Day: February 3, 2017

Facebook, Apple and Google pen letter opposing Trump’s travel ban

Some of Silicon Valley’s most prominent technology companies, including Alphabet (Google), Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Uber and Stripe, have co-authored a draft letter formally opposing Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, arguing that “a blanket suspension is not the right approach”.

The executive order, released on 27 January, temporarily banned people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, including Syrian refugees and people who had been approved for a visa. The move caused chaos at airports across the country, and left many tech workers unable to travelfor fear of having their visas revoked.

Since then, many technology company executives have individually condemnedthe travel ban and Amazon has pledged legal support to action against Trump.

The letter is the first coordinated push from large US businesses to oppose Trump’s travel restrictions.

According to a draft shared with Recode, the letter highlights the importance of immigration to entrepreneurship and corporate America.

“As entrepreneurs and business leaders, our ability to grow our companies and create jobs depends on the contributions of immigrants from all backgrounds.”

“We share your goal of ensuring that our immigration system meets today’s security needs and keeps our country safe. We are concerned, however, that your recent executive order will affect many visa holders who work hard here in the United States and contribute to our country’s success. In a global economy, it is critical that we continue to attract the best and brightest from around the world.”

Technology companies recruit heavily from overseas and have been lobbying for an increase in the allocation of visas such as H-1B for several years.

However, civil rights groups are encouraged by the letter’s condemnation of the “blanket suspension of admissions” of refugees and the calls for Trump to support the legal status of 750,000 Dreamers – undocumented young immigrants who were protected under Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) policy.

“I think it’s a very positive and encouraging development insofar as it goes beyond the specific concerns about hi-tech employment and includes a statement about compassion for refugees,” said Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union. “Pushing back against these policies will require a strategy in the streets but also in the boardrooms.”

Many individuals from the same companies have provided financial support to civil society groups like the ACLU, he said.

“It’s about time that technology companies and business leaders speak out in a united front against Trump,” said Reem Suleiman, a campaigner with SumOfUs. “But it’s just the start. These companies need to follow up with action if they are going to change policy.”

One example of action business leaders could take is to lobby for the rights of refugees in the same way they lobby for more visas for highly skilled employees.

“These companies have lobbied on issues relating to their bottom line. It would be a truly significant development if these companies dedicated some of their lobbying resources towards promoting human rights,” said Wizner.

“These corporations have a lot of sway with political leaders because they make significant campaign contributions.”


Not Getting Enough Sleep? Camping In February Might Help

Escaping artificial light even for a winter weekend can reset sleep patterns for the better, researchers say. One good place to do it: Heliotrope Ridge near Mount Baker in Washington state.

Christopher Kimmel/Aurora Open/Getty Images

It’s tempting to keep the computer running late and promise yourself an extra 30 minutes of bed rest in the morning. It’s tempting to do it again the next night, too. But sleep inevitably loses out to getting up early for school or work.

There’s a simple way to combat this: End all artificial lights at night for at least a weekend and drench your eyes in natural morning light, says Kenneth Wright, a professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado, Boulder and senior author on a study on resetting sleep cycles. The most straightforward way of doing this is to forbid any electronics on a camping trip.

In the study, published Thursday in Current Biology, Wright reports on the latest of a series of experiments where he sent people out camping in Colorado parks to reset their biological clocks. Small groups of people set out for a week during the summer, an experiment published in Current Biology in 2013.

This most recent study shows the results of camping a week in winter and once over a winter weekend. Others stayed at home to live their life. Along with sleep, Wright kept track of people’s circadian rhythms by measuring their levels of the hormone melatonin, which regulates wakefulness and sleep.

Before each camping trip, Wright says that he noticed something odd about the study participants’ melatonin levels.

In general, melatonin makes us feel tired. Levels of the hormone rise a couple of hours before we sleep, and they fall right when we wake up. “In the modern environment, those melatonin levels fall back down a couple of hours after we wake up,” Wright says. “Our brains say we should be sleeping several hours after we wake up.” The participants’ sleep and wake times were slightly out of step with their internal clocks, like constantly being a little jet lagged.

But after people got back from a week-long camping trip, the jet lag was gone.

“[Melatonin] would go down at sunrise and right when people woke up,” Wright says. And people’s entire sleep schedules had shifted earlier so that they were going to bed and rising two or more hours earlier than they had been before camping. Those who had gone camping for just a weekend had their sleep schedules shifted by a little less than an hour and a half.

