Trump admin’s ‘tent cities’ cost more than keeping migrant kids with parents

April 25, 2019

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WASHINGTON — The cost of holding migrant children who have been separated from their parents in newly created “tent cities” is $775 per person per night, according to an official at the Department of Health and Human Services — far higher than the cost of keeping children with their parents in detention centers or holding them in more permanent buildings.

The reason for the high cost, the official and several former officials told NBC News, is that the sudden urgency to bring in security, air conditioning, medical workers and other government contractors far surpasses the cost for structures that are routinely staffed.

It costs $256 per person per night to hold children in permanent HHS facilities like Casa Padre in Brownsville, Texas. And keeping children with their parents in detention centers like the one run by U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement in Dilley, Texas cost $298 per resident per night, according to an agency estimate when it awarded the contract for the facility in 2014.

At those prices, the additional cost to operate a 400-bed temporary structure for one month at capacity would be more than $5 million. The average stay for separated kids is nearly two months.

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The HHS official said the agency is “aggressively looking for potential sites” for more tent cities to accommodate the surge of migrant children who have been separated from their parents by the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal border crossing.

The Trump administration announced its zero tolerance policy in April. Adults crossing between border checkpoints are criminally charged, and children traveling with them are separated and placed in temporary shelters. Prior to zero tolerance, children and parents were kept together in ICE detention facilities for a maximum of 20 days before they were released with ankle monitors to await their court hearing.

The agency is currently exploring places to build temporary facilities at an Air Force Base in Little Rock, Arkansas and land formerly run by the USDA in Arizona.

As of Wednesday, according to the Department of Homeland Security, 2300 children have been separated from their parents since the Trump administration began separating migrant children from their parents in May. That number is expected to grow more rapidly as the administration streams more resources to the border for apprehending, transporting and detaining immigrants.

HHS has said it is holding nearly 12,000 immigrant children, most of whom crossed without a parent or legal guardian. The agency says the children stay in HHS facilities for 57 days on average before they are sent to live with a relative or placed in foster care.

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Elijah Cummings says U.S. must let migrant caravan enter country – Washington Times

April 22, 2019

Rep. Elijah Cummings, ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, said Sunday that caravan migrants seeking asylum should be able to enter the country immediately, challenging President Trump’s efforts to keep them in Mexico while their cases are processed.

“That’s not the law. They should be allowed to come in, seek asylum. That’s the law,” Mr. Cummings said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Asked if he would support changing the law, the Maryland Democrat said, “No.”

Mr. Trump is seeking a deal with Mexico in which the thousands of asylum-seeking migrants massing on the southern border would remain there until their applications are approved, insisting he will close the border if necessary.

Mr. Cummings said he disagreed with the effort.

“I think we have a system that has worked for a long time,” the Maryland Democrat said. “This president’s come in, wants to change it. That’s up to him. But now the Congress has got to stand up, and hopefully they will.”

Mr. Cummings, who is expected to take over the committee in January, was also asked if he thought what Mr. Trump was doing was constitutional.

“I don’t know,” he said. “We’ll see.”

EXCLUSIVE: @RepCummings says he does not support a potential deal where asylum-seekers coming through Mexico would stay in Mexico until their court date in the United States. #MTP

Cummings: “That’s not the law. They should be allowed to come in, seek asylum, that’s the law.” pic.twitter.com/nAsKKCLM3f

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Seattle bans plastic straws, utensils, becoming first major US city to do so

April 20, 2019

Starting in July, Seattle banned restaurants from providing plastic utensils or straws to customers.  (iStock)

Seattle has officially become the first major U.S. city to ban restaurants from giving plastic straws and utensils to customers in an effort to help the environment.

Starting July 1, restaurants in the Emerald City are now barred from providing customers plastic straws, cocktail picks or utensils unless someone specifically requests one. Then, a customer should be given a compostable option, according to Seattle Public Utilities.

With 5,000 food service providers in the area, Seattle is the first major city in the U.S. to enact such a ban, KIRO-TV reported.

“Plastic pollution is surpassing crisis levels in the world’s oceans, and I’m proud Seattle is leading the way and setting an example for the nation by enacting a plastic straw ban,” Mami Hara, the general manager of Seattle Public Utilities, told KOMO News.

The National Park Service estimates 500 million straws are used by Americans each day.

The Seattle ban actually began with an ordinance prohibiting one-time-use food service items in 2008, but the city has allowed exemptions on certain items every year since. For example, Styrofoam food packaging was banned in 2009, according to the Seattle Times. But because of the market, plastic utensils and straws have been exempted in Seattle’s ban until now, the newspaper reported.  

NEW YORK CITY IS LATEST TO CONSIDER BANNING PLASTIC STRAWS ALTOGETHER

Restaurants were encouraged to use up existing supplies of plastic straws and utensils before July. If that deadline could not be met, restaurants were asked to check in with Seattle Public Utilities to come up with a different schedule.

Aside from the ban, Seattle food service businesses are also required to use collection bins for compostables and recyclables, which went into effect in 2010.

Restaurants that do not comply with Seattle’s regulations could face a $250 fine.

CALIFORNIA’S ENACTED AND POTENTIAL BANS, FROM INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINES TO PLASTIC BAGS

Duke Moscrip, founder and CEO of Duke’s Seafood and Chowder, told KIRO that his restaurant switched to compostable straws and utensils about three years ago. Then, the products were “30 to 40 percent more expensive,” he said.

“Now it’s about 10 percent. But we did it anyway, just because it’s the right thing to do,” Moscrip said.

According to the Seattle Times, flexible plastic straws will be available for customers who need to use them for a medical reason.

Bon Appétit Management Company became the first U.S. food service company earlier this year to ban single-use plastic straws in its eateries, according to Greenpeace.