Government Has “Lost” 1,475 Children It Separated from Immigrant Parents

Here’s a story that will give pause to anyone whose heart isn’t made of granite: Charged with taking care of the children of migrants who are separated from parents due to immigration laws, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) cannot account for nearly 1,500 of its charges.

From October to December 2017, HHS called 7,635 children the agency had placed with sponsors, and found 6,075 of the children were still living with their sponsors, 28 had run away, five had been deported and 52 were living with someone else. The rest were missing, said Steven Wagner, acting assistant secretary at HHS.

That means almost 20 percent of the kids in custody have vanished without a trace. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) was responsible for this absolute incompetency coming to light, according to Time.

“These kids, regardless of their immigration status, deserve to be treated properly, not abused or trafficked,” said Portman, who chairs the subcommittee. “This is all about accountability.”

Portman began investigating after a case in his home state of Ohio, where eight Guatemalan teens were placed with human traffickers and forced to work on egg farms under threats of death. Six people have been convicted and sentenced to federal prison for their participation in the trafficking scheme that began in 2013.

These kids went missing before Donald Trump became president, but his administration is ramping up efforts to stop illegal immigration. One of the main weapons they are using to discourage migrants is to separate kids from parents if they’re caught at the border or inside the country. In a way, the U.S. government is using its own incompetence as a scare tactic: Come here, get caught, and neither you nor we will ever see your kids again.

Two weeks ago, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified before a Senate committee:

“My decision has been that anyone who breaks the law will be prosecuted,” she said. “If you are parent, or you’re a single person or if you happen to have a family, if you cross between the ports of entry we will refer you for prosecution. You have broken U.S. law.”

Nielsen said the children are transferred to the custody of Health and Human Services officials within two days.

We can expect the number of missing immigrant kids to grow as the border is hardened. But don’t worry, Secretary Nielsen feels your pain:

“I couldn’t agree with your concerns more…. We owe it to these children to protect them.”

In many ways, immigration is the key issue to Donald Trump’s rise to power. Within a few minutes of announcing his bid for the presidency, he laid into Mexican immigrants as rapists, drug mules, and disease-carriers. Just a few days ago, he repeated for the umpteenth time on Fox & Friends his patently false scare story about “someone who comes in is bad and has 24 family members yet not one of them do you want in this country.”

In the view of Trump and other people against all forms of immigration—including leaders of the GOP who are pushing legislation that will cut legal immigration by as much as 50 percent—newcomers are simultaneously stealing our jobs and living fat off of taxpayer dollars. As bad, immigrants are destroying American culture by refusing to speak English, assimilate into our cultural traditions, and vote for the Republican Party that is dedicated to keeping them out of the country. To “make America great again,” immigrants must go.

Yet even the most hardened anti-immigrationist must feel some sympathy for and empathy with those 1,475 literally and figuratively lost souls who have gone missing in the Land of Opportunity. For the wall-builders and the nativists: Is this really any way to make America great again? An immigration policy that lets more families enter and work legally, pay taxes, and stay together is a much-better idea.

from Hit & Run

The Rise of the Food-Related Lawsuit: New at Reason

Food lawsuits are on the rise. At first glance, most are terrible, some are good, and others require a closer look. It’s not easy to tell the difference between each type, which is why it’s important to look at who stands to benefit from these lawsuits and what they might accomplish for consumers.

What makes a food lawsuit “good” or “bad”? For one, we can ask if a defendant did exactly what the suit alleges, was the defendant wrong to do so? If the court rules in the plaintiff’s favor—and against the defendant—will the plaintiff be better off and will the defendant be sufficiently discouraged from behaving similarly in the future? In the case of larger lawsuits (larger either in terms of monetary damages or because the suit is filed on behalf of more than one plaintiff), would society benefit if the court were to find in favor of the plaintiffs?

We must also consider the unintended consequences of such lawsuits, writes Baylen Linnekin. We should seek to understand whether a suit harms society (say, through added costs, decreased availability of products or services, or encouraging frivolous litigation) in any way. And we should applaud cases where the judicial branch makes injured parties whole while discouraging similar bad actors and actions in the future, all without the need for new laws and regulations.

View this article.

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If You Can Afford a Plane Ticket, Thank Deregulation: New at Reason

In the ’50s and ’60s, when I was growing up, air travel was a luxury. People dressed up as if going to church. There were lots of empty seats, so on night flights you could often get a row of three together and sprawl out. There was ample legroom, and full meals were served in coach.

