The cries of the 11-year-old girl interviewed by Mississippi’s WJTV when her father, caught in an immigration raid, didn’t come home from work after the first day of school are a harrowing reminder of the human costs of America’s broken immigration system. The United States offers very few pathways to legal immigration for working class people from Central America. For those who have entered the U.S. without documentation at any time in their lives, obtaining legal residency is essentially impossible. But while American immigration policy slams the door on thousands of people working hard for a better life, America’s food system depends on these same workers for the dangerous and poorly paid labor that puts inexpensive meat on our tables. As the AP’s Jeff Amy and Rogelio V. Solis report, raids like the one in Mississippi this week do lasting harm not only to immigrants’ families, but to the communities in which they live:
Martha Rogers, the chairman and CEO of the Bank of Morton, also expressed concern for the local economy. Rogers said many Spanish-speaking residents have become customers of the bank. “Every business in town will be affected,” said Rogers, whose family has owned a controlling interest in the small bank since the 1950s. Scott County Superintendent Tony McGee said more than 150 students were absent Thursday from the 4,100-student district, including a number of students in Morton, where the enrollment is about 30% Latino. Parents are saying they’re afraid for their children to come back to class, McGee said. School officials have been making phone calls and visiting homes to try to coax the parents to let the students return. “We’re just trying to reassure them that if those kids come to school, we’re going to do everything possible to make sure they come back to you,” McGee said. “We want those children at school.”
The power rankings that matter to Louisiana’s children
Southeastern Conference states have a prominent place in ESPN’s latest college football power rankings, a reflection both of the importance of football in the cultural fabric of those states, and of the investments that top SEC football programs are able to command. But as Stacey Pearson, writing in The Advocate, points out, a different “power ranking,” the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count report, shows that SEC states have a long way to go in making sure that they perform as well on measures of child wellbeing as they do on the field:
In the last five years, the only SEC state to make it out of the bottom quartile of overall child well-being rankings is Missouri, which rose to the 25th spot in 2017. Louisiana has not risen above 48th. While last in the nation from 2015 to 2017, Mississippi improved two spots, to 48th. The only states to have improved from 2018 are Kentucky (from 37th to 34th), Georgia (from 39th to 38th), Arkansas (from 41st to 40th), and Texas (from 43rd to 41st). Florida dropped three spots – from 34th in 2018 to 37th in 2019. Interestingly, in state rankings (including Washington D.C.) of the overall well-being of women — based on data which includes earnings, health care, and homicide rate — SEC states hold six of the bottom 10 spots, with Mississippi ranking 50th and Louisiana ranking 51st. In February, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey announced that approximately $627.1 million of total revenue was divided among the 14 schools for the 2017-18 fiscal year, amounting to about $43.1 million per school, excluding bowl money.
According to a consensus study by the National Academies of Sciences, Medicine, and Engineering, policy options exist today that would cut child poverty in half within 10 years.
A win for permit transparency in St. James Parish
When the St. James Parish Planning Commission approved a new chemical plant earlier this year, it made sure to meet with executives of the Wanhua corporation — the Chinese-owned firm that would build the plant. Commissioners also made sure that these meetings took place behind closed doors, in what critics contend is clear violation of open meeting laws. After an outcry from the residents who would be subject to the plant’s emissions and a lawsuit contesting the process for approving the plant, the parish council has kicked the permit application back to the parish planners. The Louisiana Weekly’s Meghan Holmes has the story:
During the recent parish council meeting, several representatives from the chemical industry voiced support for the plant, touting the jobs and revenue it would bring to the parish. Opponents argue that jobs typically go to people outside the immediately impacted communities, comprised primarily of low-income people of color. “For our clients, the concern is at several levels,” (Tulane Environmental Law Clinic Supervising Attorney Lisa) Jordan said. “At the base level, they’re already inundated with pollution and there has been an explosion of new facilities in the area. It’s one thing when they’re U.S. companies. Now, we have governments from other countries picking this low-income, minority community to come in and dump on, and enough is enough.”
Northwest Louisiana schools are shrinking
Louisiana’s population has flatlined in recent years, amid slowing birthrates and outmigration. But the effects have been felt particularly keenly in north Louisiana, where declining school enrollment has led to budget crises and mid-year layoffs. Bonnie Bolden, writing in the Monroe News Star, reports on how the region’s demographic changes have created a crunch for some of the poorest districts in the state:
The state of Louisiana lost 6,445 students between October 2016 and February 2019. In the same period, 1,978 students left northeastern Louisiana. Twelve parishes lost 30 percent of the children that left the state. The past two summers have shown substantial losses for public schools, and administrators don’t have a solid way to prepare in advance. (…) The number of students a district has sets the number of teacher and staff required, and the number of schools it needs to run. A large, unexpected loss can lead to a reduction in force and school closures. It’s already happened here recently. Last year, Morehouse Parish Schools lost 144 students between the Feb. 1 and Oct. 1 MFP counts. The district had lost 747 students between 2014 and 2018. The district reduced its workforce and consolidated over Christmas break to avoid a fiscal cliff. The move closed two schools. An additional 44 students left the parish before the Feb. 1, 2019 count.
Number of the Day
413 – Number of candidates running for a state office in the Oct. 12 primary election. Of those, 311 are men and 101 are women. 51% of Louisiana’s population is female. (Sources: Louisiana Secretary of State, U.S. Census American Community Survey, 2017)