Dallas Morning News. Jan. 6, 2021.

Editorial: Some American children won’t get stimulus checks just because they were born to immigrant parents. That’s wrong, and Congress must fix it.

While lawmakers wrestled last week over the size of stimulus payments for COVID-19 relief, Americans engulfed by disease, debt and desperation waited eagerly for a deposit of any amount to hit their bank accounts.

But some of the most vulnerable Americans — U.S.-born children who can’t fend for themselves — will get nothing, only because their parents are here without authorization.

The new relief bill approved by Congress on Dec. 21 did reverse the heartless exclusion of some families with mixed citizenship status that did not receive relief under the CARES Act in March. Yet lawmakers have joined in the Trump administration’s decision to deny payments to the American or legally present children of families where immigrant parents are unauthorized.

Under the latest stimulus package, mixed-status couples and their children age 16 or younger will get some aid, with payments going out to the family members who have Social Security numbers. Congress arranged for these citizens and legal immigrants to get retroactive CARES payments along with payments under the new package.

But families with parents who file federal income taxes with individual taxpayer identification numbers or ITINs — often used by unauthorized immigrants — have been shut out, including those that claim American children as dependents.

Across the country, there are more than 2 million citizens or legally present children in families where parents are unauthorized immigrants, according to the Migration Policy Institute think tank. About 354,000 of those children live in Texas.

These estimates include children up to age 17, and the cutoff age for dependent children under the stimulus bills is 16. Still, it is the case that hundreds of thousands of kids younger than 17 who are entitled to the same aid as other Americans won’t get it. Their government has inexplicably abandoned them.

Unauthorized immigrants don’t qualify for most public benefits, but their U.S.-born children are eligible for food stamps, housing subsidies and Medicaid. Why, then, would lawmakers neglect to include these children in two emergency bills conceived to help families weather the worst public health crisis in a century and the resulting economic downturn?

Statistics have faces, and many of these faces belong to poor families on the COVID-19 front lines. About 5.5 million unauthorized immigrants nationwide work in essential industries such as health care, manufacturing and food services, according to the Center for Migration Studies of New York. Many are caring for older Americans as personal caregivers, processing food on dangerous meatpacking production lines or scrubbing dishes and preparing meals in restaurants that have managed to stay open.

Some immigrant families are reluctant to seek government help after the Trump administration announced a stricter “public charge” rule in 2018 that would limit green cards for immigrants who had used or were deemed likely to use public benefits. Even as the rule was challenged in court, unauthorized immigrants began removing their citizen children from assistance programs for which they qualified, according to reporting from this newspaper and others.

“We’re not going to give stimulus checks to illegal aliens. They came into the country illegally, and now we give them a check?” President Donald Trump said last year, though his own company long benefited from the labor of dozens of unauthorized immigrants. “We want to give the checks to the American people.”

Very well, Mr. President. Then send checks to these American children.

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Houston Chronicle. Jan. 4, 2021.

Editorial: The transition from fossil fuel is an opportunity for Texas

Day One of the Joe Biden administration is only a few weeks away and so are a series of executive orders aimed at kick-starting the new president’s ambitious clean energy agenda as part of his promise to forcefully combat climate change.

With the oil and gas industry making up about 30 percent of the Texas economy and more than a third of Houston’s GDP, how the Lone Star State responds to these measures — and to proposed climate legislation — will invariably impact our future.

That impact will not only be felt economically. Intensifying storms due to climate change threaten millions of lives in the region and our city’s very existence.

Judging by past actions, the political response will be cynically simple: Texas Democrats will drag their feet and talk about the complexity of the energy industry, while Republicans will pummel their opponents and label any regulation as a job killer.

But attitudes are changing — among Texans and the oil industry itself. We urge lawmakers and state leaders to see the transition away from fossil fuels not as an obstacle or even a challenge but as an opportunity.

Among what are expected to be Biden’s initial wave of executive orders are limits on methane emissions for oil and gas operations, requiring public companies to disclose climate risks and greenhouse gas emissions, consideration of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change on federal permitting decisions, new fuel economy and energy efficiency standards, and a freeze on new oil and gas leasing in federal lands and waters, including the Gulf of Mexico.

