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The Police Officer Who Killed 12-Year-Old Tamir Rice Has Been Fired

Mother Jones

The police officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in a Cleveland park in November 2014 has been fired, Cleveland’s police chief said at a press conference on Tuesday. The decision comes two and a half years after Rice was killed. Officer Timothy Loehmann was fired not for shooting Rice but for lying on his job application about his disciplinary record at a previous police department, according to the termination documents. (Another officer who had been on the scene of the shooting was suspended for 10 days.)

Loehmann, who started working for the Cleveland Police Department in early 2014, failed to disclose that although he voluntarily left his job at another department, he was allowed to resign after a series of incidents in which supervisors deemed him unfit for duty, according to Cleveland.com. He also did not disclose that he had failed a written exam for employment at a second police department.

Loehmann shot Rice after he and his partner responded to a 911 call about a person in a park waving a gun. His death became an early touchstone for the Black Lives Matter movement. Video of the shooting showed that Loehmann shot the child, who was holding a toy pellet gun, within two seconds of arriving on the scene. A grand jury declined to charge the officers involved.

A dispatcher who took the initial 911 call was suspended in March for failing to tell the responding officers that the caller had said the person with the gun might be a juvenile and that the gun could be fake. A June 2015 Mother Jones investigation revealed how that failure contributed to the child’s death.

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The Police Officer Who Killed 12-Year-Old Tamir Rice Has Been Fired

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Women Are Now Living With the Fear of Deportation If They Report Domestic Violence

Mother Jones

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President Donald Trump’s January executive orders on immigration worried advocates working with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, who argued that their clients and other victims of crime would no longer be willing to seek help or cooperate with law enforcement. Their concerns were further justified when police departments in Los Angeles and Houston announced that Latinos in those cities were reporting sexual assaults at lower rates in the wake of hostile rhetoric and enforcement activity targeting undocumented immigrants. Now, a new survey provides the data that demonstrates a noticeable shift in immigrant survivors’ contacts with victim services providers in recent months.

“The results of this survey are troubling,” Cecilia Friedman Levin, senior policy counsel for ASISTA Immigration Assistance, said in a recent press call discussing the survey results. “It represents that there is uncertainty and distrust around the institutions that are supposed to provide survivors with protection and safety.”

The “2017 Advocate and Legal Service Survey Regarding Immigrant Survivors” was conducted last month by a coalition of national organizations focused on domestic violence and sexual assault. The sponsors included the Tahirih Justice Center, ASISTA, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, and the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence. The groups collected responses from roughly 700 advocates and attorneys from 46 states and Washington, DC, asking them about the issues confronting immigrant survivors seeking services and information about specific incidents. They found that a majority of respondents are seeing an increase in fear among their immigrant clients, some of whom are fearful of even calling 911 or seeking medical assistance. Here are some of the highlights:

62% of respondents—a group that includes both social and legal services providers—said they have seen an increase in immigration-related questions from survivors;
78% of respondents said that survivors had expressed concerns about contacting police due to fears that it would open them up to deportation;
75% said that survivors had expressed concerns about going to court for a matter related to their abuser, a concern that was likely exacerbated by the highly reported courthouse arrest of a domestic violence victim seeking a protective order against her abuser earlier this year;
43% of respondents also said that the survivors they have worked with have dropped criminal or civil cases related to their abuse because they were fearful of potentially opening themselves up to enforcement.

Anecdotes from respondents also shed light on the increased level of fear among immigrant survivors. “Survivors have a lot of questions about how they can safety plan under the new administration,” the report says, adding that some victims now question if they should submit petitions for relief to the federal government. In another response, the survey report notes that a 16-year old survivor attempted suicide because she feared that her offender would report her family to federal enforcement officials.

In the months since the immigration executive orders were announced, there has been confusion about what protections were still in place for the vulnerable subset of survivors of domestic abuse. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement has maintained that agency protections covering immigrant survivors and other victims of crime are still in place. But, in practice, the picture is quite different. The administration has largely overlooked these crime victims both in its statements on immigration and in the resources it has provided. Last month, the Department of Homeland Security launched a new office focused on crimes committed by immigrants and the president’s proposed 2018 budget promises to dedicate significant resources to immigration enforcement and crack down on sanctuary jurisdictions that refuse to participate in aggressive targeting of undocumented immigrants. The shift in tone has already had an effect: Earlier this week, a Baltimore defense attorney was arrested after allegedly offering an immigrant rape victim $3,000 to not testify against her alleged assailant, telling the woman that she risked deportation should she appear in court.

