With New York legalizing gay marriage, more and more children will be exposed to same-sex couples (much to the chagrin of conservatives). Here is great video of one little boy's reaction to seeing his first gay couple -- watch how he figures things out:


Follow OV on:

RH Reality Check's picture

Advocates: Man Sterilized in ICE Detainment Deported to Guatemala

Advocates said in a press statement that jail staff locked Rosa in a cell with exposed sewage and prevented him from showering. Rosa soon developed a testicular infection, they added.

A 55-year-old was deported a day after immigrant rights advocates filed a complaint on his behalf with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the “severe medical abuse” he had suffered.

Angel Rosa, a grandfather of six, in 2012 was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for more than two years at the Utah County Jail, one of the nation’s jails contracted by ICE to oversee the detention of immigrants. Many of these facilities have become notorious for accusations of human rights abuses, including severe medical neglect. Advocates said in a press statement that jail staff locked Rosa in a cell with exposed sewage and prevented him from showering. Rosa soon developed a testicular infection, they added.

ICE officials, according to the press statement and an online petition, denied Rosa medical care until the infection spread, causing his rectum to swell shut, resulting in an intestinal infection. When Rosa was finally allowed to see a doctor, advocates explained, he was transferred to a hospital where he was told he would likely need surgical castration. After the hospital visit, ICE released Rosa from detention and in the years since, he has experienced recurring infections and was left sterilized.

On the morning of January 15, ICE agents raided Rosa’s home and detained him at the same facility—Utah County Jail—where he reportedly experienced medical neglect. Thomas Rome, managing attorney at the Thomas Rome Law Group, one of the organizations that filed the claim on Rosa’s behalf, told RH Reality Check that Rosa was picked up by ICE again because of a misunderstanding related to his reporting requirements.

“People who are released from detention are released from physical custody, but remain legally under ICE custody in what’s called supervision or ‘supervised release.’ It’s like a kind of probation,” Rome said. “For Mr. Rosa, there were parallel requirements for reporting to different bodies and he believed he had complied with both sides of his order by reporting to one of the bodies; he didn’t report to the other. ICE came down on him very hard and put him back in physical custody with the allegation that he had neglected his reporting responsibilities. He was detained even though he is not a person who was on the run. He was not a flight risk. He was very ill to begin with, being taken care of by his young daughter and family. So it was particularly distressing to know they [ICE] would do this.”

The National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), and attorneys at the Thomas Rome Law Group filed the complaint with DHS on Rosa’s behalf with the hope that a stay of removal would be issued.

Rome said it would be “impossible” for the agency to investigate a complaint if the person in question was deported. Rome was hopeful that Rosa would not be deported because, he explained, the typical response to a claim of this nature is for the agency to issue a stay of removal pending the investigation.

NDLON told RH Reality Check that it appears Rosa was deported in the early morning hours on Tuesday. Neither his family nor the advocates working on his behalf could obtain information from ICE on Rosa’s location. ICE told those advocates and family members that its refusal to release information on his whereabouts was for “operational and security reasons.”

A source at NDLON, who asked that their name not be used, received an email on Thursday confirming that DHS’ Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) had received the complaint filed on Rosa’s behalf. CRCL outlined how the investigation would take shape, saying, “Initially, we will send your complaint to the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) for review. If OIG declines to accept the complaint, it will be returned to CRCL for an appropriate response. Once CRCL opens a formal complaint, either we or the appropriate DHS component will conduct an investigation into your concerns. CRCL may contact you during the course of investigation of your complaint. We will ultimately notify you of the outcome of the investigation.”

It is unclear how long the investigative process would take, but Rome says Rosa should have been allowed to remain in the United States as his claim was being investigated. He was instead deported to Guatemala. CRCL’s letter issued the reminder to NDLON that the complaint process “does not provide individuals with legal rights or remedies.”

Thanks to an online petition circulated by NDLON, Rosa’s story has gained national attention, with people taking to social media to discuss Rosa’s case using the #SterilizedByICE hashtag.

Rome told RH Reality Check that the visibility of this case is critical.

“There are systemic ills in our immigration detention system, there’s no question, and we’re not saying what happened to Mr. Rosa is an everyday occurrence, but it is a particularly troubling example of what goes wrong,” he said. “This is a matter of accountability. The Department of Homeland Security claims to have a fair and humane system for immigrant detainees. At the very least, the system is supposed to be safe for detainees before their cases are decided on or before they are removed or released. Someone has to be accountable for what happened to Mr. Rosa. No one going into jail should come out the way he did.”

Image: Mark Van Scyoc / Shutterstock.com

The post Advocates: Man Sterilized in ICE Detainment Deported to Guatemala appeared first on RH Reality Check.

RH Reality Check's picture

Anti-Choice Activist Behind Planned Parenthood Attack Videos Turns Himself In

David Daleiden intends to plead not guilty and to reject a proposed plea deal that would keep him out of prison, according to CBS News.

