Tag Archives: children

Parents fearing deportation pick guardians for children in U.S.

Parents who fear deportation under the Trump administration are seeking help securing care for their children in the event they are removed from the United States.

The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles advocacy group has been receiving about 10 requests a day from parents who want to put in place temporary guardianships for their children, said spokesman Jorge-Mario Cabrera.

Last year, the group said it received about two requests a month for guardianship letters and notarization services.

At the request of a nonprofit organization, the National Lawyers Guild in Washington, D.C.. put out a call this week for volunteer attorneys to help immigrants fill out forms granting friends or relatives the right to make legal and financial decisions in their absence.

In New Jersey, immigration attorney Helen Ramirez said she is getting about six phone calls a day from parents. Last year, she said, she had no such calls.

“Their biggest fear is that their kids will end up in foster care,” Ramirez said.

President Donald Trump’s administration has issued directives to agents to more aggressively enforce immigration laws and more immigrants are coming under scrutiny by the authorities.

For parents of U.S. citizens who are ordered removed, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency “accommodates, to the extent practicable, the parents’ efforts to make provisions” for their children, said ICE spokeswoman Sarah Rodriguez.

She said that might include access to a lawyer, consular officials and relatives for detained parents to execute powers of attorney or apply for passports and buy airline tickets if the parents decide whether or not to take the children with them.

About 5 million children under the age of 18 are living with at least one parent who is in the country without legal documents, according to one 2016 study. Most of the children, 79 percent, were U.S. citizens, the study found.

In the second half of 2015, ICE removed 15,422 parents who said they have at least one U.S.-born child, according to ICE data.

President Barack Obama was criticized for being the “deporter in chief” after he expelled more than 400,000 people in 2012, the most by any president in a single year.

In 2014, the Obama administration began focusing on immigrants who had recently entered the country or were said to have committed serious felonies

 

‘WORRIED ALL THE TIME’

In rural New Jersey, Seidy Martinez and her husband Jose Gomez have begun the difficult conversations with their 10-year-old daughter about what would happen if her parents were deported.

Martinez, a house cleaner, and Gomez, who works on a horse farm, are both from Honduras. They entered the United States without permission, and do not have papers, unlike their daughter, who has been granted asylum, and their 3-year-old son, a U.S. citizen.

“Now we are worried all the time. We don’t have anything that would allow us to stay here,” said Martinez. “Our main concern is what will happen to our children.”

She has told her daughter that she could live with her aunt in Miami and is considering drafting paperwork that would give her relative some legal rights if she and her husband are deported.

The 10-year old tries to comfort her mother. “She tells me, ‘Mami, tranquila. Don’t be afraid, I am scared too but don’t worry everything will be OK.’”

 

‘IF MOM DOESN’T COME HOME’

Rebecca Kitson, an immigration attorney in Albuquerque, New Mexico, says she advises her increasingly nervous clients to have the kind of conversations Martinez and her husband are having with their children.

She said she urges parents to be specific in their instructions. “If Mom doesn’t come home by a specific time, who do (the kids) call?” said Kitson.

Immigration groups are offering low-cost services. CHIRLA, for example, offers a free sample letter and help filling it out, which then must be notarized at a cost of about $10. But some parents here without permission say they have had trouble finding affordable help.

Melvin Arias, 39, a New Jersey landscaper from Costa Rica who came to the United States 13 years ago, said he decided after hearing news of stepped-up immigration enforcement to take legal precautions for his five-year-old son and six-month old daughter, who are both U.S. citizens.

But when he asked for help from two different lawyers, Arias was told preparing legal documents would cost him between $700 and $1,250. He is looking for a cheaper way to obtain the paperwork he needs.

“If there comes a time when both of us have a problem, I want there to be a responsible person who can come and get (the children) for us, to take them to wherever we might be,” Arias said.

50 nations seek to counter Trump’s ban on family planning funds

Some 50 countries have signed up to attend a family planning conference in Brussels aimed at making up the gap left by President Donald Trump’s ban on U.S. funding to groups linked to abortion.