My family and I were able to take vacations by plane only because my dad worked for an airline, and we flew on company passes when space was available. Since planes were typically only half full, we nearly always got seats on our chosen flights. But we were some of the lucky few.

Flying was a luxury because it was expensive, and it was expensive largely because of detailed federal economic regulations governing how air carriers could operate and, importantly, what they could charge, writes Bob Poole in the latest issue of Reason.

View this article.

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Trump’s Budget Only Reduces the Deficit If You Accept Some Very Unlikely Assumptions

The Trump administration says its budget proposal would cut the annual deficit to about $360 billion over the next 10 years, thanks to booming economic growth and the highly unlikely slashing of domestic spending.

Using more realistic expectations, a new report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) shows that debts and deficits will continue to grow even if Congress implemented President Donald Trump’s proposal wholesale. Trillion-dollar deficits will hit by 2022, according to the CBO, and deficits would total about $9.5 trillion over the next decade, up from the $7.2 trillion that the White House says would be added to the debt by 2028.

The White House projects about 3 percent growth for the next decade, while the CBO expects only about 1.8 percent. That accounts for the “vast majority of the difference in debt estimates,” according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan think tank that favors reducing the deficit. The group released its own analysis of the CBO’s analysis on Friday.

The CBO’s assessment is an attempt to estimate what would happen if Trump’s budget plan went into effect, even though it’s virtually certain that that it won’t. That leads it to a variety of unlikely assumptions.

For example, the CBO assumes that Trump will be successful in cutting more than $1.5 trillion in non-defense discretionary spending, along with another $1 trillion cut from health care spending (mostly in the form of a still-unclear plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act and make unrelated changes to Medicare), and that the administration will cut more than $300 billion from other social welfare programs like food stamps. All those those spending reductions are politically unpalatable and therefore likely to be ignored by Congress, but even if they all happen, the debt would still increase, the CBO says.

“The budget relies on huge cuts to non-discretionary programs that run counter to the large spending increases the President signed into law earlier this year,” the CRFB report concludes. “In addition, these changes simply are not sufficient when using realistic economic growth assumptions.”

Still, Trump’s budget is an improvement on the national debt’s current trajectory. Without any policy changes, the CBO projects the deficit would hit $1.5 trillion by 2028.

Like most presidential budgets, there’s little reason to think that the spending framework sent months ago from the White House to Congress will ever become law. When it comes to budget-making, Congress does what it wants.

But that doesn’t mean a presidential budget is meaningless. It’s a part, even if only a small part, of a continuously ongoing conversation about America’s spending priorities and long-term fiscal plan. And given how unhappy Trump was about Congress’ decision to dump a record-breaking spending bill on his desk in March—”I will never sign a bill like this again,” Trump said as he signed the bill that essentially guaranteed $1 trillion annual deficits for the rest of his term—the budget presented to Congress in February, which was subjected to hearings this week, could be seen as a signal from the administration that runaway spending will no longer be tolerated.

It could be that. But only if you buy into the White House’s overly rosy assumptions, and believe that Congress will suddenly decide to cut billions from entitlement programs, the military, and other politically sacrosanct line items. In other words, it ain’t happening.

from Hit & Run

Sexual Assault Allegation Against George Takei Collapses Under Scrutiny

TakeiScott Brunton, the man who accused George Takei of drugging and sexually assaulting him in 1981, almost certainly wasn’t drugged, changed key details of his story, and told at least one outright lie to The Hollywood Reporter, where Brunton’s allegations first appeared last November.

That’s according to an exhaustively researched Observer piece by the author Shane Snow. Snow writes that “this story needs to be recast significantly,” in light of the information he learned from Brunton during hours of conversation. It seems fairly clear that Takei’s name should appear on the small but not-to-be-overlooked list of men who have come under false suspicion during the #MeToo era.

Brunton had claimed he met Takei at a gay bar in 1981. Takei consoled Brunton, who was 24 at the time, after the latter had broken up with his boyfriend. Brunton accompanied the veteran Star Trek actor back to his home one night after a dinner where he drank wine. Brunton consumed two drinks at Takei’s home and then felt “disoriented and dizzy,” he told THR. He passed out in a bean bag chair. When he came to, Takei had pulled down his pants and was groping his crotch. Brunton rebuffed him and drove home.

Brunton also told THR that he sought Takei out during the actor’s book tour a decade later, intending to confront him about what had happened. The pair got together for coffee, but Brunton couldn’t bring himself to mention the incident.

On Twitter, the now 80-year-old Takei wrote that he was “shocked and bewildered” by the accusation, and did not remember Brunton at all.