Why this happens probably has to do with how drastically different an environment lit by light bulbs and laptops is from one of sun and starlight.

Outside, “you are pretty constrained by natural light-dark cycles and the intensity and light spectrum that you see in nature,” says Dr. Phyllis Zee, director for the Center for Circadian and Sleep Medicine at Northwestern University who was not involved with the study. Natural light, particularly morning sunshine, which is enriched with blue light, has a very powerful influence on setting internal clocks.

That bright light can affect our circadian rhythm is nothing new, Zee says. But this collection of studies make very clear how an artificially lit environment at night can push our sleep timing further back, while bright, blue-rich light can train our circadian rhythms to sync earlier in a way that is actionable. Sleep doctors will often suggest that people use a light box indoors in the morning to simulate dawn, but’s not always as effective as real dawn.

“I actually have used that [summer camping] study to treat some of my patients,” Zee says. “We see people who can’t fall asleep until 4 am. It can be very difficult to use this light box in the morning and avoid light at night. So you say, okay, there’s this camping thing.”

If camping is not your thing, Zee suggests trying to copy a natural light-dark cycle, at least on the weekend. “Over 60 percent of the shift can happen over a weekend. It’s pretty amazing,” she says. “We can on weekends or days off go out or sit by the window and just expose ourselves to a natural light-dark cycle.”

And in a perfect world, homes, schools and offices would have artificial light that could mimic the spectrum and the intensity of natural light. “As a new design philosophy, think about light as important as having clean air,” Zee says. “It’s possible. It’s totally possible.”

Trump’s vaccine views are at odds with those of most Americans, study says

The criticism of vaccines voiced by President Trump and some other public figures is at odds with the attitudes of most Americans, who overwhelmingly support requiring public school children to be vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella, according to a Pew Research Center survey released Thursday.

Overall, 82 percent of Americans support requiring students in public schools to be vaccinated for those three diseases. In addition, the survey found, their perceptions of the benefits of that combination vaccine are strongly positive, with about 88 percent saying the benefits outweigh any risks. About 73 percent of Americans see high preventive health benefits, and 66 percent say there is a low risk of side effects.

The survey, which was conducted before the November presidential election, comes at a time when medical, scientific and government experts have raised alarms about Trump’s embrace of discredited claims about vaccine safety. He recently said he was considering creation of a vaccine commission, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already has a well-established expert panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which follows a scientifically rigorous and open process to evaluate all aspects of vaccine safety.

Former first lady Rosalynn Carter has requested a meeting with first lady Melania Trump to talk about the safety of vaccines. Carter is co-founder and president of Every Child By Two, a vaccine-advocacy group.

“We offered to bring experts to the table to explain all the science that has already been conducted on the safety of vaccines and the safety systems that are already in place that would make the commission redundant and unnecessary,” Amy Pisani, the group’s executive director, said in an interview this week.

Here are some of the most common arguments for and against vaccination. (The Washington Post)

Despite a robust body of medical literature disproving claims that childhood vaccines are linked to autism or are unsafe when administered according to the recommended schedule, public concerns persist, fueled by celebrities and conspiracy theorists.

Trump has long been critical of vaccines. He met with several vaccine skeptics during his campaign and since his election, including the discredited British ex-physician Andrew Wakefield — who attended one of the presidential inaugural balls. Wakefield launched the modern anti-vaccine movement after publishing a study, now fully discredited as fraudulent, that connected autism to the MMR vaccine.

In January, Trump also met with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a leading proponent of that debunked theory. Kennedy said afterward that he and Trump had discussed creation of a commission on vaccines, which he would chair.

A White House spokeswoman said Wednesday that she had no update on the commission.

The Pew survey found that Americans 65 and older have especially strong support for a school-based requirement for the MMR vaccine. Ninety percent favor such a requirement; 8 percent say parents should be able to decide. Among Americans younger than 50, support for required vaccination drops to just under 80 percent.

Parents of younger children are among the most concerned about vaccine safety. Just over half of those with children ages 4 and younger say the risk of side effects is low, according to Pew, while 43 percent say the risk is medium or high.

As for preventive health benefits, 60 percent of parents with younger children say the benefits are high, compared with 75 percent of parents with school-age children (ages 5 to 17).