The participants agreed to attend the conference scheduled for Thursday on short notice to discuss using pledges from other nations and the private sector to “make sure that the impact on the field is completely taken away,” Belgian Vice Premier Alexander De Croo said.

“This should not be a moment where we are taking steps back into the Dark Ages for women and girls,” De Croo said.

Trump’s decision, one of his first acts as president, withholds about half a billion dollars a year from international groups that perform abortions or provide information about abortions. Officials in many European nations and around the world say the move will hurt women and girls who need family planning most.

“This is 50 countries saying, ‘Let’s roll up our sleeves and let’s stand for the values we think are important,’” De Croo said.

Belgium and several other countries already have committed to contributing at least 10 million euros each. Beyond governments, philanthropists and private donors will be asked to contribute at the conference.

Outside of many European nations, Canada, African and Asian countries will also have representatives at the conference, as will the European Union and the United Nations.

Swedish Vice Premier Isabella Lovin told the AP that even though maternal mortality rates have declined by almost half in the last generation, “every second minute a woman or a girl dies in the world due to pregnancy.”

“The important thing now is what we can do as a progressive alliance of countries and organizations that want to do more and to make sure that we do not (go) back on progress that has been done,” Lovin said.

The U.S. ban on funding to organizations that perform abortions or discuss the procedure with clients has been instituted by Republican administrations and rescinded by Democratic ones since 1984.

Former President Barack Obama last lifted it in 2009. But Trump significantly expanded it in an executive order he signed on his first full day in office.

Instead of containing abortions, the move would increase dangerous pregnancy terminations, Lovin and De Croo said.

De Croo insisted that he was not putting up a defense of abortion, per se.

“To be clear, any abortion that takes place is one too many,” he said. “But if it has to take place, then I think it should be available, and it should be available in a safe way.”

Study finds children value companionship of pets more than their siblings

Continue reading Study finds children value companionship of pets more than their siblings

School administrators want earlier start date in Wisconsin

Wisconsin school administrators hope they’ll soon be able to start the school year before Sept. 1.

A state law enacted in 2000 and pushed by the tourism industry prohibits public schools from starting earlier than September. Republican Rep. Jim Ott is circulating a bill that would remove that restriction and school groups that have made the date change a priority say support has never been so high.

“We are hearing increasingly from our members that they want the flexibility to begin school earlier,” said Dan Rossmiller, lobbyist for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.

Schools have pushed, unsuccessfully, for years for the option of starting earlier to align with high school sports practices and free up time for advanced placement exams in the spring.

But businesses that rely on tourists don’t want school years shifting back into August, one of their most profitable months.

And Senate Education Committee Chairman Sen. Luther Olsen, whose district includes the Wisconsin Dells, said he’ll vote against any proposal  that would make such a change.

“I will not support getting rid of that,” he said of the Sept. 1 start date.

Olsen’s opposition is a major hurdle. Not only is he chairman of the Education Committee, which could block the bill, he’s also on the powerful budget-writing committee.

Romy Snyder, executive director of the Wisconsin Dells Visitor and Convention Bureau, also opposes the date change. She said many families don’t get a chance to vacation until the final weeks of summer.

“It’s really about when families want to travel and can travel,” Snyder said, adding that weather and water temperature is warmer in August than in June.

August is also the tourism industry’s most profitable month after July. Tourists in Wisconsin spent $130 million more in August than in June in 2015, which translates into $10 million more in tax revenues for state and local governments, according to a report from research firm Tourism Economics.

John Forester, director of the School Administrators Alliance, which represents about 3,000 principals, superintendents and other administrators, said more members are asking for flexibility on school start dates than they have in the past 15 years.

He said extracurricular activities such as sports practices often begin in mid-August anyway. He also said districts responsible for bussing private school students want to be able to have public and private schools start together.

