus economic relief law President Donald Trump signed last week contains $400 million in election security grants to help states “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” But that’s a number many warn is not nearly enough.
“Everybody needs to contribute, but Congress really needs to pony up,” said Wendy Weiser, vice president for democracy at the Brennan Center. “My view is they’re shortchanging our democracy right now and the American people.”
The Brennan Center estimated its own “Covid-19 election resiliency measures” — which include everything from expanding a vote-by-mail option to every American, safely maintaining in-person voting, and a big public education campaign — will cost $2 billion, an estimate Weiser called “conservative.” Other estimates peg the costs even higher.
Even early shifts toward mail voting in upcoming primaries have proved costly and challenging.
In Wisconsin, where officials have resisted postponing the state's April 7 primaries because there are also state and local general elections scheduled for the same date, elected officials and the parties have been pushing to get voters to request absentee ballots instead of showing up in person. But clerks across the state ran out of envelopes for the ballots, prompting the state to step in with an emergency order of more than 1 million additional envelopes.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, also called for every voter to receive an absentee ballot late last week. But election administrators in the state said they wouldn’t have the supplies to do that, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, and Republican state legislative leaders balked at the request, calling it logistically impossible.
As of Monday morning, more than 883,000 people have requested absentee ballots in Wisconsin, well over the 250,000 absentee ballots cast in the 2016 primaries — but well short of total turnout that year, when about 2.1 million people voted amid competitive presidential contests.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, announced last week his office will mail absentee ballot request forms to every one of Georgia's 6.9 million active voters ahead of the rescheduled May 19 primary. In an interview with POLITICO before the coronavirus relief package was signed into law, Raffensperger estimated it would cost around $13 million for the absentee voting operation, and he said the state would absorb some of the costs normally borne by counties by using existing federal grant money. “We had enough funds to do this for this one election,” Raffensperger said.
His move — which won measured applause from the Georgia Democratic Party, a rarity in a state that has seen major partisan clashes over voting rights — virtually guarantees the number of votes cast by mail will dramatically increase in this year's primary, which could test the state’s election infrastructure. Raffensperger’s office said that just about 5 percent of voters in the 2016 and 2018 general elections cast votes via mail.
However, some Republicans in the state blanched at Raffensperger’s plan. State House Speaker David Ralston called for the Legislature to review the expansion of mail balloting in the state, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, and said the primary should be further delayed. County governments and Raffensperger, a former state legislator, rejected Ralston’s calls.
But some states have struggled to adapt. Ohio saw its March 17 primary thrown into chaos with an eleventh-hour polls closure. The state Legislature ultimately decided to extend its primary through April 28 and hold it by mail only.
However, state lawmakers only authorized Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose to send postcards to voters with instructions about how to request an absentee ballot form, which they’d then have to obtain and submit to get an absentee ballot. LaRose, a Republican, wanted both a later primary and the ability to directly send ballots to voters. Civil rights groups believe the current April 28 system will disenfranchise scores of voters.
And the general election would be much more expensive and complicated to administer than primary elections in normal circumstances, let alone while battling a pandemic. Significantly raising the number of people who vote by mail is not as easy as just mailing out ballots. Election administrators and advocates agree that it is a complicated and expensive change that requires as much lead time as possible.
“However people are pivoting toward the primaries, the general election is a much bigger test. The volume is dramatically higher,” Weiser said. “Primary elections tend to have more frequent voters who have an easier time participating than general elections. … The task for the general election is a much more significant one.”

Multiple election experts warned that states that do not already have a robust vote-by-mail system in place will not be able to stand up an entirely mail system in time for the November election, and should instead focus on expanding absentee voting while minimizing risk for in-person voting. But even officials in states that have widespread mail voting are seeking more guidance about the funds they’ll have available and the administrative changes they can make.

“Folks carrying out the election need to know now, to start preparing now,” said Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat.
Hobbs is pushing to allow predominantly mail voting for her state’s upcoming down-ballot primary and the general election in November. The vast majority of Arizona voters are already on a permanent early voting list, she said, meaning many voters are already accustomed to getting a ballot in the mail.
But even still, Hobbs said there are significant challenges, like making sure Navajo Nation voters in the state can still cast ballots, as well as educating voters.
There’s also some Republican opposition to the expansion of mail voting.
“Voter[s] have plenty of time to request a mail-in ballot if they so choose,” Michelle Ugenti-Rita, a Republican state senator from Arizona, tweeted about the call for an all-mail election. “County election officials should focus on reminding voters that there is a mail ballot option for those who want to avoid going to a polling location during this time of social distancing.”