The only thing radical about Biden’s agenda is the same thing that’s always been astounding about America’s stance on climate change among advanced nations: that we have been content with doing so little for so long — or worse, moving backward as President Donald Trump took the United States out of the Paris climate accord and worked to roll back more than 100 environmental rules.

Biden’s climate strategy is seen by many activists as not doing enough, with objections to his support of nuclear power, hydroelectric dams, and carbon capture and storage as a giveaway to industry. While an argument can be made that a more aggressive response is needed, all viable options must be on the table and any real change will require industry support.

On the other side, there are still some stubborn holdouts, but just as denial that the climate was changing at all morphed into a more narrow denial that it was caused by human activity, the debate is now shifting to how quickly we must act and what are reasonable economic sacrifices.

A recent University of Houston study found that more than 80 percent of Texans believe in climate change and most said they are willing to pay more for power produced in a more environmentally conscious way, whether it’s from renewable energy sources or from natural gas produced without venting or flaring.

Demand for oil will recover after the pandemic abates, but major oil companies recognize that the future is not fossil fuels and that a large-scale transition to clean energy is only a matter of time, as pressure from the government and the private sector intensifies. Investment firms such as BlackRock and Goldman Sachs have announced a move away from fossil fuels and Bank of America recently joined other major U.S. banks in refusing to finance oil and gas exploration in the Arctic.

Fortunately, Texas is already farther along than many realize. Nationally, the state ranks first in wind power and third in battery storage capacity. The state is fifth in solar, but the sector is seeing explosive growth, with a $1.6 billion solar farm — the country’s largest — opening outside of Dallas in 2023. Texas is also growing its footprint in the electric vehicle market, with Tesla building a manufacturing plant near Austin.

There will undoubtedly be economic pain as some jobs go away and others take their place, and the state must be ready to offer support through training programs and education for displaced workers. But many in our workforce, especially here in Houston, are already positioned for the future.

“Nowhere else in the world is there such a concentration of scientists, engineers, and economists who understand energy systems and can affect the necessary change,” Bobby Tudor, head of the Greater Houston Partnership, said.

For too long, Texas being business-friendly has been a euphemism for growth at the expense of the environment and public health. If the state is a full and willing participant in the transition away from fossil fuels, everyone can share in the benefits, and the energy capital of the world can be the leader in helping save the planet.

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San Antonio Express-News. Jan. 4, 2021.

Editorial: Spurs make the right call on spectators

A new NBA season beginning less than three months after the last one ended is an oddity, but less of one than an NBA season interrupted for four months by a global pandemic.

It’s also less of an oddity than playing in an arena with no fans, which is what the San Antonio Spurs are wisely doing for the foreseeable future.

Initially, the Spurs planned to allow a limited number of fans to attend games at the AT&T Center. But after Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff encouraged the Spurs to delay attendance out of concern for spiking COVID-19 cases here, the Spurs put public health first.

Wolff was prescient. COVID cases continue to surge here and across the country, even as vaccines are slowly — too slowly — distributed. It would make no sense to invite crowds, even small ones, into an arena as the virus rages.

“While we are confident in the plans and protocols we have in place, we are uncomfortable hosting fans at this moment as the COVID-19 numbers and data in our community continue to trend in the wrong direction,” said R.C. Buford, CEO of Spurs Sports and Entertainment.

The key word is “uncomfortable.” The United States leads the world in reported infections, hospitalizations and deaths because too many individuals, organizations and government entities are comfortable flouting protocols but not uncomfortable risking catching and spreading a deadly virus.

Spurs management and Spurs players, who grew used to playing with no fans in attendance when the season resumed in the NBA’s bubble, are uncomfortable at the prospect of risking their community’s health for home-crowd cheers.

The words of Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan don’t only apply to basketball and should serve as a public health announcement for everyone.

“The message to put out there is health and safety is the most important thing,” he said. “If we want things to get back to being regular soon, we’ve got to be disciplined and understand we got to take (care) of who we need to take care of now, and that’s yourself, your family, and do whatever it takes to stop it from spreading.”

Now, if only the Spurs would withdraw that $255,000 bill to the county for the use of the AT&T Center for voting.

END

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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