That seems infinitely more plausible, now that we know the coffee meeting didn’t actually take place:

In one of our interviews, Brunton admitted that the coffee meeting never occurred. He said he actually just called Takei’s room through the hotel switchboard, and the actor had told him they could chat at a signing event for his autobiography, To the Stars.

When Brunton got to the front of the line of fans, though, he “chickened out” and did not confront him about their encounter.

After Brunton told his story to THR, some people on Twitter suggested that perhaps he had been drugged by Takei. This quickly became part of Brunton’s tale. Shortly after the THR piece, Brunton told The Oregonian, “I know unequivocally he spiked my drink.”

But that seems highly doubtful:

“The most likely cause is not drug-related,” said Lewis Nelson, the director of medical toxicology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “It sounds like postural hypotension, exacerbated by alcohol.” Postural hypotension is a sudden decrease in blood pressure that can occur when a person stands up quickly—and can make one dizzy enough to pass out even without alcohol. Brunton had made it clear to me, twice, that dizziness hit him only when he stood up.

The kind of date-rape drugs that would have been available in 1981 should have completely incapacitated Brunton for hours, according to Snow. He wouldn’t have been able to drive home shortly thereafter.

Takei still could have assaulted Brunton, even if he hadn’t drugged him. But despite initially claiming that Takei groped his crotch, Brunton didn’t mention any inappropriate touching when he was interview by CNN. He told Snow that did not remember being actually groped by Takei. And whatever was happening—what Takei wanted to happen—came to an abrupt halt as soon as Brunton said no.

Snow is extremely careful and measured in his analysis of the story. But it certainly looks like the evidence of predatory behavior on Takei’s part just doesn’t exist, and Brunton’s embellishments cast doubt on whether his memory his reliable.

Reacting to Snow’s story, Takei tweeted that he was grateful “this nightmare is finally drawing to a close.” He noted that he bears Brunton no ill will, and understands “this was part of a very important national conversation that we as a society must have, painful as it might be.”

That national conversation is important, and it’s thanks to the brave men and women of the #MeToo movement that abusive creeps like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby are finally being held accountable for their actions. But those men were brought down by painstakingly well-reported journalism, and will face justice (or in the case of Cosby, already has faced justice) after being afforded due process under the law. The Takei incident is a reminder that not all victims tell the truth, and it’s important to carefully vet the facts before ultimate judgment is rendered.

from Hit & Run

Video: Canton Police Sic Dog On Man For Refusing to Get Out Of His Car

Police in Canton, Ohio, sicced a K-9 unit on a man earlier this month for refusing to provide identification or step out of his car during a traffic stop.

Graphic video shows police breaking the window of Ronald Wagner’s car and siccing a dog on him:

According to local news reports, Wagner was pulled over by an Ohio Highway Patrol Trooper for having a handmade license plate. When asked by a police officer, he refused to hand over his driver’s license or registration, or tell the officer his name. After the numbers on Wagner’s handmade license plate returned a name linked to a concealed carry license, the officer called for backup.

Police tried to coax Wagner out of the car for 20 minutes, during which he politely but firmly refused to comply. He also told police he wasn’t armed. Officers then gave Wagner a final warning, broke his driver’s side window, and sicced a K-9 unit, a Belgian Malinois, on him. (The Belgian Malinois is known among police and breed enthusiasts as the “maligator” because of its incredible bite strength and tenacity. Among dog breeds, it’s one of the last you would want to latch on to you.)

To be clear, Wagner was required to provide his ID when asked. The local news site has an extensive explainer quoting state legal experts. The general gist: Yes, you must present a driver’s license and registration when asked by a police officer during a traffic stop. No, you may not drive with handwritten tags instead of license plates.

Wagner’s insistence that the police orders were legal but not “lawful” sounds like rhetoric used by so-called sovereign citizens, who believe—through rather convoluted reasoning—that they’re not bound by licensing laws and other driving requirements. Reason has previously written about sovereign citizens and the reactions they provoke from law enforcement.

It’s a seperate question, however, whether Wagner’s severely deficient understanding of the law, and his passive resistance, were good reasons for his arm to be ripped to shreds. A dog isn’t a negotiator or mental health worker, which might be more useful in some cases than a set of teeth.

Although police no longer use dogs for crowd control, there have been several incidents in recent years of poor oversight or sheer bloodlust leading to bloody police dog maulings. For example, a San Diego officer sicced a K-9 unit on a naked, unarmed man who was tripping on LSD in 2016.