Racial and ethnic groups have different perceptions, too. Blacks consider the risk of vaccine side effects to be higher and the benefits lower than whites and Hispanics. People with “low science knowledge” are also more likely to fear greater risk of side effects, Pew found.

“Public health benefits from vaccines hinge on very high levels of immunization in the population, so it’s important to understand which groups hold reservations about the MMR vaccine,” said Cary Funk, the report’s lead author.

Authorities blame the resurgence of childhood diseases in recent years — including a multistate measles outbreak that began at Disneyland in 2015 — on the growing number of people who either decline to vaccinate their children for personal reasons or who delay certain vaccines.

The survey found that public views of medical scientists and their research related to childhood vaccines are broadly positive. The data shows that 73 percent of adults say medical scientists should have a major role in policy decisions related to childhood vaccines. Only 25 percent say elected officials should have a say.

Republicans and Democrats are about equally likely to support a school-based vaccine requirement. But conservatives are slightly more likely than either moderates or liberals to say that parents should be able to decide not to have their children vaccinated. Still, a significant majority of Americans in each group support requiring the MMR vaccine to protect all public school children from preventable diseases.  

The survey was conducted from May 10 to June 6 among a nationally representative sample of 1,549 adults in 50 states and the District. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.0 percentage points.

Wow! There Is a New Bat Drone

This photo provided by Alireza Ramezani, University of Illinois, shows a Bat Bot, a three-ounce flying robot that they say can be more agile at getting into treacherous places than standard drones. Because it mimics the unique and more flexible way bats fly, this new robot prototype can do a better and safer job getting into disaster sites and scoping out construction zones than those bulky drones with spinning rotors, said the three authors of a study released Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017, in the journal Science Robotics.

This photo provided by Alireza Ramezani, University of Illinois, shows a Bat Bot, a three-ounce flying robot that they say can be more agile at getting into treacherous places than standard drones. (ALIREZA RAMEZANI/UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS VIA AP)



WASHINGTON (AP) — Holy drone, Batman! Mechanical masterminds have spawned the Bat Bot, a soaring, sweeping and diving robot that may eventually fly circles around other drones.

Because it mimics the unique and more flexible way bats fly, this 3-ounce prototype could do a better and safer job getting into disaster sites and scoping out construction zones than bulky drones with spinning rotors, said the three authors of a study released Wednesday in the journal Science Robotics. For example, it would have been ideal for going inside the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, said study co-author Seth Hutchinson, an engineering professor at the University of Illinois.

The bat robot flaps its wings for better aerial maneuvers, glides to save energy and dive bombs when needed. Eventually, the researchers hope to have it perch upside down like the real thing, but that will have to wait for the robot’s sequel.

Like the fictional crime fighter Batman, the researchers turned to the flying mammal for inspiration

“Whenever I see bats make sharp turns and perform upside down, perching with such elegant wing movements and deformations, I get mesmerized,” said another author, Soon-Jo Chung, a professor of aerospace at the California Institute of Technology.

The Bat Bot has nine joints and measures slightly less than 8 inches from head to tail. Its super-thin membrane wings span about a foot and a half. The flexible flapping — as much as 10 times per second — acts “like a big power amplifier,” Hutchinson said.

The researchers still need to add cameras, build more drones and get permission from federal agencies to fly them, but Hutchinson said these bat robots could be flying around work sites and disaster zones within five years. It’s already taken three years and cost $1.5 million, including a team of experts from Brown University who studied bat flight, Hutchinson said.

Outside robotics experts were impressed, but cautious.

Smaller fixed-wing drones have problems with maneuverability and four rotors are not efficient, so a bat-inspired design is “a very intriguing line of research,” University of Pennsylvania engineering professor Vijay Kumar said in an email. However, he noted, “it is too early to tell if these designs will actually be superior.”

Nordstrom drops Ivanka Trump-branded clothing and shoes

Nordstrom will stop selling Ivanka Trump’s name-branded line of clothing and shoes, a company representative said Thursday.

The change followed a weeks-long boycott campaign, organized by an anti-Trump activist group called “Grab Your Wallet.” The group demanded the department-store giant cease doing business with the president or his family.

In a statement, the Nordstrom representative said that Ivanka Trump products were being dropped because of poor sales. Its statement did not mention the group’s boycott effort.

