The Economic Benefits of Passing the Dream Act

The following article by Francesc Ortega, Ryan Ewards and Philip Wolgin was posted on the Center for American Progress website September 18, 2017:

Credit:  AP/Carolyn Kaster
A woman holds up a sign during a rally supporting DACA outside the White House in Washington, September 4, 2017.

A September 5 announcement from the Trump administration effectively ended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)1—a program that, since 2012, has helped nearly 800,000 young people gain a temporary reprieve from deportation and a work permit.2The conversation has now shifted to the urgent need for Congress to pass legislation such as the Dream Act, which would provide permanent protection and a pathway to citizenship to unauthorized immigrants who came to the country as children.3

To better understand the potential economic impact of passing the Dream Act, this issue brief calculates the economic gains that would stem from legalizing potentially eligible individuals already in the workforce. This analysis builds on the groundbreaking work of the Center for American Progress’ earlier study, “The Economic Impacts of Removing Unauthorized Immigrant Workers,” which calculated the economic contributions of unauthorized workers to each individual industry, each state, and the nation as a whole, and updates and applies that economic model to the population of workers eligible for the Dream Act.4 Read More

Rep. Paulsen’s DACA Survey

Rep. Paulsen sent an email survey this afternoon asking those constituents who’ve been able to subscribe to his email newsletter to answer a poll on how he should handle the DACA/Dreamers situation.  We’ve heard that many people have had problems subscribing to his newsletter.  Just in case, we’re including a link to the poll below.  (You will be joining his newsletter list by completing this.)

Click here to take Rep. Erik Paulsen’s DACA/Dreamers September 19, 2017 Survey


Trump Administration Rejects Study Showing Positive Impact of Refugees

The following article by Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Somini Segupta was posted on the New York Times website September 18, 2017:

A Syrian family in Fresno, Calif. The draft report by Health and Human Services officials, which was completed in July but not released, found that refugees “contributed an estimated $269.1 billion in revenues to all levels of government” between 2005 and 2014 through the payment of federal, state and local taxes. Credit Jason Henry for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Trump administration officials, under pressure from the White House to provide a rationale for reducing the number of refugees allowed into the United States next year, rejected a study by the Department of Health and Human Services that found that refugees brought in $63 billion more in government revenues over the past decade than they cost.

The draft report, which was obtained by The New York Times, contradicts a central argument made by advocates of deep cuts in refugee totals as President Trump faces an Oct. 1 deadline to decide on an allowable number. The issue has sparked intense debate within his administration as opponents of the program, led by Mr. Trump’s chief policy adviser, Stephen Miller, assert that continuing to welcome refugees is too costly and raises concerns about terrorism.

Advocates of the program inside and outside the administration say refugees are a major benefit to the United States, paying more in taxes than they consume in public benefits, and filling jobs in service industries that others will not. But research documenting their fiscal upside — prepared for a report mandated by Mr. Trump in a March presidential memorandum implementing his travel ban — never made its way to the White House. Some of those proponents believe the report was suppressed. Read More

Without Strong Unions, Middle-Class Families Bring Home a Smaller Share

The following article by Alex Rowell and David Madland was posted on the Center for American Progress website September 14, 2017:

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that in 2016, the median U.S. household earned $59,039, a 3.2 percent increase from the previous year. Seven years after the end of the Great Recession, the median household’s income has approximately recovered to its pre-recession level, when adjusted for inflation, but has effectively remained stagnant since the late 1990s.

Middle-class households are not seeing the high levels of income growth that are being enjoyed by America’s highest-income earners. Furthermore, the share of income that is earned by the middle 60 percent of households, by income, has fallen to record lows. A revitalized union movement could help reverse the decades-long trend of growing inequality and a shrinking middle class. But anti-union attacks at the state and national levels threaten to further tilt our nation’s economy against workers. Read More

Trump administration working toward renewed drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

The following article by Juliet Eilperin was posted on the Washington Post website September 15, 2017:

The coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, with the Brooks Range as a backdrop. (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

The Trump administration is quietly moving to allow energy exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for the first time in more than 30 years, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post, with a draft rule that would lay the groundwork for drilling.

Congress has sole authority to determine whether oil and gas drilling can take place within the refuge’s 19.6 million acres. But seismic studies represent a necessary first step, and Interior Department officials are modifying a 1980s regulation to permit them.

The effort represents a twist in a political fight that has raged for decades. The remote and vast habitat, which serves as the main calving ground for one of North America’s last large caribou herds and a stop for migrating birds from six continents, has served as a rallying cry for environmentalists and some of Alaska’s native tribes. But state politicians and many Republicans in Washington have pressed to extract the billions of barrels of oil lying beneath the refuge’s coastal plain.

Democrats have managed to block them through votes in the Senate and, in one instance in 1995, by a presidential veto.