In 2015, a Sarasota Herald Tribune investigation found the local North Port, Florida, police department had sicced dogs on unarmed, juvenile, and in some cases suicidal residents. Text messages uncovered by the newspaper showed K-9 handlers bragging and congratulating each other after their dogs mauled people.

The Canton Police Department told local news outlets it is reviewing the incident to see if any policies were broken.

In the meantime, Wagner has had two surgeries on his mangled arm. He pleaded not guilty to four misdemeanor charges at a court hearing earlier this week.

from Hit & Run

San Francisco Demands E-Scooters Be Removed from City Streets

San Francisco has given e-scooter companies an ultimatum: Get your vehicles off our streets by June 4 or risk fines of $100 per day per scooter. And we just might take the scooters too.

Some companies might be allowed to rent out their electric dockless scooters again, but not until they secure permits from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority (SFMTA), which won’t be issuing them until late June at the earliest.

The announcement comes a month after the city issued cease-and-desist letters to several e-scooter companies and began impounding improperly parked vehicles. (Austin, Texas, chased e-scooter companies off the streets earlier this year too.)

The permits themselves were unveiled yesterday. They come with numerous new requirements for the e-scooter companies, whose dockless vehicles—rentable via smartphone app—started cropping up in San Francisco earlier this year.

The application costs alone are $5,000. Once approved, scooter companies such as Lime, Bird, and Spin will have to pay another $35,000 to the city. The number of rentable e-scooters available for all companies will be capped at 1,250 city-wide for six months (then rising to 2,500), and companies will have to provide service area plans, which will be subject to city approval.

These rules are necessary, city officials say, to combat the threat e-scooters pose to some deeply held San Francisco values.

“We can have convenience, but it can’t sacrifice privacy and equity along the way,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera informed everyone in a Thursday press release. “Everyone needs to play by a set of rules for cities to function efficiently, safely and equitably—even corporations,” added San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin, the author of the city’s new e-scooter regulations.

To achieve this end, the city’s new permits will also require scooter companies to offer their website and apps in multiple languages (including but not limited to Chinese and Spanish), to make their customer interface technology accessible to the disabled, and to offer discounts and cash payment options to low-income people.

If officials’ primary concern is ensuring more people can have access to e-scooters, it seems a counter-productive strategy to demand that all scooters be taken off the road. So does capping the total number of scooters. And piling on a lot of new regulations that raise the costs of providing the vehicles.

Costs come down and accessibility increases when service providers can respond and grow with demand, not when they are artificially constrained by regulatory caps and costs.

Uber is a great example of this, starting as essentially a luxury town car provider before evolving into a popular transit service used by all kinds of people.

The deeper motivation behind these new restrictions appears to be a discomfort about any innovation that is not pre-planned, pre-approved, or in conformance with pre-established city goals.

SFMTA chief Ed Reiskin summed up the attitude when he said, “Just because something is innovative doesn’t mean it’s good for our city.”

from Hit & Run

PBS Delves into the Military Mindset for Memorial Day: New at Reason

'Going to War'Television critic Glenn Garvin reviews two war documentaries, Going to War and Served Like a Girl, being aired for Memorial Day on PBS:

The relationship between soldiers and war is never as simple as outsiders make it out to be. Some certainly hate it. But others find a human resonance in war that otherwise eludes them: A sense of purpose, of brotherhood and even, paradoxically, of security. One vet interviewed in Going to War recalls that he felt safer in Vietnam, where “you know somebody’s got your back. In the world, it’s dog eat dog.”

That is, arguably, not a typical human response. But one of the most interesting things about the documentary is the frank admission of the soldiers—both male and female—is that they aren’t typically human, or at least weren’t when they were in the military. Going to war would be impossible, they say, if the military didn’t strip them of ordinary human sensibilities and rebuild them as a hive mind.

View this article.

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How We Became a ‘Nation of Narcs’ and How To Fix It: Podcast

Reason reporter Mike Riggs talks with Nick Gillespie about his story “A Nation of Narcs,” which argues that Americans have developed “a nasty habit of inviting the state into people’s lives for tiny offenses.” Riggs discusses how class, race, and ethnicity often play out when it comes to the “hassle factor” imposed on individuals who are just trying to get on with their lives. And he lays out some ways to turn back the tide.

Riggs and Gillespie also talk about the legacy of Tom Wolfe, the journalist who more than any other went out and explored the real lives of Americans and all the crazy, wonderful things they were up to.

Subscribe, rate, and review our podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below:

Audio production by Ian Keyser.

Photo credit: Dustin Oakley.

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