“Each year we cut about 10% [of brands] and refresh our assortment with about the same amount,” the statement said. “In this case, based on the brand’s performance we’ve decided not to buy it for this season.”

The retailer has some Ivanka Trump items in stock, a representative said, and will sell through that remaining inventory.

Washington Post reporter Krissah Thompson examines the role President Trump’s eldest daughter played during the campaign and what she could do in the future. (Whitney Leaming/The Washington Post)

On the company’s website Thursday evening, the only Ivanka Trump-branded items available were four styles of shoe, all being sold at a discount.

Shannon Coulter, who helps run Grab Your Wallet, said that number is down sharply from early December, when Nordstrom had 71 Ivanka Trump items for sale.

She celebrated Nordstrom’s decision as a milestone for the campaign, which began in October after The Washington Post obtained a video from 2005 that showed Donald Trump bragging about groping women during a taping of “Access Hollywood.” In that video, Trump boasted that he could “grab them by the p—y,” using a vulgar term for a woman’s genitals.

Four days after The Post’s story, on Oct. 11, Coulter posted a message on Twitter criticizing Nordstrom for doing business with Ivanka Trump. She said the retailer should dissociate itself from her because she had continued to campaign for her father in the aftermath of the tape’s release.

Weeks later, Nordstrom had remained a focus of the boycott group’s effort. On Thursday, in fact, her group had asked its followers to call the retail giant’s headquarters in large numbers.

“The cause and effect here is very clear,” Coulter wrote in an email message Thursday evening after Nordstrom announced its decision. “Over 230,000 Tweets and who knows how many millions of dollars’ worth of missed purchases later, they finally heard us.”

The “Grab Your Wallet” campaign has now targeted more than 60 companies — a group that includes Trump’s golf courses and hotels, those that sell Trump-branded goods, and other businesses whose leaders endorsed Trump or donated to his campaign.

“The people who voted against Donald Trump may have lost at the ballot box, but they can win at the cash register,” Coulter said. The group has removed five companies from the list after they stopped selling Ivanka Trump’s merchandise.

Ivanka Trump’s business began with a jewelry collection in 2007, and has grown to include clothing, shoes, fragrances, handbags and other products.

A spokesman for Ivanka Trump’s company said Nordstrom initially purchased some clothing — though not shoes — from the Ivanka Trump brand for sale during the spring season. Nordstrom then changed its decision, the spokesman said, and chose not to sell Ivanka Trump items after all.

Ivanka Trump intends to resign all management positions in her company and her father’s Trump Organization, attorneys for the Trump Organization have said. On Thursday, the attorneys told the news site ProPublica that the paperwork would be completed Friday.

Ivanka Trump has moved from New York to Washington, where she has served as an adviser to her father.

The news of Nordstrom’s decision was first reported by Bloomberg News.

Earlier, the news site reported the sharp decline in Ivanka Trump items for sale at Nordstrom.

Yemenis Close Bodegas and Rally to Protest Trump’s Ban

Thousands of Yemeni-Americans and their supporters rallied in Brooklyn on Thursday to denounce President Trump’s executive order on immigration, hours after hundreds of Yemeni-owned bodegas and grocery stores around New York closed to protest the order.

Waving American and Yemeni flags and holding signs in English and Arabic, the demonstrators filled the plaza at Borough Hall. They gathered for the Islamic sunset prayer and listened intently as a series of public officials greeted them with the words “Assalamu alaikum” and condemned the president’s order, which temporarily bars citizens of Yemen and six other majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States.

“This order goes against everything we came here for and everything America stands for,” said Abdul Salam Mubaraz, a bodega owner who had closed his shop for the day and spoke from the stage. For people fleeing war-torn countries like Yemen, he said, the restrictions amounted to “having the door of freedom shut by President Trump.”

Yemeni-owned bodegas are institutions in many New York neighborhoods, selling coffee and bagels, groceries, umbrellas and many other items. Organizers said several hundred had closed from noon to 8 p.m. on Thursday in protest, which Eric L. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, told the crowd, sent “a loud and clear message to America.”


Many in the crowd were owners of bodegas that shut down for much of the day as part of the protest.CreditAnthony Lanzilote for The New York Times

Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed support for the protesters on Twitter.