David Daleiden, the anti-choice activist behind the campaign charging that Planned Parenthood profits from the sale of fetal tissue, surrendered to authorities in Harris County on Thursday, one week after a grand jury indicted him on felony and misdemeanor charges related to that campaign.

Daleiden immediately posted a $3,000 bond and was released. Sandra Merritt, an anti-choice activist and Daleiden’s associate, turned herself in to authorities on Wednesday. She also posted a bond and was released.

Daleiden and Merritt were indicted on felony charges of tampering with a governmental record related to their use of fake identification cards to gain admission to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston. The pair could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Daleiden was also charged with a misdemeanor count related to the purchase or sale of human organs.

The anti-choice activists’ attorneys negotiated a deal with the authorities for their voluntary surrender after they were indicted January 25 and warrants were issued for their arrest, according to CBS News.

Daleiden intends to plead not guilty and to reject a proposed plea deal that would keep him out of prison, according to CBS News. His local counsel, Terry Yates, plans to head to trial if he is unable to quash the indictment.

“David will not be taking [a plea deal],” Peter Breen, special counsel with the Thomas More Society, told reporters outside the Harris County courthouse, according to the Washington Post. “What we want is an apology, and that’s where we’re at right now. He is innocent of the charges.”

The charges stem from Daleiden’s “Human Capital” project, a 30-month long sting operation during which Daleiden created a fake tissue procurement company called BioMax, and, along with Merritt, gained entrance to the Houston clinic under false pretenses using fake identities. Daleiden offered clinic staff $1,600 to purchase fetal tissue. Staff at the clinic rejected his offer, according to Dawn Laguens, executive vice president and chief experience officer of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

The sting operation resulted in multiple Republican-led state and federal investigations, none of which have found evidence to support Daleiden’s claims that Planned Parenthood is profiting from the sale of fetal tissue or “baby parts.”

A Harris County grand jury was tasked with investigating the charges levied by Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress against Planned Parenthood. The investigation found that Planned Parenthood had not engaged in any wrongdoing with respect to its fetal tissue donation program. In a legal twist, the grand jury indicted the two anti-choice activists who covertly recorded videos of the health-care provider and its employees.

The indictment of Daleiden and Merritt has rallied anti-choice advocates to their cause. A petition asking the Harris County District Attorney’s office and the grand jury to drop the charges has garnered more than 115,000 signatures.

Daleiden and his advocates insist that he is an investigative journalist whose First Amendment rights have been infringed upon.

Planned Parenthood officials have balked at the suggestion.

“We don’t know of any journalists who have engaged in wire fraud and mail fraud, lied to multiple government agencies, tampered with government documents, and broken laws in at least four states—only to lie about what they found,” said Eric Ferrero, vice president at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, according to the Washington Post. “It’s hard to imagine anyone calling that ‘journalism.’”

Image: FRCAction / YouTube

The post Anti-Choice Activist Behind Planned Parenthood Attack Videos Turns Himself In appeared first on RH Reality Check.

RH Reality Check's picture

Kasich Touts and Clinton Stays Silent on Welfare Reform That Could Leave One Million People Hungry

Federal guidelines mandating that food assistance recipients find a job or lose their benefits kicked in last month for residents of 21 states, leaving as many as one million at risk of food insecurity—a result that owes no small debt to the welfare reform efforts of former President Bill Clinton's administration and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) in the '90s.

Federal guidelines mandating that food assistance recipients find a job or lose their benefits kicked in last month for residents of 21 states, leaving as many as one million at risk of food insecurity—a result that owes no small debt to the welfare reform efforts of former President Bill Clinton’s administration and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) in the ’90s.  

Work requirements have been part of welfare programs for nearly two decades, but the high unemployment rates of the Great Recession led dozens of states to qualify for and accept a federal waiver from the mandates because there simply were not enough jobs available. Today, the economy has been improving, albeit slowly: In many states, able-bodied food stamp recipients without dependents will once again face work requirements to access food assistance as those waivers expire, or states choose not to accept them in part or whole. 

As Ben Mathis-Lilley pointed out at Slate, Bill Clinton and John Kasich worked together in the 1990s to lead the charge on the very welfare reform measure that stands to boot so many off of food stamps 20 years later.

Bill Clinton ran for president in the early ’90s touting a welfare reform platform that aimed to “put an end to welfare as we know it” in the United States by mandating a work requirement for public assistance programs. “We’ll give them all the help they need for up to two years. But after that, if they’re able to work, they’ll have to take a job in the private sector, or start earning their way through community service,” Clinton promised.

In 1996, then-President Clinton followed through on that declaration, signing into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA)—a bill originally introduced by then-Ohio Congressman and current Republican presidential candidate Gov. Kasich. 