Rossmiller said the change could give high school students taking advanced placement classes more class time to prepare for advanced placement tests administered in May. He also said students could be done with school in time for summer courses or programs that start in June.

“The earlier you begin, the earlier you can get out,” Rossmiller said.

Ott, who introduced similar bills in 2007, 2013 and 2015 that went nowhere, did not respond to requests for comment. But he said in a letter to lawmakers seeking co-sponsorship that there are compelling academic reasons to let school districts choose when they start.

Study: Girls doubt women can be brilliant

A study published this week in the journal Science suggests that girls as young as 6 can be led to believe men are inherently smarter and more talented than women, making girls less motivated to pursue novel activities or ambitious careers.

That such stereotypes exist is hardly a surprise, but the findings show these biases can affect children at a very young age.

“As a society, we associate a high level of intellectual ability with males more than females, and our research suggests that this association is picked up by children as young 6 and 7,” said Andrei Cimpian, associate professor in the psychology department at New York University. Cimpian coauthored the study, which looked at 400 children ages 5-7.

In the first part of the study, girls and boys were told a story about a person who is “really, really smart,” a child’s idea of brilliance, and then asked to identify that person among the photos of two women and two men. The people in the photos were dressed professionally, looked the same age and appeared equally happy. At 5, both boys and girls tended to associate brilliance with their own gender, meaning that most girls chose women and most boys chose men.

But as they became older and began attending school, children apparently began endorsing gender stereotypes. At 6 and 7, girls were “significantly less likely” to pick women. The results were similar when the kids were shown photos of children.

Interestingly, when asked to select children who look like they do well in school, as opposed to being smart, girls tended to pick girls, which means that their perceptions of brilliance are not based on academic performance.

“These stereotypes float free of any objective markers of achievement and intelligence,” Cimpian said.

In the second part of the study, children were introduced to two new board games, one described as an activity “for children who are really, really smart” and the other one “for children who try really, really hard.” Five-year-old girls and boys were equally likely to want to play the game for smart kids, but at age 6 and 7, boys still wanted to play that game, while girls opted for the other activity.

“There isn’t anything about the game itself that becomes less interesting for girls, but rather it’s the description of it as being for kids that are really, really smart.”

As a result, believing that they are not as gifted as boys, girls tend to shy away from demanding majors and fields, leading to big differences in aspirations and career choices between men and women. “These stereotypes discourage women’s pursuit of many prestigious careers; that is, women are underrepresented in fields whose members cherish brilliance,” the authors wrote.

It is unclear where the stereotypes come from.

Parents, teachers and peers and the media are the usual suspects, Cimpian said.

But it is evident that action must be taken so that these biases don’t curtail girls’ professional aspirations.

“Instill the idea that success in any line of work is not an innate ability, whatever it is, but rather putting your head down, being passionate about what you are doing,” Cimpian said, adding that exposure to successful women who can serve as role models also helps.

Toy companies like Mattel, maker of the Barbie doll, have taken steps to try to reduce gender stereotypes. Mattel’s “You can be anything” Barbie campaign tells girls that they can be paleontologists, veterinarians or professors, among other careers. The campaign also holds out the possibility that a girl can imagine herself to be a fairy princess.

Rebecca S. Bigler, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, described Cimpian’s study “as exceptionally nice work.”

She suggested that the stereotypes develop in early elementary school when students are exposed to famous scientists, composers and writers, the “geniuses” of history, who are overwhelmingly men. Bigler said it is important to combine that knowledge with information on gender discrimination.

“We need to explain to children that laws were created specifically to prevent women from becoming great scientists, artists, composers, writers, explorers, and leaders,” Bigler added. “Children will then be … more likely to believe in their own intellectual potential and contribute to social justice and equally by pursuing these careers themselves.”

Civil rights groups sue over alleged abuse at youth prison

Civil rights groups sued Wisconsin seeking improvements at a youth prison because guards there are still abusing children despite state and federal investigations.