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Democratic lawmakers demand government stop deporting unaccompanied children

Democratic lawmakers demand government stop deporting unaccompanied children
by Rafael Bernal

Democratic lawmakers demand government stop deporting unaccompanied children
© Aaron Schwartz
Top Democrats on the House and Senate Judiciary committees demanded Monday that the Trump administration stop removing unaccompanied minor migrants seeking asylum at the U.S. border.
The letter was signed by the top Democrats in the House and Senate Judiciary committees, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), as well as the top Democrats in both chambers' immigration subcommittees, Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.).
The Democrats wrote in the letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Chad Wolf that they are "concerned" about recent media reports that unaccompanied minors are being turned away, in contravention of the Trafficking Victim Protections Reauthorization Act (TVPRA).
The New York Times had reported that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was turning away anyone who crossed the border illegally, citing a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order that is part of the administration's effort to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
The order, however, was not expected to apply to unaccompanied minors, who are protected by the TVPRA.
"Reports that DHS is not following the TVPRA are deeply troubling. We have an obligation to ensure the health and safety of these children," wrote the Democrats.
"Children do not have to be put in harm’s way to protect us from the coronavirus pandemic. DHS has the ability and capacity to protect both these children and the public. We request that DHS stop this practice immediately," they added.
The Democratic lawmakers argued CBP must turn over all unaccompanied minors encountered crossing the border without prior authorization to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through its Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
A CBP spokesman said that the agency complies with rules of turning over minors to HHS but added it may turn away children on "a case-by-case basis" to comply with the CDC order.
CBP "may, on a case-by-case basis, such as when return to the home country is not possible or an agent suspects trafficking or sees signs of illness, except any alien from the CDC order. Minors excepted from the CDC order who are encountered without a parent or legal guardian will be processed as unaccompanied alien children under Title 8 and will be turned over to HHS/ORR," wrote the spokesman.
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Up against the border wall

Up against the border wall
by Rache1 Frazin

Up against the border wall
© Courtesy of Sierra Club
President Trump’s use of military funding for construction of his southern border wall is typically framed as an immigration issue, or perhaps one of constitutional authority, but to Gloria Smith, the case is very much an environmental one.
Smith told The Hill in an interview this month that, unlike with other legal challenges to the project, courts “have repeatedly ruled that Sierra Club absolutely has standing to bring these cases and that’s because we have so many members who are directly impacted by this.”
The Sierra Club, alongside the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Border Communities Coalition, sued the administration last year after Trump declared an emergency to reallocate the funds. The groups argue that the declaration was an unconstitutional attempt to circumvent the budget passed by Congress, that it will harm the environment and wildlife and that it will negatively affect border communities.
The litigation is ongoing, and the organizations also filed a second suit in late February after the administration notified Congress that it would divert additional defense funds to the wall.
Smith, a managing attorney with the Sierra Club’s Environmental Law Program, said that a number of species could be threatened by the project, including ocelots, Mexican wolves, rattlesnakes and jaguars.
“When bulldozers and scrapers go through and clear, everything is gone,” she said, adding that some species will “certainly be wiped out north of the border. Their habitat will be bifurcated.”
Smith also mentioned the “heartbreaking” destruction of cacti that are supposed to be protected by law.
“It also can be really depressing sometimes when you see the Department of Defense mowing down floral cactuses that are two stories high and hundreds of years old for no reason,” she said.
As one of several lawyers on the case, Smith’s job includes collecting statements from Sierra Club members to show the court how people are being harmed by the government’s action.
“It’s honestly really hard because they pour their hearts out because they feel like they’re not being heard, and they’re not,” she said. “People who’ve lived there their whole lives now feel like criminals. And they get pulled over and they’re questioned and harassed for using land that they’ve been using years, decades, their whole lives.”
Smith said that hearing Trump declare the national emergency last year felt like a “double hit” of constitutional and environmental implications.
“It was the first time we’d ever seen any president declare a national emergency because he didn’t get his way in a budget that he signed the day before,” she said. “I instantly knew what this was going to mean for our borderlands.” 
The administration has defended its actions, arguing that the wall is needed for national security.
When he declared the emergency, Trump said, “It’s a great thing to do because we have an invasion of drugs, invasion of gangs, invasion of people.”
Smith didn’t always think she’d be working with one of the nation’s foremost environmental groups in a battle against the president.
In fact, growing up, her father had a bumper sticker on his truck that said, “Sierra Club go straight to hell.”
Hailing from a West Coast family that worked in logging and construction, Smith said that in the early 1990s she saw politicians pitting industry and environmentalists against one another.
She thinks that planning and negotiation could have helped the situation, which led her to believe that the law could be used for good.
“I just thought, we can do better,” she said.
Smith describes her family as “outdoorsy,” saying they often hunted and camped when she was young.
“While all of them were part of cutting down hundreds-of-year-old trees, they still loved being a part of that,” she said. “As I got older, those trees were disappearing and those habitats were disappearing and I had an understanding of the land and I had an understanding of the impacts ... and I knew I had to be involved in environmental protection as part of my career.”
Smith still lives in California, where she grew up and spent most of her life, but she did live in Washington, D.C., for four years, working at the solicitor’s office at the Interior Department under both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.
In that role, she represented the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service on issues such as dam removal and improving water quality.
In 2009, she joined the Sierra Club, where she has also worked on the Beyond Coal campaign, which seeks to retire coal plants and replace them with clean sources of energy.
Outside of the office, Smith still enjoys helping animals. She spends three weeks every year in Guatemala volunteering at a hospital that seeks to help native species such as monkeys, parrots and foxes that are affected by wildlife trafficking.
“It’s much more immediately satisfying because it’s literally working with these animals as opposed to filing lawsuits and writing briefs,” she said.
As for the border wall, Smith said that it is “disheartening” that there are so many negative repercussions stemming from what she described as simply a campaign issue for Trump.
“The wall started as a campaign slogan and nothing more, nothing based in fact, nothing based in sound policy ... that might actually benefit the United States,” she said. “There’s no evidence he’s ever given a single thought of what that really means to people and plants and animals and precious places.”
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