Immigrant survivors can still qualify for protections under the Violence Against Women Act, a 1994 law protecting victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. But the administration’s activity could further exacerbate survivors’ reluctance to seek assistance. “We’ve seen a lot of people reach out and ask specifically for what people can do outside of the legal system because they’re afraid of deportation, or they’re afraid of law enforcement and they’ve been hearing a lot about raids,” Qudsia Raja, policy director at the National Domestic Violence Hotline, told reporters. “We’re having to work with advocates on safety planning outside of legal recourse.”

Advocates are also concerned that legislation working its way through Congress would negatively impact survivors’ willingness to report. Of particular concern is the Davis-Oliver Act, a bill that would give state and local law enforcement the power to enforce federal immigration laws, impose harsher penalties on undocumented immigrants, and punish sanctuary cities. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) has argued that the bill is necessary to ensure public safety.

Those who actually work with immigrants disagree. They say public safety will suffer if harsh immigration policies are allowed to push immigrant survivors into the shadows. “The fear among immigrant survivors is still rampant,” Archi Pyati, chief of policy and programs at the Tahirih Justice Center, a group working with women and girls fleeing gender-based violence, told Mother Jones. “So long as the federal government continues down this road there are going to be immigrant women who are going to be hurt.”

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Women Are Now Living With the Fear of Deportation If They Report Domestic Violence

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The GOP Health Bill Would Make Zika the Newest Preexisting Condition

Mother Jones

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The controversial GOP health care bill that narrowly passed the House of Representatives this month could have devastating consequences for mothers and children infected with Zika, experts say. The mosquito-borne virus is just one on a nearly endless list of preexisting medical conditions—cancer, asthma, pregnancy—for which insurers could potentially charge higher premiums if Republicans get their way.

One of the most popular features of Obamacare is a provision known as “community rating,” which bars insurance from charging more for people with preexisting conditions. This was a common practice before Obamacare was enacted in 2010; stories of sick people being unable to find affordable coverage were one of the main arguments used by the legislation’s supporters. Of course, the public health crisis surrounding Zika—and the birth defects it can cause—wasn’t an issue at the time; no one in the United States had yet contracted the virus. But if the House’s Obamacare repeal bill becomes law, people with Zika could end up paying far more for their health care—and could even end up priced out of insurance entirely.

Multiple health care experts told Mother Jones that the GOP bill would almost certainly mean a host of insurance problems for both pregnant women who have had Zika and infants born with microcephaly, a condition where a child has a smaller brain and other health defects. Zika can cause a host of other birth defects and in rare cases has been linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can cause temporary paralysis in adults. What’s more, the GOP bill cuts funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency on the front lines of the battle against the disease.

The Republican bill includes an amendment that allows states to opt out of the Obamacare community rating protection. Under the GOP plan, if a person’s health coverage were to lapse longer than 63 days in a state that opts out, that person could be charged a prohibitive cost on the private market. Short lapses in coverage are incredibly common. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 27.4 million nonelderly adults had a several-month gap in coverage in 2015. For the 6.3 million of these adults who have preexisting conditions, the costs could be significant. The liberal Center for American Progress estimated that under the GOP bill, people with even mild preexisting conditions would pay thousands more per year—a 40-year-old, for example, would likely be charged an extra $4,340 in premiums if she had asthma, or $17,320 extra if she were pregnant.

Zika was first identified in 1947 in Uganda. It didn’t emerge in Brazil until 2015, when researchers began to notice the link to a spike in birth defects. Since then, mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus have been found in almost every country in the Western Hemisphere. Zika is particularly prevalent in Latin American, but it has also appeared in the United States. There have been more than 30,000 cases confirmed in Puerto Rico, including 3,300 pregnant woman, and more than 1,000 cases in Florida. The spread of Zika has varied wildly from year to year, with cases this year down sharply from 2016.

Yet our understanding of the Zika virus and its related health problems is still evolving. In most people, the virus shows no visible symptoms or just mild problems such as aches and a fever. But it does raise the risk of microcephaly, a rare brain defect in which a child develops with an abnormally small head and brain. Microcephaly is incredibly rare in a normal pregnancy, but a Zika infection in the first trimester raises the risk to 1 to 13 percent.