As Bill Clinton had promised, PRWORA established strict work requirements for those seeking to use welfare programs, such as food assistance. Under the new law, able-bodied adults without dependents could only use three months of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in three years, unless recipients worked, volunteered, or participated in education or career training programs for at least 80 hours per month. States with high unemployment were allowed to apply for a federal waiver of those rules.

The measure was controversial enough that three senior officials resigned from the administration in protest of the law.

“I have devoted the last 30-plus years to doing whatever I could to help in reducing poverty in America. I believe the recently enacted welfare bill goes in the opposite direction,” Peter B. Edelman, assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, said of his resignation at the time. 

Analyses conducted by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in 2001 on the impact of PRWORA confirmed what Edelman and other critics had suspected: that Clinton’s welfare reform measure had failed on many fronts. EPI’s analysis suggested that poverty had “not been reduced among the kinds of families most affected by welfare reform” and that although many former welfare recipients were working, they remained unable to move up the job ladder to improve their economic well-being.

Nevertheless, on the campaign trail, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who helped lead the original push behind PRWORA in the ’90s, has pointed to his work to reform welfare as one of his “great accomplishments.”

“This is one of those successes that when we get old and we’re all in our rocking chairs, we’re going to look back and say, ‘Thank God we were able to make America a little bit better,’” Kasich said of the law when it was passed.

More recently, Kasich has again pointed to his work on the issue as a critical component of what qualifies him to be president. “What I tell people is yeah, I’ve been a reformer. I’ve been involved in more fights than you can imagine but with great accomplishments—whether it’s jobs, whether it’s welfare reform, fixing my own state—so I just tell them that these problems we have, they can be fixed, and people seem to be very positive and hopeful when they leave,” Kasich said during a Tuesday rally in New Hampshire, according to Politico.

During his tenure as governor, Kasich has pushed to reinstate work requirements in much of Ohio, even as the state’s economy has been doing so poorly that it qualified for relief from the mandate in 2015.

This comes as little surprise, given that while speaking on the House floor in 1996 in defense of his bill, Kasich claimed that requiring welfare users to work was only fair. The legislation “says, look, you have got to go to work; you have got to get trained. You cannot be on welfare forever,” he asserted.

Kasich has faced much pushback for using the waivers inserted into PRWORA for states experiencing high unemployment rates unequally by only obtaining them for some regions of the state, a pattern critics say disproportionately harmed people of color. According to Mother Jones, despite having qualified for a full waiver in 2014, the Kasich administration only accepted a partial one:

In 2014, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) had the option to waive time limits on food stamps for the entire state. Due to a struggling economy and high unemployment, Ohio had qualified for and accepted this statewide waiver from the US Department of Agriculture every year since 2007, including during most of Kasich’s first term as governor. But this time, Kasich rejected the waiver for the next two years in most of the state’s 88 counties. His administration did accept them for 16 counties in 2014 and for 17 counties in 2015. Most of these were rural counties with small and predominantly white populations. Urban counties and cities, most of which had high minority populations, did not get waivers.

Kasich’s favored working requirements returned to the rest of the state, leaving many without the benefits they needed to be food secure. More than 10,000 Ohio residents lost food assistance in early 2014 after the work requirements were reinstated, according to the Columbus Dispatch.  

The decision led to stark disparity in who received food stamps in Ohio. In the 16 counties selected by Kasich, 95 percent of food stamp users were white, but before the policy, reports Mother Jones, the state’s overall percentage of white users was much lower, at 65 percent: “[S]ix months into the new system, the six counties with the highest rate of terminating food stamps for able-bodied, childless adults were all counties populated mostly by minorities.”

Ohio’s lagging assistance policies may have contributed to its poor performance in ensuring its residents have proper access to food. Between 2012 and 2014, the state had a food insecurity rate of roughly 17 percent, higher than the national average of 14 percent, according to a September 2015 analysis conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Kasich’s presidential campaign website claims the “historic reforms to federal welfare programs” he helped accomplish are part of his platform for “lifting up the most vulnerable Americans.”

Meanwhile, current Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton was a proponent of PRWORA during her husband’s administration, during her time as a senator, and as late as her 2008 presidential run.

In 1999, Clinton lauded the welfare reform measure for helping push recipients to work. “It’s important to recognize, though, that simply passing a law requiring welfare recipients to find work would have failed to fulfill the President’s promise,” Clinton wrote of the law, according to BuzzFeed. “Too many of those on welfare had known nothing but dependency all their lives, and many would have found it difficult to make the transition to work on their own.”

As a U.S. senator in 2002, Clinton again touted the role PRWORA had in pushing welfare recipients to work, claiming it was an effort to “substitute dignity for dependence” and that those who got jobs were “no longer deadbeats.” 

In her 2003 memoir Living History, Clinton again offered a defense of her husband’s welfare reform decision, noting that although it was “far from perfect” she had agreed that it should be passed and worked to make that happen after the president vetoed the first two proposed reform bills.