“New York City’s bodega owners are bravely shutting their doors to oppose the president’s shameful executive order,” Mr. de Blasio wrote. “I stand with them.”

Many at the rally said they had been in this country for a long time. Khaled Abdel Salam, 41, immigrated to the United States in 1987 and works as a superintendent in a Manhattan apartment building. He said he was worried that the immigration restrictions were a sign of more trouble to come for Muslims in the United States.

“We think this is the best country in the world,” he said. “We love America and we want to be able to keep living here.”

Others were newer arrivals.

Wissam Obaya, 21, moved to the United States two years ago to join his parents in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, where he works in a cousin’s bodega. The shop was among those that shut down, so he and his friends came to the rally, where they joked around and took selfies with their protest signs.

Despite the convivial atmosphere, Mr. Obaya said he was concerned.

“I’m upset because Trump doesn’t care about what’s best for Muslims,” he said. “This is a bad order. People lives are going to be hurt.”


A Yemeni-owned store in Brooklyn was one of hundreds of such businesses that were expected to close for much of Thursday in opposition to the immigration restrictions ordered by Mr. Trump last week.CreditStephanie Keith/Reuters

Nabil Ahmed Aljomai closed three Bronx stores that he owns as part of the strike.

“We are trying to tell Mr. Trump that America is the greatest and we want to keep it the greatest in the American way, not in his way,” Mr. Aljomai said. “His decision is racist and he’s not supposed to make a decision like that.”

Mr. Aljomai immigrated in 1992. He and his eight children are citizens, but he said he knew families whose members had different immigration statuses, raising the prospect of the ban dividing them.

“Some people, they are citizens and they have two or three of their children who are citizens, but if they have one family member on a visa they can all get stuck outside,” he said.

Many Yemeni visa-holders who were overseas when the executive order was issued are now unable to return, because the State Department revoked the visas of all nationals from the seven affected countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — even if they had lived in the United States for many years.

“This is larger than the Yemeni community,” said Ibrahim Qatabi, 37, a legal assistant who planned to attend the rally. “We are impacted by the ban, but it should concern every American. Once they ban one group they can ban another group, and that’s how people’s rights get sent back to the Dark Ages.”


Ibrahim Qatabi, a legal assistant who lives in the Sunset Park section, was among those who joined the protest. “Once they ban one group they can ban another group,” he said, “and that’s how people’s rights get sent back to the Dark Ages.” CreditDave Sanders for The New York Times

Mr. Qatabi said that his great-grandfather had immigrated to the United States from Yemen early in the 20th century and that his grandfather had worked for Ford Motor Company.

“How could people like us, who never engaged in violence or anything, be a threat?” he said. “We have been part of this country for a century.”

Yemen has been racked by political instability for years. Its long-serving authoritarian president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was forced to resign in 2012 during the Arab Spring, but the country soon descended into a civil war between rival groups backed by Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The conflict led the United States to close its embassy in Sana, the capital, in 2015. Yemenis hoping to get to the United States have had to go to other countries, like Djibouti or Egypt, to apply for visas. Under President Barack Obama, some Yemenis had their United States passports confiscated at the embassy in Sana.

Debbie Almontaser, president of the board of directors for the Muslim Community Network and an organizer of the protest, said many New Yorkers of Yemeni descent who had been working to bring relatives to the United States now had loved ones stranded in other countries overseas. She said the executive order had separated her brother-in-law from his wife and two children, who were in Jordan.

“It is sad because now due to the Muslim ban there are many families that are unable to reunite,” she said.

Planned protests break out at NYU over conservative speaker’s appearance


Multiple protesters were reportedly arrested Thursday night after an outcry over conservative speaker and Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes appearance at an NYU seminar.

According to CBS New York, police didn’t release any information on how many people were arrested or what charges they would face.

The raucous crowd appeared outside the Kimmel, Rosenthal Pavilion over McInnes’ speech at a seminar for college Republicans.

Tweets from NYU’s independent news source showed lines of cops outside the building. One tweeter at the scene of the protests said each police officer was carrying between 8 and 10 zip ties, according to the New York Post.

Live video from inside the event showed McInnes speaking to the crowd and shouting at protesters who managed to sneak into the seminar. A frustrated McInnes cut the speech early after having a few choice words with some protesters who yelled things like “Shame!” and “Who’s campus, our campus!” at him.