The American Civil Liberties Union along with the Juvenile Law Center filed a federal lawsuit this week asking a judge to limit solitary confinement, mechanical restraints and the use of pepper spray at the Irma facility. State investigators spent all of 2015 probing allegations of widespread abuse at Lincoln Hills. The FBI has since taken over the probe.

A number of state prison officials have resigned or retired in the midst of the investigations. But no one has been charged and the FBI has said nothing about the investigation’s progress.

ACLU attorney Larry Dupuis said during a Milwaukee news conference that his group had hoped the investigations would prompt changes at the prison. But he said guards continue to violate inmates’ constitutional rights by locking them up in solitary confinement, chaining them to desks and pepper spraying them for minor infractions, prompting the ACLU lawsuit. During a visit to the prison in October, Dupuis said, he saw a boy get pepper sprayed and dragged off because he wouldn’t remove his shoes.

“Usually when ACLU shows up at a prison, (guards are) on their best behavior,” Dupuis said. “We were shocked by what we heard and saw for ourselves. If I had any reason to believe something was coming in the investigations, we may have held off.”

FBI spokesman Leonard Peace declined to comment, saying the investigation was ongoing. State Department of Corrections spokesman Tristan Cook declined comment as well.

The ACLU and the law center filed the lawsuit on behalf of three children currently held at the prison and one child who was held there before he was moved to a mental health facility.

The filing alleges on any day up to 20 percent of the prison’s population is held in solitary confinement in tiny, unfurnished cells. They receive only an hour of education instead of the four or five they would normally get and are chained to their desks or shackled, the lawsuit alleges. Guards needlessly pepper spray inmates for minor, nonviolent infractions, sometimes using a spray meant to stop bears, the lawsuit added.

The practices are unconstitutionally excessive and cruel, the lawsuit said. The filing asks a judge to allow solitary confinement, mechanical restraints and pepper spray only in rare cases to avoid serious physical harm.

Attorney General Brad Schimel declined to defend the state in the lawsuit Tuesday because the Department of Justice ran the state’s portion of the investigation, creating a conflict, DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos said. That means Gov. Scott Walker’s administration will need to hire private attorneys.

Twenty-nine states have prohibited solitary confinement as punishment for juveniles, according to the pro bono law firm Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest. Wisconsin is one of 15 states that limit the time a juvenile spends in solitary confinement; Wisconsin’s maximum is 60 days. Seven states have no limit on solitary confinement or allow indefinite extensions, according to the center.

Wisconsin lawmakers haven’t passed any measures addressing conditions at the youth prison since word of the investigation broke a year ago. Republican state Rep. Joel Kleefisch and Democratic state Sen. LaTonya Johnson began circulating a bill Tuesday that would require prison guards to report child abuse to law enforcement in response to the prison allegations.

Rep. Michael Schraa, chairman of the Assembly’s corrections committee, didn’t immediately return a message. The state Senate doesn’t have a corrections committee; the equivalent body is the judiciary committee, led by Republican Van Wanggaard. His aide, Scott Kelly, said Wanggaard wants to see the FBI’s findings before drawing conclusions but is growing more frustrated with the agency for not releasing any information.

Deadly backstreet abortions to rise with Trump restrictions

Thousands of women will die from unsafe abortions and millions will have unwanted pregnancies following President Donald Trump’s decision to ban U.S.-funded groups from discussing abortion, activists said this week.

Trump reinstated the so-called global gag rule, affecting U.S. non-governmental organizations working abroad, to signal his opposition to abortion, which is difficult to access legally in many developing countries due to restrictive laws, stigma and poverty.

“Women will go back to unsafe abortion again,” said Kenyan campaigner Rosemary Olale, who teaches teenage girls in Nairobi slums about reproductive health. “You will increase the deaths.”

The East African nation has one of world’s highest abortion rates and most abortions are unsafe and a leading cause of preventable injury and death among women, government data shows.

Globally, 21.6 million women have unsafe abortions each year, nine out of 10 of which take place in developing countries, according the World Health Organization.