“I agreed that he should sign it and worked hard to round up votes for its passage—though he and the legislation were roundly criticized by some liberals, advocacy groups for immigrants and most people who worked with the welfare system,” Clinton wrote. “I felt, on balance, that this was a historic opportunity to change a system oriented toward dependence to one that encouraged independence.”

In 2008 while on the campaign trail, Clinton again fell back on familiar rhetoric. “Welfare should have been a temporary way station for people who needed immediate assistance,” Hillary Clinton said during an interview with the New York Times in which she discussed her husband’s welfare reform measure. “It should not be considered an anti-poverty program.”

Research shows welfare programs like food assistance do help pull people out of poverty.

Since then, Clinton hasn’t been as vocal on the issue, but in late 2013 she did bring up problems with food stamps during an interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters, seemingly referencing a federal budget battle that stood to cut food assistance benefits.

“I think we should be looking at the work that we have today,” Clinton said at the time, explaining that focus should be on the issues that matter to voters, not on whether she would run for president. “Our unemployment rate is too high. We have people getting kicked off food stamps who are in terrible economic straits. Small business is not getting credit, I could go on and on, so I think we ought to pay attention to what’s happening right now.”

In June 2015, Clinton again brought up food stamps. “No one who works an honest job in America should have to live in poverty,” the presidential candidate told a convention of fast-food workers in Detroit. “No man or woman who works hard to feed America’s families should have to be on food stamps to feed your own families.”

Despite numerous think pieces and calls for Clinton to address her husband’s welfare reforms specifically, it does not appear that she has directly addressed the topic on the campaign trail during the 2016 race.

When asked directly by Bloomberg in May 2015 about whether she would distance herself from her husband’s welfare overhaul, a spokesperson from Clinton’s campaign provided a statement claiming the candidate would address the issue “in the coming months”:

Hillary Clinton has a long record fighting for everyday Americans and their families, and she is running to make sure all families are not only able to get ahead, but stay ahead. In the coming months she will discuss more details on her approach to addressing children and families living in poverty, including how best to support those families who rely on the safety net of welfare to temporarily keep their families afloat during the hardest of times, as well as other ideas to further strengthen families and help them move forward.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign website does include a promise to “preserve, protect, and strengthen” Medicaid and Social Security, two other social safety-net programs, but does not reference the Clinton administration’s PRWORA reforms.

Her economic platform instead names “raising incomes for hardworking Americans” as the “defining economic challenge of our time,” noting that “too many families are working harder and harder, but still not getting ahead.” She proposes doing so by providing tax relief for families, raising the minimum wage, and supporting equal pay policies, among other things.

Clinton’s Democratic rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), has criticized Hillary Clinton’s past support of welfare reform policies, as well as the reforms themselves, but has also faced criticism for not adequately taking on the issue.

Anti-poverty experts, however, suggest that the Clinton administration’s welfare reform measures are an issue Hillary Clinton needs to take on. “Welfare reform needs to be revisited,’’ Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at Catholic University told Bloomberg. “I think Hillary needs to stand up and say, ‘My husband and the Republicans in the 90s really thought they’d put together a package that was going to fix welfare and poverty but didn’t fix either one.’ She needs to call America to the barricades in the struggle against deep poverty.’’

Image: NBC News / YouTube

The post Kasich Touts and Clinton Stays Silent on Welfare Reform That Could Leave One Million People Hungry appeared first on RH Reality Check.

RH Reality Check's picture

Washington State GOP Advances ‘Sex-Selective’ Abortion Ban

Ann Rivers

A Republican-backed Washington state bill to criminalize so-called sex-selective abortions passed out of the state senate’s Law and Justice Committee this week in a 4-3 party-line vote.

The bill cites similar policies in countries such as India and China, noting, “The victims of sex-selection abortion are overwhelmingly female.” National research has shown there is no discrepancy between the gender ratios of births by Asian-American women and women of other races in the United States.

Under SB 6612, abortion providers who knowingly perform or attempt to perform an abortion on the basis of gender could face up to five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine. The crime would be a felony, and a doctor would lose his or her medical license.

Language in the anti-choice bill does not indicate how an abortion provider is to determine the reason the patient has chosen to end a pregnancy. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other civil rights groups have described so-called sex-selective abortion bans as legislation with “discriminatory intent.”

Senate Law and Justice Committee Chairman Mike Padden (R-Spokane Valley), one of the bill’s sponsors, described the legislation as a “very modest step to restrict abortion,” at the committee meeting Wednesday. Lawmakers, he noted, “have an obligation to protect the most vulnerable among us.”

Law and Justice Committee member Sen. Jamie Pedersen (D-Seattle) countered that the bill might violate doctor-patient privacy by requiring physicians to ask whether the gender of the fetus was the reason for the abortion.

Anti-choice advocates often point to a trio of studies that suggest the prevalence of sex-selective abortion among a small number of immigrant women, but the practice is not considered a widespread problem in the United States.