Gizmodo reported that McInnes barely made it into the NYU building. He was met with several protesters rushing him and unruly chants. The Post reported that some set “Make America Great Again” hats on fire.

The protests were apparently coordinated through Facebook under the name “Disrupt Gavin McInnes at NYU.”

“Come to Kimmel, Rosenthal Pavilion to let NYU know that we will not stand for bigotry, racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny on our campus,” the event page reads. “Gavin McInnes has a long track record of using incendiary language to attract media attention and frenzy…Most recently, in December 2016, Gavin McInnes launched an informal group called the Proud Boys, an “anti racial guilt,” anti-feminist organization. When NYC Antifa began to share information about members of the group with their employers (in many cases leading to job loss), McInnes urged the Proud Boys to attend an Antifa concert and ‘wreck the s–t’ of the ‘f–gots.’”

The College Republicans group said in a statement they were disappointed in the protests, calling it a “shame” that the protesters couldn’t  “be respectful of McInnes.”

The McInnes protest comes a day after UC Berkeley erupted over Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos’ planned speech. Rioters were seen lighting fires, pepper-spraying a Trump supporter and vandalizing buildings.

Click for more from the New York Post.

Trump draft executive order full of sound and fury on immigration, welfare and deportation

A draft plan, under discussion inside the Trump administration, promises to exclude would-be immigrants who might need public assistance and to deport, whenever possible, those already dependent on welfare.

The draft executive order, as written, illuminates one of the ways in which the Trump administration plans to deliver on campaign-trail promises to halt what candidate Trump repeatedly described as the intentional abuse of American social service programs. The effort, as described, appears to want to reduce immigrants’ impact on American taxpayers and the workforce. But there are just a few problems with Trump’s draft order.

They begin with the facts.

The language in the order, as written, portrays immigrants generally as a drain on the American taxpayer, and would direct the government to address the issue in several ways. The draft order would:

  • Direct various federal agencies to more strictly identify and exclude potential immigrants likely to need certain types of public aid and deport those already in the United States who have had to rely on social services help.
  • Command federal officials to determine how much the federal government could save — it specifically suggests a savings of $100 billion — if immigrants were limited to getting “only the public benefits that they are eligible to receive.”
  • Compel federal officials to demand reimbursement from people inside the United States who made legal promises to support immigrant relatives, if necessary.
  • Require social service agencies to report immigrant benefit recipients to federal authorities.

The order calls for lots of research too, including how the estimated $100 billion in savings the order says these activities would generate could be brought to bear on domestic poverty along with regular reports monitoring the number of immigrants blocked, reimbursements demanded and the status of monitoring efforts to stop immigrants from receiving public benefits.

But, almost none of the issues identified in the draft order exist as they are described in the order.

Immigration is complex. Citizenship status can change and, in many U.S. households, citizens and legal and illegal immigrants live together, making the rights and benefits available to them difficult to quantify or classify as aid to “aliens.” Long-standing U.S. law already makes it rare for noncitizens to receive most forms of public assistance, such as cash payments. And, experts in immigration law and the nation’s public assistance programs say there’s little data to support the administration’s claim that immigrants disproportionately draw on public aid.

There are at least 5.1 million children living in the United States with a parent who is an unauthorized immigrant, according to an analysis published by the Migration Policy Institute in January 2016. More than 70 percent of these children are also U.S. citizens, eligible for a full slate of social service benefits as any other child in a family with a similar income. And immigrant children are more likely than others to live in low-income families. As many of those children are minors, they cannot simply be given control of the federal food or cash aid for which they qualify. The benefits have to be controlled by their parents, immigrants who are the heads of their households.

These families offer a helpful framework for thinking about any promise to surgically extract needy immigrants, said Tanya Broder, a senior staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center.

“The reality is that immigrants and citizens live together, work together and inhabit the same communities and neighborhoods,” said Broder, who specializes in policies affecting access to health care, public education and aid. “For good reason, we want every baby to be born healthy, every young child to have basic nutrition and the people around us to be physically healthy enough to contribute to our economy. When you ignore that, the consequences can quickly become more costly in terms of human beings and taxpayer dollars than providing services in the first place.”

Though the draft orders characterize a ban on immigrants receiving welfare as something new, or at least insufficiently enforced, some of what it lays out as proposals for new immigration and welfare policy already exists. And what the order depicts as poor enforcement is actually more like a long line of laws, legal decisions, rules and official guides for federal employees that have made public charge deportations rare.