The gag rule, formally known as the Mexico City Policy, prevents charities receiving U.S. funding from performing or telling women about legal options for abortion, even if they use separate money for abortion services, counseling or referrals.

It will hit major reproductive health charities, such as International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International, as the United States is the world’s largest bilateral family planning donor.

Unless it receives alternative funding to support its services, MSI estimates there will be 2.1 million unsafe abortions and 21,700 maternal deaths during Trump’s first term that could have been prevented.

“Abortion is a fundamental right for women and also very necessary public health intervention,” said Maaike van Min, MSI’s London-based strategy director.

MSI has been receiving $30 million per year in U.S. Agency for International Development funding to provide 1.5 million women in more than a dozen countries with family planning services.

It will have to cut these services unless it finds other donors, the charity said.

“Women won’t be able to finish their education (or) pursue the career that they might have, because they don’t have control over their fertility,” said van Min.

“Aid is under pressure everywhere in the world and so finding donors who have the ability to fund this gap is going to be challenging.”

INHUMAN

Women who live in remote areas without government services will suffer most, van Min said, highlighting mothers in Nigeria and Madagascar where MIS has large programs.

“If they don’t now control their fertility, they are at high risk for maternal mortality,” she said. “I remember this lady who had had too many pregnancies and she came up to me … in this village and she was like: ‘Can you make it stop?'”

Other important health services are also likely to be cut, said Evelyne Opondo, Africa director for the Center for Reproductive Rights advocacy group, recalling the large number of facilities that closed down in Kenya after President George W. Bush came to power in 2001 and reinstated the gag rule.

“They refused to adhere to the global gag rule so they lost quite a substantial amount of funding,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview.

“They were also forced to drastically reduce other services that they were providing, including for survivors of sexual violence (and) for HIV.”

Abortion rates across sub-Saharan Africa increased during the Bush administration, according to a WHO study.

“It’s really unfortunate that the lives and the health of so many women are subject to the whims of American politics,” Opondo said. “This is really unethical, if not inhuman.”

Reporting by Neha Wadekar; Editing by Katy Migiro and Ros Russell. This report is from Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories.

Attorney General offers ‘national strategy’ to combat human trafficking

As part of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced the Justice Department’s National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking , as required by the 2015 Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.

In addition to this new national strategy, every year, the attorney general also submits the Attorney General’s Annual Report to Congress and Assessment of U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking in Persons, which details the programs and activities carried out by all federal agencies and sets forth recommended goals for the upcoming year.

The most recent report, for FY 2015, is available here.

The department also has launched www.justice.gov/humantrafficking as a central destination to learn more about the department’s efforts to combat the scourge of human trafficking.

“Human trafficking is one of the most devastating crimes that we confront,” said Lynch.  “The National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking summarizes the work that our many components and our U.S. Attorney’s Offices are doing to better help survivors and target traffickers. These efforts encourage increased collaboration within the department as well as between the department and our partners in order to build on our successes as we prepare to take on the work that remains.”

The National Strategy sets forth plans to enhance coordination within the department and to develop specific strategies within each federal district to stop human trafficking.

The National Strategy includes the following:

  • An assessment of the threat presented by human trafficking based on FBI case information.
  • An account of the work of the department’s components that are most extensively involved in anti-trafficking efforts, including the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit; the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section; the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices; the FBI; and various grant-making components within the Office of Justice Programs.
  • A description of the district-specific strategies developed by each U.S. Attorney’s Office.
  • A discussion of human trafficking and anti-trafficking efforts in Indian Country.
  • Information about annual spending dedicated to preventing and combating human trafficking.
  • A description of plans to encourage cooperation, coordination and mutual support between the private and non-profit sector and the department to combat human trafficking.

On the web

To learn more about the report and the department’s efforts to combat human trafficking visit www.justice.gov/humantrafficking.