Sen. Ann Rivers (R-La Center), one of the bill’s sponsors, told the Associated Press that other states passed similar bans and she wanted to “have a collegial discussion about it.”

At least 13 states have introduced legislation to outlaw abortions based on sex, race, or genetics, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Arizona prohibits abortions based on gender or race.

The Law and Justice Committee heard public testimony on the legislation on Tuesday. Opponents called SB 6612 a thinly disguised ploy to chip away at safe and legal abortion care.

Rachel Berkson, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, said in a statement that the bill is a “disingenuous, inflammatory, and an unenforceable invasion of privacy that would require doctors to act as mind readers and law-enforcement officers instead of caregivers.”

“NARAL opposes any kind of reproductive coercion,” she said. “But bans on sex-selective abortions do nothing to address the gender inequalities that impact women and girls in our state, including gender pay inequity, lack of workplace protections for pregnant women, and barriers to access for women seeking contraception and basic reproductive health care.”

SB 6612 now moves to the Republican-dominated Senate Rules Committee, a senate staffer told RH Reality Check. The Rules Committee is made up of 12 Republicans and nine Democrats. The next step would be the full state senate, which is equally represented by Republicans and Democrats.

Image: WashingtonSRC / YouTube

The post Washington State GOP Advances ‘Sex-Selective’ Abortion Ban appeared first on RH Reality Check.

RH Reality Check's picture

The Real Story Behind Candidates’ Stances on Detention Centers

Whether they are run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or a for-profit entity, detention centers are unnerving for a number of reasons, as are the connections some politicians have to them.

When discussing immigrants’ rights, presidential candidates tend to focus solely on how their administration would create a pathway to citizenship and funnel more resources to the border. But detention centers are perhaps the most troubling and overlooked aspect of the United States’ broken immigration system, and they are a topic many major media outlets are failing to engage candidates on.

And even when detention centers are brought up, candidates don’t always clearly articulate a stance. For example, even when a candidate is pushing for an end to privately run detention centers, they aren’t necessarily calling for an end to the detention of undocumented folks. This is certainly true of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, neither of whom is vowing to disrupt the detention system, just who oversees it.

But whether they are run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or a for-profit entity, detention centers are alarming for a number of reasons, as are the connections some politicians have to them.

Before examining the candidates’ stances on—and ties to—detention, it’s important to understand which institutions are behind the current explosion of facilities here in the United States.

Detention Centers, Explained

The number of immigrants in detention centers has steadily increased since the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. Under these policies, mandatory detention of non-citizens became the norm, despite the fact that, as noted by the American Civil Liberties Union, prolonged detention is a violation of the right to due process.

Simply put, detention—and family detention in particular—is inhumane. Women and children fleeing violence in their countries of origin, for example, present themselves at the border as asylum seekers, as is required by law, yet they’re placed in what are essentially prisons with their young children. They also remain in detention indefinitely, often in unsafe conditions. According to the American Immigration Council, because “there are no statutory limits to the amount of time a non-citizen may be held in immigration detention,” the length of detention stays for asylum seekers varies depending on, among other factors, the status of their application. For asylum applicants, the average length of detention is 65 days, but many asylum applicants are kept in immigration detention for several months, sometimes even years.

U.S. government policies ensure that there are always plenty of people in detention. As the Nation reported in August 2014, the United States keeps at least 34,000 undocumented immigrants in detention each day for the purpose of meeting a quota, also known as the “detention-bed mandate.” The quota, which the Nation reported took effect in 2007, appears in the federal law that appropriates funding for ICE. Advocates contend the quota is linked to industry lobbying. Since its implementation, “the quota has become a driver of an increasingly aggressive immigration enforcement strategy,” according to the Texas-based organization Grassroots Leadership.

The expansion of the immigration detention system has proven to be profitable for private prison corporations and local governments. Of the roughly 350 facilities used to detain immigrants by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), only about eight are owned and run by ICE. According to the National Immigration Forum, ICE contracts with more than 240 state and county jails and private correctional corporations to house immigrant detainees.

The average U.S. citizen isn’t aware that detention centers may exist in their community, even though it’s costing taxpayers billions. The system operates without much visibility, yet in 2014 DHS requested some $2 billion in detention funding for the year; the agency maintains the detention system costs over $5 million a day.

“Family detention centers” are specifically used to detain mothers and their young children, often asylum seekers fleeing gender-based violence. Reports have found that the conditions in detention centers are entirely inappropriate for mothers and children, and that detention often traumatizes families, undermines the basic family structure, and has a devastating psychosocial impact. Privately run centers, in particular, have seen numerous allegations of human rights violations over the years, including accusations of child abuse, physical and sexual abuse, sleep deprivation, and use of solitary confinement.

Immigrants in all detention centers are regularly denied basic due process rights, with no government-appointed attorneys for those in deportation proceedings.