In an Aug. 11 memo, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acting director James W. Kurth instructed the agency’s Alaska regional director to update a rule that allowed exploratory drilling between Oct. 1, 1984, and May 31, 1986, by striking those calendar constraints.

Doing so would eliminate an obstacle that was the subject of a court battle as recently as two years ago.

“When finalized, the new regulation will allow for applicants to [submit] requests for approval of new exploration plans,” Kurth wrote in the memo.

If the rule is finalized after a public comment period, companies would have to bid on conducting the seismic studies. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated in a June 27 memo, obtained by Trustees for Alaska through a federal records request, that this work would cost about $3.6 million.

With oil prices averaging around $50 per barrel, potentially too low to justify a significant investment in drilling in the refuge, it is unclear how much interest companies would have. Some might consider proceeding with those studies to get a better sense of the area’s potential.

The behind-the-scenes push to open up the refuge — often referred to by its acronym, ANWR — comes as longtime drilling proponents occupy key positions at the Interior Department.

Its No. 2 official, David Bernhardt, represented Alaska in its unsuccessful 2014 suit to force then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to allow exploratory drilling there. Joseph Balash, President Trump’s nominee to serve as Interior assistant secretary for land and minerals management, asked federal officials to turn a portion of the refuge over to the state when he served as Alaska’s natural resources commissioner. The state’s plan was to offer the land for leasing.

During a stop in Anchorage on May 31, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said he hoped to jump-start energy exploration on Alaska’s North Slope in part by updating resource assessments of the refuge.

“I’m a geologist. Science is a wonderful thing. It helps us understand what is going on deep below the surface of the Earth,” Zinke said at the time. “We need to use science to update our understanding of the [coastal plain] of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as Congress considers important legislation to responsibly develop there one day.”

The Fish and Wildlife memo notes that the Interior Department asked it “to update the regulations concerning the geological and geophysical exploration” of that coastal area but does not identify who issued the directive.

An Interior official said in an email Friday that the department is “required by law — the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act — to allow for seismic surveys in wildlife refuges across Alaska.”

“Hundreds of seismic surveys have been conducted on Alaska’s north slope — many of them on ANWR’s borders,” the official added.

Both the Clinton and Obama administrations concluded that the department was legally barred from permitting seismic studies in the refuge. And environmentalists have consistently opposed such activity, which sends shock waves underground. They say it would disturb denning polar bears, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, as well as musk oxen and other Arctic animals.

An increasing number of polar bears are now denning onshore during the winter — when seismic studies would take place — due to diminishing sea ice, and a significant portion of the coastal plain is designated as critical habitat for the bears. The Aug. 11 memo directs the Fish and Wildlife Service’s regional director to conduct an environmental assessment as part of the proposed rule change because the Endangered Species Act requires federal agencies to show that their actions will not jeopardize or adversely modify critical habitat of a listed species.

“The administration is very stealthily trying to move forward with drilling on the Arctic’s coastal plain,” said Defenders of Wildlife President Jamie Rappaport Clark, who led the Fish and Wildlife Service under President Bill Clinton. “This is a complete about-face from decades of practice.”

Environmental groups would be likely to challenge any decision to conduct seismic work in the refuge in federal court.

Alaska officials have been working for several years to restart seismic studies on the coastal plain. They say the initial ones, conducted in the winters of 1984 and 1985, were done with outdated technology and do not reflect the area’s true potential. The Geological Survey, which reanalyzed that data nearly 15 years later, estimated that 7.7 billion barrels of “technically recoverable oil” lie under the coastal plain.

The June 27 memo, sent to Zinke’s energy policy counselor Vincent DeVito, said the department could either assume the existing seismic data is acceptable, reexamine that data with “state-of-the-art” technology or conduct new studies with modern, 3-D technology.

In an interview Thursday, Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner Andy Mack said that recent oil discoveries near the refuge’s western edge suggest there may be more oil there than federal officials identified three decades ago.

“Alaska’s always had an abiding interest in resource development, particularly in oil,” Mack said. “We’re not discounting the existing data, but it’s old, and it’s relatively limited.”

The question of whether Interior can restart the seismic work is a subject of legal dispute. The 1980s studies, which took place along 1,400 miles of survey lines and were financed by private oil firms, were aimed at gathering information for a report the interior secretary submitted to Congress in 1987.

In 2001, Interior solicitor John Leshy issued a formal opinion concluding that the 1983 rule was “a time-limited authorization for exploratory activities in the coastal plain.”

Twelve years later, Alaska sought permission from the Fish and Wildlife Service to launch a new exploration program; Obama administration officials rejected the request, and the state sued.