‘Regulatory vacuum’ exposes Wisconsin children to lead in drinking water at schools, day care centers

Almost two weeks into the school year, Melissa Corrigan got an email from the principal and superintendent of her daughters’ elementary school. Water from four West Middleton Elementary School faucets taken Sept. 1, the first day of school, had tested high for levels of lead or copper. As a safety precaution, the school would provide bottled water to students until the issue was resolved.

Corrigan — whose daughters Brooklyn and Carly are in first and fourth grades — thought little of the news, partly because the email told parents of the school west of Madison that it was “highly unlikely” that the water was unsafe to drink.

But West Middleton’s results were high — one faucet had more than six times the federal action level of 15 parts per billion of lead and nearly 19 times the federal action level of 1,300 ppb of copper. Samples from nine of the 10 faucets showed a presence of lead.

Any amount of lead can cause permanent brain damage, including reduced intelligence and behavioral problems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Infants and children are considered the most vulnerable to lead’s negative effects.

Fresh evidence of the risk of lead poisoning at school surfaced Friday when Milwaukee Public Schools revealed that testing found dangerous levels of lead in 183 drinking water fountains, including at locations hosting early childhood programs. The months-long testing program involved 3,000 water fountains at 191 school district buildings. The district said it had shut down and plans to replace the fountains that tested at or above the federal action level of 15 ppb, even though “federal and state regulations do not require schools to test drinking water.”

The district failed to respond to repeated questions since mid-November from the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism about whether water at the schools was being tested for lead, and calls and an email to district spokespeople Friday were not immediately returned. The testing began in June.

Efforts to protect Wisconsin children in schools and day care centers from lead in their water have fallen short on several fronts, the Center has found. Among the problems uncovered by the Center in documents and interviews:

There is a lack of testing for lead in drinking water consumed by children while away from home. Federal regulations enforced by the state of Wisconsin do not require most schools or day care centers to test at all. A 2016 USA Today investigation found that an estimated 90 percent of schools nationally are not required to test their water.

There has been confusion over proper lead testing procedures at some schools, day care centers and public water systems in Wisconsin, as the Center has reported. This year, the state Department of Natural Resources waited nine months to send an official notice to public water system operators that the EPA had updated its testing recommendations in response to flaws uncovered by Flint, Michigan’s lead-in-water crisis.

Lead service lines, a significant source of lead in drinking water, continue to provide water to hundreds of schools and day care centers around Wisconsin. In other communities, officials are not sure how many schools and day cares have lead pipes.

Because of West Middleton’s rural Dane County location, the school has its own well and is among the minority of schools that must comply with some of the same testing requirements as municipal water systems. Lead generally makes its way into water not at the water plant but as it travels through service lines and indoor plumbing, all of which could contain lead.

Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District Superintendent George Mavroulis said after learning of the testing results, the school immediately shut off drinking water and consulted with a private testing company and a liaison from the DNR.

Two weeks after the initial test, the K-4 school with 400 students had the same faucets — and three water fountains — tested again. The levels of lead and copper returned to below the action level, and students and staff were again allowed to use the water.

“We tried to do everything in our power to make sure everyone was safe,” Mavroulis said.

The school has since replaced two faucets and plans to replace two more over winter break, he said. Perry Hibner, the district’s spokesman, believed two human errors caused the school’s initial water samples to be high in lead and copper: not flushing the system beforehand, as the DNR suggests after long periods of non-use like summer break, and removing the aerators from the faucets, which allowed a higher than normal water flow.

Subsequent samples were taken after one hour of flushing and six hours of non-use.

The EPA issued new nationwide guidance in February clarifying that public water systems should not remove aerators or flush systems before sampling to avoid masking the level of lead in the water. DNR spokesman Jim Dick said West Middleton was in a “unique situation” because of its failure to previously flush the school’s system after the water had been stagnant for an extended period of time.

Going forward, however, the district will need to conduct two rounds of testing in the next year to assure the water is safe — and follow all of the appropriate sampling methods, he said.

After reviewing West Middleton’s test results, Yanna Lambrinidou, a Virginia Tech University researcher who helped train Flint researchers, said telling parents a health risk was highly unlikely was “a stunningly irresponsible statement, especially after Flint.”