How Private Companies Profit

The for-profit businesses behind the facilities have raked in billions from the detention of undocumented communities and, in turn, have made campaign contributions to support some unlikely bedfellows.

The two largest for-profit prison companies in the United States, GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), make anywhere from $122 to $159 per detainee per day. At the former family detention center in Texas, the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, CCA has been able to receive up to $200 a day per detainee, according to Detention Watch Network.

Recently, the research firm In the Public Interest illustrated how private companies profit from all corners of America’s detention system, from the detention facility to the bail bonds to GPS ankle monitoring to the deportation itself.

The often unlawful imprisonment of undocumented immigrants has created a new market that primarily benefits for-profit prison companies.

It should come as no surprise why GEO and CCA have a combined annual revenue of $3.3 billion. These companies also regularly lobby Congress for more detention centers, according to the Washington Post. GEO and CCA have spent nearly $25 million on lobbying efforts since 1989.

This broken system, it seems, has also benefited some presidential candidates who have accepted campaign donations tied to privately owned detention centers. There isn’t a single presidential hopeful on either side who has shown a clear understanding of the consequences of detention centers, and some aren’t necessarily advocating for their complete closure.

Hillary Clinton

Last month, during the Fusion Television Brown and Black Democratic Presidential Forum, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised to “end private detention centers,” something she outlined in further detail during December’s National Immigrant Integration Conference, saying, “There are people in immigration detention right now who are on a hunger strike. We need to be focused on detention conditions. And as president, I’ll close private immigration detention centers. This is a critical government responsibility, and we should not be outsourcing it to anyone else.”

These declarations can serve Clinton well. A recent Gallup poll found that 20 percent of nearly 2,000 registered voters said they would only vote for a candidate who shares their views on immigration, while another 60 percent said they consider the candidates’ stance on immigration one of many important issues they will take into consideration on Election Day. But those looking to vote for a candidate who wants to abolish the detention system need to take a closer look at what Clinton is really saying.

There is a stark difference between vowing to close detention centers entirely because they are unethical and profit off of vulnerable communities, and vowing to close private immigration detention centers.

On Clinton’s site, her stance is clearly articulated: “She [Clinton] believes we should move away from contracting out this critical government function to private corporations and private industry incentives that may contribute—or have the appearance of contributing—to over-incarceration.”

In May, Clinton earned the applause of immigration advocates when at a roundtable in Nevada, she said she was “very worried about detention and detention facilities for people who are vulnerable and for children,” saying the focus should be on detaining immigrants who have “a record of violent, illegal behavior.”

These kinds of statements paint a tidy picture of the very complex reality of immigrants’ lives. Sometimes those who are vulnerable have criminal records and often, those people are parents.

Clinton added, according to the U.S. News and World Report:

“I don’t think we should put children and vulnerable people into big detention facilities because I think they’re at risk. I think that their physical and mental health are at risk,” [she] said, adding that the government should be giving such migrants support and representation while changing the current processes “within the kind of discretion … the president has exercised with his executive orders.”

Put plainly, Clinton’s plan is to stop the privatization of detention centers and instead, make them a function solely of the government. In October, Clinton’s campaign spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa released a statement on Clinton’s behalf further outlining her plan, saying Clinton “believes that we should not contract out this core responsibility of the federal government, and when we’re dealing with a mass incarceration crisis, we don’t need private industry incentives that may contribute—or have the appearance of contributing—to over-incarceration.”

It’s also important to note that the presidential hopeful’s campaign and PAC has had ties to privately owned detention centers. As the Intercept reported in July, two of the Clinton campaign’s fundraisers are connected to two major prison companies, and Vice reported in October that lobbying firms working for GEO and CCA gave $133,246 to the Ready for Hillary PAC. Clinton has since said she will stop accepting campaign contributions from those corporations and the lobbyists who work for them.

Bernie Sanders

Unlike Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has not accepted contributions from big-name supporters with ties to private detention centers, but like her, it is his goal to end private centers. Within three years, the senator from Vermont wants to put an end to all of the government’s private prison and detention center contracts with the hope of curbing the country’s soaring mass incarceration rate.

In September, Sanders announced that he was co-sponsoring the Justice Is Not For Sale Act, which aims to reduce the inmate population in federal, state, and local facilities that has skyrocketed because of “draconian criminal laws, politically powerful corporations profiting from incarceration, immigration enforcement policies, and strict policies regarding parole and release of prisoners.”

Three of the legislation’s seven proposed reforms are detention center-related. Sanders and co-sponsor, Arizona congressman Raúl M. Grijalva (D), aim to require ICE to improve the monitoring of detention facilities to “ensure humane treatment of detainees,” and end family detention and the bed quota.

Sanders is also pushing to see immigrants in detention released and monitored through ankle bracelets or required check-ins with immigration agents. His plan is being called ambitious, but like Clinton, Sanders has done little to quell advocates’ fear that private detention centers will simply be replaced by government-run detention centers.