Zika is linked to various health problems in infants, but microcephaly itself is an expensive medical condition. The CDC estimates it would cost an additional $1 million to $10 million in medical care over the child’s lifetime. Zika-associated microcephaly would probably cost somewhere in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in premium surcharges, according to the Center for American Progress health policy team.

Experts say that, under the Republican plan, insurers would almost certainly treat Zika as a reason to charge higher premiums.

“If it’s documented in your medical records that you had this infection and you have it now, they might well act on it,” Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told Mother Jones. And if an infant was born with microcephaly, Pollitz added, “you’d have to be very careful as the parent of a child to never have a break in coverage.” Pollitz also added that the total number of Zika cases is small, but the issue could come up in medical records and be cause for insurers to “jump on that and possibly charge you a higher premium.”

In other words, insurers would be tempted to charge more based on the expensive medical costs sometimes associated with Zika, and there would be nothing preventing them from doing it. “There’s no rule about what can or cannot qualify” as a preexisting condition, New York University health care expert Sherry Glied said in an email, “and Zika will certainly raise later costs, so would count.”

David Anderson, a Duke University health policy researcher who has worked in the health insurance industry, added that another part of the GOP’s health bill—massive cuts to Medicaid spending—would add more strain to state budgets in the case of a Zika outbreak. The bill reduces Medicaid expenditures by $834 billion over the next decade, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Trump’s 2018 budget released Tuesday proposes even deeper cuts than the GOP bill. If passed, the budget would reduce Medicaid spending by $1.4 trillion over 10 years.

Anything affecting babies is a big deal for Medicaid, which covers nearly half of all births in the United States. That would cause a significant problem if Zika leads to an unexpected spike in microcephaly. “If it’s not that common, states can handle one or two isolated events,” Anderson says. “If it’s very common and there are hundreds of babies born with microcephaly under high-cost conditions, then states can’t handle it.”

The House bill would have other impacts on Zika prevention efforts. It cuts nearly $1 billion from the CDC’s budget. The CDC funds testing and research and deploys emergency teams to provide extra medical assistance and to control the spread of Zika-infected mosquitoes. The CDC fights Zika by monitoring mosquitoes that transmit the virus, and it collects data about how Zika affects pregnancies. Trump’s budget doesn’t help the situation either. Although it sets up a CDC emergency response fund to deal with outbreaks like Zika, the budget weakens prevention efforts by seeking a 17 percent cut to the CDC and an 18 percent cut to the National Institutes of Health.

The confluence of Zika and the GOP health care bill could have political consequences in places like Florida, where the virus has already proved to be a potent electoral issue. Two South Florida congressmen—GOP Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart—championed a bill last year that sent $1.1 billion to the CDC and the NIH to combat Zika. Both also voted for the Obamacare repeal bill. Neither of their offices responded to requests for comment.

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The GOP Health Bill Would Make Zika the Newest Preexisting Condition

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Trump Administration Leaves 50,000 Haitians in Legal Limbo

Mother Jones

About 50,000 Haitians living in the United States will remain in limbo for another six months. The Trump administration has reportedly granted a temporary extension of these Haitians’ legal status, leaving them at risk of being forced to leave the country—or remain illegally—at the start of next year.

Multiple reports on Monday indicate that the Department of Homeland Security will extend Temporary Protected Status for Haitian nationals for six months. Haitians were granted the special status in 2010, after an earthquake leveled buildings, displaced millions, and killed an estimated 300,000 people. As Mother Jones previously reported, TPS is granted to people from countries experiencing humanitarian crises:

First introduced in 1990, the TPS program provides humanitarian relief to nationals of countries coping with a severe conflict or natural disaster. By providing recipients with legal status and work authorization, TPS designations—typically granted in six- to 18-month cycles that can be renewed indefinitely—have become a crucial means of aiding people who face unsafe conditions should they be sent back to their home country.

The extension was first reported on Monday by the Washington Post and confirmed by the Miami Herald, which wrote that Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) received a call from DHS with news of the decision. DHS not not respond to Mother Jones‘ request for comment.

With the extension, Haiti’s TPS designation will continue past its current July expiration date, to January 22, 2018. The six-month extension aligns with the recommendation of James McCament, acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, who wrote a memo to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly in April suggesting that Haiti’s TPS designation be extended to the beginning of 2018 and then allowed to expire. Immigration advocates had strongly encouraged DHS to extend the designation for a full 18 months, arguing that Haiti needed more time to recover before thousands of people could return to the country safely.