Said Lambrinidou: “There is no safe level of lead in drinking water.”

All licensed day care centers in Wisconsin are required to identify and mitigate dangers from lead paint, but only centers that use private wells are required to eliminate lead hazards in drinking water, according to Joe Scialfa, spokesman for the state Department of Children and Families.

The USA Today investigation found that among schools and day care centers that are required to test, Wisconsin recorded the fourth-highest number of lead exceedances, with 24 between 2012 and 2015.

Lead in small doses dangerous

Exposure to even small amounts of lead can cause permanent damage. A 2012 study of nearly 4,000 fourth-graders in Milwaukee showed that those with elevated levels of lead — even below what is considered dangerous — scored significantly lower on reading and math tests than those without elevated blood-lead levels.

The Center reported in February that at least 176,000 homes and businesses in Wisconsin receive water from lead service lines, which can account for 50 to 75 percent of lead contamination in tap water.

Milwaukee says it has removed lead service lines leading to all of its public school buildings. Madison is thought to be the first city in the nation to remove all lead service lines from its water utility service area.

Milwaukee plans to focus $2.6 million from a new $14.5 million DNR program to begin replacing lead service lines leading to 384 licensed day care centers and 12 private schools in the city. In the meantime, the Milwaukee Health Department has advised those centers to reduce lead exposure by flushing water before using it and consider using only filtered or bottled water for preparing formula.

An additional 17 Wisconsin communities ranging from Antigo to Waterloo plan to use money from the program to replace lead service lines leading to their schools and day care centers.

School officials in Detroit, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Massachusetts also have found high lead levels in the drinking water at hundreds of schools.

And day care centers — where infants could be fed baby formula made with tap water or toddlers could eat food cooked in lead-laden water — are of particular concern.

Rep. LaTonya Johnson, a Democrat from Milwaukee, operated a day care business out of her 90-year-old home for several years before running for public office. She recently spent $10,000 to replace corroded pipes throughout her northwest side house, which is served by lead service lines.

Johnson said she used a cooler to provide water to children in her care, but not every day care provider does.

“I’m sure people use sink water,” she said. “It’s right there.”

A ‘regulatory vacuum’

In the Lead Contamination Control Act, the EPA recommends that schools test water at each cold water tap — although no frequency is mentioned — share abnormal results with the public and take action to remediate any problems. But these are not requirements.

News investigations have shown that administrators in Newark, New Jersey, Portland, Oregon and Ithaca, New York knew about lead in water at schools for several months or years before the findings became public. Lambrinidou, the Virginia Tech researcher, and others decried the “regulatory vacuum” surrounding water testing in schools in a 2010 paper titled Failing Our Children.

“If you’re a parent … it’s better to know that they’re not doing much than to have false comfort that the schools are taking care of them,” Lambrinidou said.

School leaders mixed on lead mandate

A Center survey of all 424 Wisconsin school district superintendents revealed a mixture of attitudes toward identifying and mitigating lead hazards. Most chose not to complete the survey at all.

The 47 respondents were split on whether there should be a statewide requirement that all public schools test their water for lead. While some do test — either voluntarily or because they have private wells — others said paying for testing is simply not an option.

A Fox 6 News investigation in May surveyed the 10 largest school districts in southeastern Wisconsin, asking if they had tested their schools for lead. Six answered; all said “No.”

Jon Bales, executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, said most of his members support water testing. But if it identifies lead hazards that require costly remediation, he said, “We feel like there ought to be some federal support and state support to do that.”

When officials at Riverside Elementary School east of Wausau discovered that lead from pipes in its foundation was leaching into the water, they opted to remove the school’s drinking fountains entirely. Assistant Superintendent Jack Stoskopf said the school relies on a filtration system for tap water and has spent about $1,000 a month over the past 10 years on bottled drinking water.