Marco Rubio

While Donald Trump garners most of the headlines about immigration on the GOP side because of his egregious, racist comments, it’s actually Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) who has the most nefarious ties to the immigrant detention system. Rubio’s PACs and campaign have taken a total of $133,450 from private prison companies or groups that lobby on their behalf, but Rubio’s relationship with these companies goes back further than the campaign trail.

As the Washington Post reported, Rubio has had close ties to GEO for years, since his time as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. The Republican Party of Florida PAC has received over $2 million from GEO and CCA since 1989 and in 2010, GEO and its affiliates provided $33,500 to political action committees benefiting Florida Republicans, including the Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate PAC. As of April 2015, GEO’s co-founder and chief executive, George Zoley, had personally donated thousands of dollars to Rubio.

This is not just a matter of accepting money from companies with histories of human rights abuse allegations in their detention centers and prisons. The bigger question, especially as it relates to Rubio, is how accepting this money influences policy—and it seems to have done so. There are documented instances of private-prison companies appearing to influence policies that put more people in detention centers, including Arizona’s racist immigration laws, which pass, in part, because of companies like GEO and CCA that lobby for funding for ICE.

The Center for Media and Democracy detailed how Rubio’s connections to GEO during his time in the Florida house gave the private prison company a seat at the table. Rubio hired Donna Arduin as an economic consultant; Arduin is a former trustee for GEO’s Correctional Properties Trust. According to reports, Arduin worked with Rubio’s then-budget chief, Ray Sansom, to push a $110 million deal for a new GEO prison in the House Appropriations Bill. In the same report, the Center for Media and Democracy detailed how legislation that benefited GEO followed Arduin’s presence in government from California to Florida.

When Rubio won the Senate seat in 2011, he appointed Cesar Conda as his chief of staff. Conda was co-founder of what would become GEO’s main lobbying firm, Navigators Global. While working with Rubio, Conda still received payments of $150,000 from Navigators Global as part of a stock buyout arrangement. The Washington Post reports that in April 2014, Conda went on to lead Rubio’s Reclaim America PAC as a senior adviser, until rejoining Navigators Global in November of that year. During Conda’s time with Rubio, GEO became a top-ten contributor to Reclaim America, giving $16,000 in 2014. Navigators Global also obtained $610,000 from GEO between 2011 and 2014, all while it lobbied for immigration reform on GEO’s behalf.

Rubio does not address detention once in his immigration plan.

Ted Cruz

According to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s immigration plan, the number of people in detention will increase dramatically under his administration, as will the resources used to imprison them.

The Texas senator asserts there haven’t been nearly as many deportations under President Obama as possible—and in his estimation, as necessary. According to Cruz’s website, “During the first five years of the Obama Administration, President Obama removed or returned only 3.8 million ‘illegal’ entrants. That is a fraction of the removals and returns during the previous five years, and a fraction of what we could accomplish if we had a President who actually forced DHS to do its job and removed politics from an agency charged with law enforcement. As President, I would do just that.”

Cruz wants to funnel more resources to DHS to expand the number of deportees, asserting that everyone “apprehended trying to enter the United States without permission will be detained until they are removed from the United States.”

Despite reports finding that family detention is harmful and inhumane, Cruz wants to double down on all detention, including keeping asylum seekers detained as their cases are pending. Specifically, as it relates to asylum seekers, Cruz wants to “utilize the executive branch’s discretionary authority to ensure detention is enforced in all asylum cases. Detention of those making asylum claims will ensure rapid processing of legitimate claims and rapid deportation of false claims, and will go a long way toward discouraging those with bogus claims from attempting to come here.”

Cruz is advocating that detention centers be government-run and asserting that ICE-run detention centers are a priority. The senator plans to “[s]upport ICE agents and their enforcement efforts by significantly increasing permanent detention capacity for illegal immigrants in the interior of the United States, and give ICE leadership the flexibility to procure additional, temporary detention space from the General Services Administration and state and local law enforcement on an as-needed basis. The Obama Administration has limited detention space for illegal immigrants who are taken into custody to limit the ability of ICE agents to detain illegal immigrants and begin the process of deportation. I will end that practice.”

Donald Trump

Billionaire and former reality TV show host Donald Trump has said a lot about immigration, but not much about detention centers. Given his plan to deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the United States—and their U.S. citizen children—using a “deportation force,” it’s safe to say the conditions in detention centers aren’t a concern to him.

Keep in mind, Trump is literally modeling his approach to deportation after President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1954 program “Operation Wetback,” a military-style, government operation that resulted in the mass deportation of one million people. According to CNN, the policy “plucked Mexican laborers from fields and ranches in targeted raids, bused them to detention centers along the border, and ultimately sent many of them deep into the interior of Mexico, some by airlift, others on cargo boats that typically hauled bananas.”