On July 21, 2015, U.S. District Judge Sharon L. Gleason ruled against the state. “Whether the statute authorizes or requires the Secretary to approve additional exploration after the submission of the 1987 report is ambiguous,” she wrote, but Jewell’s interpretation that she no longer had authority to allow it “is based on a permissible and reasonable construction of the statute.”

Mack said he was not sure whether companies would want to drill in the refuge, but they now are more interested in the potential on land than offshore.

ConocoPhillips, for one, is “actively exploring and focused on new development opportunities” within the neighboring National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, according to spokesman Daren Beaudo. “If ANWR was opened, we’d consider it within our portfolio of opportunities . . . and it would have to compete with other regions for our exploration dollars,” he said.

Yet Pavel Molchanov, an energy analyst at Raymond James & Associates, predicted “very little interest” in drilling in the refuge for the foreseeable future.

“The number of companies that would be open to a meaningful bet on ANWR we could realistically count on one hand, and that would be generous,” Molchanov said.

View the post here.

Why Do People Still Believe Limbaugh About Climate — Or Anything?

If the American people, collectively speaking, had enough sense to come in out of the rain, the climate “debate”—long settled almost everywhere else on  earth—would be over. No, it’s not possible to assert with mathematical certainty that hurricanes Harvey and Irma were caused by global warming.

It’s also not possible to stipulate exactly which carton of Camels brought about my father’s lung cancer. Only that his 40 year two-packs-a-day tobacco habit shortened his life by a decade or more. Although the tobacco companies once resisted the evidence as vigorously (and dishonestly) as Koch Industries and the rest now fight climate science, nobody argues about it anymore. Read More

Bipartisan initiative to thwart election hacking gains steam

The following article by James Hohmann with Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve was posted on the Washington Post website September 14, 2017:

THE BIG IDEA: West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner’s son was wounded by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan and suffered traumatic brain injury.

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri during a meeting yesterday in Sochi. (Michael Klimentyev/Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images)

When he finally made it home, the Republican asked his boy to tell him about his toughest day in combat.

“He had been wounded. There was a girl who had a leg blown off. They had to call in F-16s to secure their positions,” Warner recalled in an interview. “I was expecting those kinds of war stories out of him. But he said, ‘Dad, the hardest day for me, without a doubt, was election day in Afghanistan.’ It was 110 degrees. Before they went out, they put tourniquets on each of their arms and legs so, if they got hit, they could still turn the tourniquets. They found five IEDs around the one polling place that his platoon was assigned to defend.” But Afghans came out to vote any way, even at great personal risk to themselves. Read More

The Justice Department goes out of its way to side against a gay couple

The following commentary by the Washington Post’s Editorial Board was posted on their website September 13, 2017:

Jack Phillips poses near a display of wedding cakes. Credit:  Matthew Staver/For The Washington Post

SHOULD A Colorado baker have the right to turn away a gay couple seeking a custom wedding cake if he disapproves of their upcoming marriage? According to the Justice Department, the answer is yes.

The Supreme Court will soon hear arguments over the conduct of this unwilling baker in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Though the federal government isn’t a party to the case, the Justice Department has made a point of weighing in on the side of Jack Phillips, the “cake artist” whose religious opposition to same-sex marriage led him to refuse to design a cake for a gay couple. (The pair eventually obtained a rainbow-layered cake.) Read More

Why should we have to pay for credit reporting firm’s blunder?

The following article by Bob Collins was posted on the Minnesota Public Radio website September 13, 2017:

Credit: AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Like everyone else with a credit card, my data was among that stolen from the ginormous Equifax credit reporting company. Assuming the hackers knew what they were doing, it won’t be long before they try to steal my identity.

They got our Social Security numbers in the hack.

“That puts you at peril of identity theft for as long as you’ve got a beating heart,” the Chicago Tribune says in an editorial today.

I don’t have much choice in this underreported affair; I have to freeze my credit at not only Equifax, but every other major credit reporting firm. Read More

Election Infrastructure: Vulnerabilities and Solutions

The following article was posted on the Center for American Progress website September 11, 2017:

For more information on vulnerabilities in election infrastructure and commonsense solutions, read the Center for American Progress’ 9 Solutions to Secure America’s Elections.1

Board of elections technicians attempt to repair a voting machine at a polling station, November 8, 2016. Credit: AP/Alexander F. Yuan

In June 2017, the American people learned that Russian operatives had targeted 39 state election systems in the lead-up to the 2016 elections.2Beyond the states, Russians targeted an election equipment vendor.3 These cyberintrusions and other Election Day disruptions exposed the country’s voting infrastructure as outdated and vulnerable to attack, weakening confidence in the electoral process. One poll found that 1 in 4 Americans will consider abstaining from voting in future elections due to concerns over cybersecurity.4 Election officials at all levels of government must invest in America’s election infrastructure and defend the security of our election system. Read More