“That’s far less expensive than tearing up the foundation of the school and tearing up the pipes,” he said.

Crystal Wozniak, who lives in Green Bay with her 4-year-old son Casheous, said she tried to avoid lead in drinking water when deciding where he would attend preschool. Casheous was lead poisoned when he was 9 months old, possibly from paint.

“The water at a school may be more harmful because they’re ingesting the water, and the food there is made with the water,” she said. “All the kids aren’t necessarily going around licking the walls, but they’re drinking the water.”

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (www.WisconsinWatch.org) collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

Wisconsin schools, day care centers slated for lead service line removal under new DNR program

Earlier this year, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources launched a $14.5 million program to help “disadvantaged municipalities” replace lead service lines. Of the 38 recipients, 18 communities, including Milwaukee, planned to use at least some of the money to replace lead lines leading to schools and day care centers.

Below is a list of the communities and the estimated number of schools or day care centers with lead service lines slated for replacement under this program:

Antigo — 4 of 4

Ashland — 5 of 5

Clintonville — 2 of 10

Eagle River — 10 of 10

Town of Florence — 2 of 10

Manitowoc — 15 of 15

Marshfield — 10 of 20

Milwaukee — 400 of 400

Monroe — 5 of 5

Mosinee — 2 of 2

Park Falls — 5 of 5

Platteville — 2 of 2

Princeton — 4 of 4

Randolph — 5 of 5

St. Francis — 2 of 5

Sheboygan — 11 of 11

Stratford — 4 of 4

Waterloo — 3 of 3

 

Fearing Trump crackdown, dreamers advised to end travel

Immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, but were protected from deportation by President Barrack Obama, are being warned by some advocates to make sure they are not traveling abroad when Donald Trump is sworn in as president.

Some advocates, lawyers and universities are concerned that Trump might immediately rescind an Obama program that had allowed these young immigrants to work and travel for humanitarian, educational or employment purposes.

That could lead, they fear, to some people traveling abroad being barred from re-entering the U.S.

“We are recommending all travel be completed by or before Jan. 20 in the event laws or procedures experience a drastic change,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. “We wouldn’t want to expose them to an uncertain situation should they not be allowed back to the U.S.”

Trump made immigration the cornerstone of his campaign, promising to build a wall along the Mexican border and deport millions of people living in the country illegally.

His actual plans, though, have yet to be revealed. Recently, he has said he wants to focus on people who have committed crimes.

During a recent Time magazine interview, Trump expressed sympathy for the 741,000 people in Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which started in 2012.

“We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud,” Trump said. “They got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Advocates are still being cautious.

Nancy Lopez-Ramirez, a 20-year-old student born in Mexico who is planning a trip there as part of a City College of New York class, said she is glad the group is returning by Jan. 15.

“My mom is like ‘I am concerned with you not coming back, I want you to be able to come back,’” she said.

“It is nerve-wracking but I think that at the end it is going to be worth it,” said the political-science student, who was brought to the U.S. when she was 4.

City College, part of the City University of New York, is one of the institutions advising students in the DACA program to return before Inauguration Day. So is California State University, which told administrators to tell participants in the program “that if they are outside of the United States as of January 20, 2017, there is no assurance they will be allowed to return to the U.S.”

Trump can rescind the promised protection right away through an “operational memo” because Obama implemented it through one, said William Stock, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

He said the program’s participants should not consider traveling overseas unless they absolutely need to.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Anthony Bucci said his agency “cannot speculate” when he was asked how long would it take for CBP officers to deny entry to the U.S. to program participants if Trump eliminated the protection.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services records said that as of Dec. 31, 2015, about 22,340 people in the DACA program were approved for the “parole” that allows them to travel outside the U.S.

Trump called the program an “illegal amnesty” during his campaign.

Tatyana Kleyn, an associate professor at City College who organized the upcoming Mexico trip, said interest in it actually surged among students after the presidential election.

“So right now our bus fits 18 and we are bringing 20,” she said. “It feels like a last chance.”