In her book Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America, author Mae Ngai included a congressional report that compared the conditions on the boats to those of 18th-century slave ships. The program ended after a number of deaths due to sunstroke and drownings, but the Eisenhower administration still characterized it as a “success.”

In a recent interview, when a reporter pointed out to Trump that “Operation Wetback” is seen by many as a “shameful chapter in American history,” Trump responded, “Well, some people do, and some people think it was a very effective chapter. When they brought them back [to Mexico], they removed some, everybody else left. And it was very successful, everyone said. So I mean, that’s the way it is. Look, we either have a country, or we don’t. If we don’t have strong borders, we have a problem.”

The American Civil Liberties Union reports that the American immigration detention system locks up hundreds of thousands of immigrants every year, exposing them to brutal and inhumane conditions—and it’s unnecessary. Unless policies change and politicians push for more than simply having government-run detention centers, the human rights abuses experienced by undocumented immigrants in detention will only continue.

Image: MSNBC / YouTube

The post The Real Story Behind Candidates’ Stances on Detention Centers appeared first on RH Reality Check.

RH Reality Check's picture

Paid Family Leave Gains Momentum in New York Legislature

The bill’s Democratic supporters believe that the legislation, which has long been in the works, may finally pass the Republican-controlled state senate and be sent to the governor's desk.

People who work in New York and have a sick family member or a newborn child would be allowed to take paid time off under a bill passed Tuesday by the New York State Assembly.

The bill’s Democratic supporters believe that the legislation, which has long been in the works, may finally pass the Republican-controlled state senate and be sent to the governor’s desk.

A 03870, sponsored by Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Queens), would allow the state’s workers to take paid leave because of injury, sickness, or pregnancy. People benefiting from the program would receive up to two-thirds of their regular pay, which would be funded through a “disability benefits fund” and an employee contribution of 45 cents per week.

The bill was passed by a 97-48 vote, mostly along partisan lines with one Republican voting in favor and one Democrat voting against.

Republicans were critical of the legislation and charged that people who work would abuse the benefit. Assemblyman Andy Goodell (R-Chautauqua) raised concerns that it may hurt companies and corporations.

“We need to be very careful that we don’t put ourselves in a situation where we punish those employers,” Goodell said, reported the Associated Press.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) last week appeared with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during the launch of the “Strong Families, Strong New York” campaign for paid family leave.

“There are times in life when family comes first—like when a child is born, a loved one is sick, or a parent is dying—and I believe everyone deserves the right to be there in those times,” Cuomo said, reported United Press International.

Cuomo during his state of the state address in January said that the legislature should “pass family leave this session,” and endorsed 12 weeks of paid family leave “paid for by employees.”

However, the legislation passed by the assembly differs from Cuomo’s original proposal. The governor’s plan would have provided workers with up to one-third of their regular pay, and be funded entirely by the workers through a weekly payroll deduction of 60 cents.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) told Politico New York in January that lawmakers would work to bring the bill closer to the governor’s proposal in the assembly.

“It’s a little different than what we believe paid family leave should be,” Heastie said. “That’s been a signature thing we’ve passed as a conference, and we’ll look to have it look like the way we prefer it to be.”

Amy Traub, senior policy analyst at Demos, a public policy organization, told the Public News Service that the vast majority of people who work in New York would benefit from paid family leave.

“There are 6.4 million New York workers who don’t receive paid family leave from their employers,” Traub said. “That’s a tremendous proportion of the state’s workforce that just don’t have this critical family support.”

Rhode Island, New Jersey, and California have implemented similar family leave laws to the proposal that was passed by New York Democrats, and those laws have greatly benefited people who work while having a minimum impact on businesses, according to a policy study co-authored by Traub.

The study found that when paid leave is available, mothers are less likely to drop out of the labor force when they have a baby, and that their family’s income increases. “We also find that paid leave improves child health outcomes, including reducing infant mortality rates, and it’s associated with better health outcomes among new mothers, as well,” Traub told the Public News Service.

People who work are guaranteed 12 weeks of unpaid family leave under federal law.

Eric Williams, campaign director for the New York Paid Family Leave Insurance Campaign, told the Public News Service that there may be the votes to pass the bill in the the state senate, where the Republican majority has repeatedly blocked similar legislation.

“The majority leader and the labor chair said they’re open to seeing a paid family leave bill done,” Williams said. “So, we want to work with everybody and get a strong bill passed that works for all workers around the state.”

Senate Republican Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Suffolk County) told WRVO that he’s open to discussing paid family leave and prefers Cuomo’s original proposal to have the program funded by people who work. “It’s a good start,” Flanagan said. “A lot of our members care very deeply about that.”

The bill has been referred to the New York State Senate Labor Committee, where it awaits further action.

Image: Shutterstock

The post Paid Family Leave Gains Momentum in New York Legislature appeared first on RH Reality Check.

RH Reality Check's picture

‘Trapped’ Documentary Rejects Moral Divide Between Religion and Abortion