For more than 100 years, U.S. law has allowed federal officials to bar immigrants who, based on a specific formula, seem likely to need public assistance after arrival. That test is known as the “public charge” law. The law technically allows federal immigration authorities to deport immigrants who become public dependents within five years of their arrival and prevent legal immigrants from moving toward citizenship for the same reason.

Individuals living in the United States who want to help their relatives enter the country also are already required to sign an affidavit attesting to the fact that they earn enough money to support themselves and those hoping to immigrate. Anyone signing such an affidavit also agrees to pay back public assistance should their relatives receive it.

On top of that, in 1996, President Bill Clinton signed The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, widely known as “welfare reform.” In addition to the lifetime limits for all welfare recipients, the law significantly restricted immigrant access to the U.S. social safety net.

“It was definitely the biggest change in policy regarding immigrant access to means-tested benefits ever,” said Ron Haskins, one of the chief architects of the welfare reform law and a Republican congressional committee staffer who worked with the Clinton administration on the matter. Today, Haskins is a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, where he co-directs the Center on Children and Families.

Those reforms barred illegal immigrants from many programs designed for the poor, said Audrey Singer, a senior fellow in the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center at the Urban Institute. She studies demographic change, immigration, global refu­gee movements and their municipal implications.

Much to the chagrin of many Republicans in Congress, some of these rules were scaled back during the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, Haskins said. The reason for the rollbacks: Many Democrats were never fond of the specifics of the welfare reform law, Haskins said. Clinton was unsure, and just two cabinet members and advisers in the room with Clinton when he decided to sign the 1996 law thought the immigrant provisions should be included, Haskins said.

Politics wasn’t the only driver. In the years that followed welfare reform, documented reports of abuses, inaccurate reads of the public charge law, exorbitant fines 33 times the value of benefits provided and other stories began to reach Washington, Broder said.

By 1999, administration officials clarified the public charge law so that participation in food aid programs, seeking help with medical care, job training, education or child care clearly could not be considered violations of the country’s prohibition on public dependency. Since 2002, immigrant children have been eligible for food aid during the five-year waiting period required for adults, and since 2009, states have had the option of providing health care coverage to legal immigrant children and pregnant women within their first years in the United States.

Still today, immigrant access to Social Security assistance is seldom granted, Singer said. Legal immigrants — including green-card holders — must navigate a mandatory five-year waiting period for eligibility in most aid programs. And, once on cash aid rolls, legal immigrants become subject to the same lifetime limits that apply to everyone else. What’s more, some immigrants never become eligible for cash aid, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). To do so they have to fit certain criteria and live in a certain states. Across the country, refugees — people fleeing war, famine or persecution — receive six months of assistance after they arrive in the U.S., then become ineligible for most aid for several years.

None of that adds up to a situation anything like that implied by Trump’s draft executive order. Immigrants do not make up overwhelming majorities of those receiving public assistance.

Immigrant families are less likely to receive food benefits than other households, according an Urban Institute analysis of federal 2008 and 2009 SNAP data. The pattern held but the gap between immigrant and native-born families narrowed when it came to cash aid and public health insurance.

In poor families, about 18 percent of children with native-born parents received cash help — Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) — in 2008 and 2009, compared with about 12 percent of children with foreign-born parents, according to the study. Among children in poor families, 77 percent of those with U.S.-born parents and 69 percent of those with foreign-born parents had Medicaid or CHIP coverage.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture did not respond to a request for detailed data on the citizenship and national origin status of more recent or current SNAP (food stamps) recipients. A Department of Health and Human Services representative said the department does not have such data for Medicaid users. But an annual report on TANF recipients compiled by the agency suggests strongly that the inferences in Trump’s draft order are not well founded.

In fiscal year 2015, 744,257 adults were enrolled in the cash assistance program along with about 2.37 million children who live with ineligible adults. That group of children includes some living with legal and illegal immigrant parents. But, noncitizens made up about 280,300 — or just 9 percent — of all the people receiving cash aid.

Here’s how powerful an executive order is and how it could be reversed

President Trump has signed 19 executive actions since he took the oath of office on January 20th. The orders and memoranda range from freezing all pending regulations until his administration approved them, to a controversial immigration order barring citizens and refugees from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the US.