Prior to the decision, some 50,000 Haitians living and working in the United States were at risk of being deported back to Haiti, which is dealing with a multitude of conflicts—or staying in the United States and becoming undocumented. The latest extension means that Haitians with TPS can breathe for now but will face the same suspense in November, when DHS must again decide whether to extend their TPS or allow it to expire.

Immigration advocates had mixed reactions to the news. “The fear was that we may not even get six months,” says Nana Brantuo, policy manager for the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, one of the groups that has called for an extension of Haiti’s TPS designation. But she adds, “The 18-month extension is what we need. Otherwise we’re going to have thousands of people who are unauthorized in fear of being deported.”

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Trump Administration Leaves 50,000 Haitians in Legal Limbo

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David Clarke, America’s Most Terrifying Sheriff, Says He’s Joining the Trump Administration

Mother Jones

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David Clarke, the controversial sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, will “accept an appointment as an assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security,” he reportedly told a local radio host Wednesday. Clarke said he will take a position at the Office of Partnership and Engagement. In that role, he would help coordinate DHS outreach to local law enforcement agencies, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

So far, DHS isn’t confirming Clarke’s appointment. “Such senior positions are announced by the Department when made official by the Secretary,” a department spokeswoman said in an email to Mother Jones. “No such announcement with regard to the Office of Public Engagement has been made.”

Clarke, who rose to national prominence last year as a vocal Trump supporter and a frequent guest on Fox News, has made headlines in recent months due to lawsuits filed against him alleging mistreatment of inmates in the jail he oversees. Last year, four people died in that jail. As we reported in March:

Clarke has faced two federal lawsuits since December, in the wake of four deaths that occurred last year in the Milwaukee County Jail. In mid-March, the family of a man who died of dehydration in April 2016 sued Clarke and the county, alleging that jail staff subjected the man to “torture” by denying him water as he pleaded for it over 10 days. County prosecutors are considering bringing felony charges against jail staff for neglect. Another lawsuit, filed last December, seeks damages for the death of a newborn in the jail last July, after jail staff ignored the infant’s mother as she went into labor and for more than six hours thereafter, according to the suit.

A grand jury recently recommended charges against several jail employees in the case of the man who died of thirst. A separate lawsuit alleges mistreatment of pregnant inmates at the jail:

In that suit, a woman alleges that, during a seven-month stint at the jail in 2013, she was forcibly shackled with a “belly-chain” that tied her wrists and legs to her stomach during her hospitalization for pre-natal care, while she was in labor, and while she received treatment for post-partum depression after she gave birth. The restraints made giving birth more painful for the woman, left marks on her body, and made it more difficult for doctors—who insisted she be freed—to give her an epidural, the lawsuit says. The jail has a policy that inmates be shackled while receiving medical care that makes no exceptions for pregnancy, according to the lawsuit, which also states that more than 40 women were subjected to the same treatment.

Clarke has apparently been angling for a job with the Trump administration for months. Last year, he spent so many days away from his office while stumping for Trump that local officials have called for his resignation:

Clarke visited 20 states in 2016, according to financial disclosure documents he filed with the county, often to give paid speeches in which he praised Donald Trump. He spent about 60 days out of state last year, the documents show. (Before he campaigned for Trump, Clarke took a trip to Moscow in December 2015 with a delegation from the NRA, during which they met with Russian officials.)

In January, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an editorial calling for the sheriff to step down, citing the jail deaths, his habit of attacking his political opponents on social media—which he does on his department’s official Facebook page—and the fact that Clarke seemed more focused on “pining for a job in the Trump administration” than on his responsibilities as county sheriff. County auditors have launched an investigation into whether Clarke abused his power following an airplane flight in January when he had six deputies and two K-9 units confront a passenger at the gate with whom Clarke had an unfriendly exchange on the plane.

Clarke has also faced pushback from local activists and officials critical of his plan to enroll his sheriff’s department in a controversial immigration enforcement partnership with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of the Department of Homeland Security. In his role at DHS, Clarke would presumably be recruiting other agencies to participate in the program.

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David Clarke, America’s Most Terrifying Sheriff, Says He’s Joining the Trump Administration

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