It’s been a dizzying first week and a half of the Trump administration, as federal agency employees, reporters covering the White House, and casual observers alike navigate through the 45th president’s flurry of executive orders.

What is an executive order?

An executive order is a “directive by the president to the officers and officials of the executive branch,” Columbia law professor and former Associate Counsel to President Jimmy Carter, Philip Bobbitt told Business Insider.

While the president can’t order private citizens to specifically do something, they are still affected by executive orders insofar as their interactions with executive officials. “They do have the effect of law,” Bobbitt explained.

Can an executive order be reversed?

Both the legislative and judicial branches have the power to reverse an executive order.

If the president issues an executive order in accordance with a law passed by the legislative branch and Congress disagrees, they can pass a bill clarifying the law. However, the president has the power of the veto, in which case Congress would have to override the veto with a two-thirds majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

If, however, an executive order pertains to the president’s independent constitutional responsibilities, then only the courts can reverse it. Bobbitt uses the example of Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order issued by Abraham Lincoln in accordance with his power as commander-in-chief. While Congress did not have the power to override that order, the courts could have declared it unconstitutional.

More recently, the courts blocked President Obama’s 2014 executive action to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation and allow them to work legally in the US. The 2016 Supreme Court decision was deadlocked (only eight justices voted as there was a seat left vacant by Justice Scalia’s death earlier that year). The tie meant that a lower court’s decision that Obama likely exceeded his executive authority stopped the plan from being implemented.

EU leaders in Malta, hoping to curb African migration

European Union leaders meet on Malta on Friday to endorse plans they hope can forestall a new wave spring of migrants sailing for Italy from Africa, but aware that anarchy in Libya means any quick fix is a long shot.

Theresa May will also attend, despite the prime minister’s plan to start negotiations by next month to take the U.K. out of the EU — a reminder that Britain, along with France, is one of the bloc’s two main military powers and a key aid donor in Africa, and that Brussels will go on cooperating with London long after Brexit.

May also has a chance to brief her 27 peers on her visit last week to new U.S. President Donald Trump, whose backing for Brexit, doubts on free trade, barring of refugees and warmth toward Russia all raise alarm in Europe. The British leader could feel a degree of frost over her rush to embrace Trump.

A controversial agreement with Turkey last year halted an influx of refugees that had brought a million migrants into Germany via Greece. Now the EU has turned its attention to Italy, where a record 181,000 people arrived in 2016, most of them deemed to be seeking work and not in clear need of asylum from persecution.

The risks that those people run in the seas around Malta after crossing the Sahara — more than 4,500 drowned last year — will be highlighted when leaders renew vows to help Africans live better without leaving home: “This is the only way to stop people dying in the desert and at sea,” summit chair Donald Tusk said. “The only way to gain control over migration in Europe.”

Popular hostility to immigration has stoked nationalist, anti-EU movements, creating a powerful incentive for leaders facing re-election to appear to be control. That includes German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who wants a fourth term in September.


EU leaders acknowledge they cannot replicate with Libya the deal they made with Turkey to take back asylum-seekers. As the U.N. refugee agency reminded them on Thursday, Libya since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 is simply not a safe place.

“There will be no bazooka,” a senior EU official said on Thursday, ruling out — at this stage — that the bloc could get more directly involved in handling asylum seekers inside Africa.

That leaves the EU trying to bolster the shaky, U.N.-backed Tripoli government of Prime Minister Fayez Seraj, who was in Brussels and Rome on Thursday to hear pledges of cash and help to train and strengthen his coastal and border forces.

As well as trying to disrupt smuggling gangs, the EU aims to deport more failed asylum seekers from Italy, using its cash to overcome resistance among African states to taking people back. Deportations may never occur on a grand scale, but EU officials argue that a more visible risk of being deported may dissuade would-be migrants from setting out in the first place.

“But everyone understands that this is a long shot,” one senior EU diplomat said.

Other deterrence, including publicizing the unhappy fate of many migrants, may be having an effect. In Agadez in Niger, the numbers gathering to cross the Sahara have plunged lately — though smugglers may just have altered routes.

The European leaders will turn their attention after May leaves later in the day to how to shore up popular support for the EU. They will hash out ideas for a declaration on the bloc’s future when they mark its 60th anniversary in Rome in March.