Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Washington Post on private detention centers for migrants:
The Trump administration was great for business — if your business happened to be running private detention centers for migrants. Although deportations under the previous president were more sluggish than he might have liked, the number of asylum seekers who languished in for-profit prisons soared before the pandemic.
Over Donald Trump’s four years in office, his administration oversaw the establishment of more than 40 new migrant detention centers. President Biden ran on a pledge to close them, but his administration’s confused messaging on migration and the border overtook that hopeful campaign promise. A surge of unauthorized border-crossers, apprehended by U.S. border agents, has forced the administration into a defensive crouch on immigration.
More than 20,000 migrants are now in detention; that’s thousands more than Mr. Biden inherited on taking office, although the number has fallen in recent months as border-crossing has eased. Many of the detainees are in the private facilities he had hoped to shutter. Most were detained along the U.S.-Mexican frontier, where U.S. border agents have had their hands full with a record number of unauthorized border-crossers over the past year. Relatively few were picked up in the interior, a fact that reflects the administration’s distaste for “sweeps” that target migrants who have been in the country for years.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that relatively few of those in migrant detention centers have committed crimes or present a threat to society; three-quarters of them have no criminal record. They are held on civil violations of immigration law, typically pending hearings on their asylum applications.
Most should be released as their asylum cases are adjudicated, as is the case for about 165,000 migrants in a government program called Alternatives to Detention, which monitors them using various means, including a smartphone app. To its credit, the Biden administration has nearly doubled the number of migrants enrolled and reportedly plans to further expand the program.
One problem with warehousing growing numbers of migrants is that many of the facilities holding them have a track record of woeful conditions. Poor medical treatment, which preexisted the pandemic, has fueled an explosion of covid-19 cases behind bars, which has intensified with the omicron variant. Those outbreaks sickened not only tens of thousands of migrants but also the guards and staff who monitored them, along with surrounding communities, often in rural areas.
Mr. Biden correctly believed that privately run migrant detention centers, overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, should be shut down — he said so clearly as a candidate for president. Soon after taking office, he signed an executive order to phase out the use of private prisons for federal inmates, but stopped short of fulfilling his promise to do so in the case of migrant detainees.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who has also expressed concern about problems at privately run detention facilities, has closed down two of them where abuses were reported. He is pressing for further moves, according to DHS officials.
The administration’s weak-kneed wavering on fulfilling the president’s promise is unacceptable. The least it can do is insist on decent conditions and health care for the migrants incarcerated in private facilities. That’s not a big ask; it’s a minimal expectation in a civilized society.
The Wall Street Journal on the message of Canada's trucker protest:
Canadian truckers opposed to a Covid-19 vaccination mandate used their rigs on Monday to block the Ambassador Bridge connecting Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, the busiest international land-border crossing in North America.
This latest act in a week-long show of civil disobedience is more akin to political life in France or the U.S. That it happened in restrained Canada is a signal to the political class across the West: Large swaths of humanity are done with Covid-19 restrictions, mandates and excessive meddling in their lives. They want to go back to making their own health-risk assessments.
The Ambassador Bridge, which carries some $323 million in goods daily in cross-border trade and an estimated $137 billion last year, reopened Tuesday morning. Yet truckers continue their protest in Ottawa, which is disturbing the peace and worse in that usually peaceable Canadian capital.
The truckers should be prosecuted if they break the law, as we argued for Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matters protesters on the left. But as the Omicron virus shows itself to be less lethal and positive test rates fall, the truckers are sending a message to democratic governments that it’s time for the pandemic emergency orders to end.
For two years the truckers were classified as “essential” workers and therefore exempt from vaccine mandates. An estimated 85% of them are vaccinated. Yet Liberal Party Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who heads a minority government, has chosen this moment to order that truckers be vaccinated if they want to cross back into the country from the U.S.
The Canadian left is sneering at the truckers and their supporters, suggesting they’re nothing more than right-wing Trumpians. Mr. Trudeau has smeared them as “a few people shouting and waving swastikas.” But the push-back against Covid-19 overreach has gone global. In January police fired water cannons at an estimated 50,000 European protesters in Brussels registering their exhaustion with restrictions and mandates. Since December protesters have gone to the streets elsewhere in Europe and in New Zealand and Australia.
A majority of Canadians don’t support the Ottawa protests, according to polls. But a recent survey by the Angus Reid Institute found that a majority favors lifting restrictions, suggesting the Trudeau mandate, which went into effect on Jan. 15, was a political miscalculation. By energizing a significant part of the electorate, until now less present in public discourse, he has set off a backlash, deepened Canadian polarization, and raised the stakes in a showdown with the truckers.
Mr. Trudeau insists he has the power to require that truckers show vaccination at the border and will therefore stand his ground. Meantime, Canada’s provincial premiers are gradually easing Covid rules. On Tuesday Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe announced that the province’s vaccine passport, negative test requirement and mask mandate will be lifted by the end of the month. Also on Tuesday, Joel Lightbound, a Liberal Party member of Parliament from Quebec, criticized Mr. Trudeau for a Covid-19 agenda that he said is dividing the country and damaging public confidence.
The lesson for the Covid-19 police is that when you’ve lost even Canadians, arguably the most law-abiding people on the planet, you’ve lost the political plot. Time to adopt a new strategy more tolerant of the need to return to life not dominated by pandemic fear and government commands.
The Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey, on Jan. 6 and the GOP:
The Republican National Committee has officially decided that the mob riot at the Capitol was not lawless violence, but a reasonable public debate on constitutional nuances.
That was part of a resolution drafted by the RNC, when it condemned Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for joining the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, which the RNC refers to as a “Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”
The party of Donald Trump supports vandals who smashed windows, assaulted police officers, ransacked offices, threatened lawmakers, and defecated on floors, a Trump-triggered strike on democracy that left five dead and 140 cops injured.
Apparently, the party that believes kneeling during the anthem desecrates the flag also thinks that using the flag to bludgeon a cop is “legitimate political discourse.”
It is also a vivid sign that Republicans believe the retention of power justifies deadly violence, so it is not unreasonable to ask of every member of the party of Trump -- from Kevin McCarthy to the last goose-stepping back-bencher – whether they embrace such authoritarianism as their new creed.
Just don’t hold your breath: Multiple attempts to solicit any reaction to the RNC resolution from Republican members of the New Jersey delegation have resulted in crickets. Requests made to Rep. Chris Smith and Rep. Jeff Van Drew were not acknowledged, nor was the request made to former state senator Tom Kean Jr., who is seeking to unseat Rep. Tom Malinowski in the 7th District.
Some Republicans had the sense to condemn the RNC language, including Sens. Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, and Bill Cassidy. Former Gov. Chris Christie argued that the RNC’s statement was a political detriment, but he didn’t say much about the part where the RNC advocates busting heads.
Bill Palatucci, Christie’s former right-hand man, is said to be the only New Jersey RNC delegate to voice his opposition, though he had trouble reading the room: He suggested that the RNC commend Mike Pence, ostensibly for standing up to his puppet master, and in the end Palatucci called the censure of Cheney and Kinzinger a “terrible action by the RNC.”
The weekend of damage control included RNC chair Ronna McDaniel’s claim that the censure language referred to “discourse that had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol,” but she did not change one word in the carefully negotiated resolution, and she omits the fact that neither the committee nor federal prosecutors are targeting non-violent marchers.
So most Republicans have little choice but to perpetuate this New, Improved Lie about legitimate discourse, even though their last lie about stolen elections is helpless against a rising tide of accountability, prosecution, and a congressional investigation. Rebranding thugs as honest dissenters is going to be a difficult sell for Republicans going forward – because seditious conspiracy is not honest dissent -- and judging by the polls, it will be challenging to remain tethered to Trump himself.
As Rep. Tom Malinowski told New Jersey Globe last week, “When a party officially declares a mob attack on cops and the Capitol ‘legitimate political discourse,’ they’ve all got to own it, or take a stand against it.”
Until then, Republican courage is embodied mostly by Cheney and Kinzinger, who defied their party’s intransigence by signing on to the J-6 committee – fully aware that they were putting their careers in jeopardy -- and the choice they made was a monumental gesture of patriotism.
Cheney, the lodestar of the moment, calls GOP leaders “willing hostages,” and says she does “not recognize those in my party who have abandoned the Constitution to embrace Donald Trump. History will be their judge.”
That is true of all Trump enablers, and New Jersey has its share.
Toronto Star on a national child care system in Canada:
Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the province is “very, very close” to striking a multi-billion-dollar child care deal with Ottawa.
Indeed, as the lone holdout in Ottawa’s $30-billion quest to create a long-awaited national child care system, pressure is mounting on both sides to get the job done.
Ontario is important.
Although there are licensed child care spaces to cover barely a quarter of Ontario’s children, the province boasts close to 500,000 spots, the largest number outside Quebec. Ontario is also the only province that empowers municipalities to plan and oversee services to meet regional needs.
With $10.2 billion from Ottawa to reduce parent fees to an average of $10 a day, raise worker wages and grow the system so all children have access to quality care, the province is poised to become a powerful national leader in early childhood education.
But as Karina Gould, the federal minister of families, children and social development, told CBC’s Metro Morning recently, Ottawa is still waiting to see how Ontario would use this money to meet the national child care objectives. “We don’t yet have a plan,” she said.
That’s a problem.
After all, this is the provincial government that scrapped Kathleen Wynne’s plan to offer free child care for preschoolers.
Ford’s Progressive Conservatives were even ready to gut full-day kindergarten until provincial polling confirmed the program’s universal popularity.
Instead of limiting new child-care funding to public and non-profit programs that are more likely to provide high quality care, the PCs began allowing for-profit businesses to operate before- and after-school care in public schools.
And they made it easier for municipalities to direct more public funds to for-profit operators, including to new for-profit child care spaces.
The Tories’ signature child care initiative this term was the Ontario Child Care Tax Credit, a modest financial benefit modelled on a Quebec tax credit that significantly drove up development of for-profit centres, creating new quality and cost issues for parents in that province.
So when Education Minister Stephen Lecce says “parents need flexibility,” Ottawa should be wary.
About a quarter of Ontario’s child care spots are run by for-profit businesses. Parents using those spaces need a financial break and staff deserve the same pay increases as those in non-profit or public programs.
But Ottawa would be foolish to sign a deal that would allow Ontario to use federal dollars to increase the number of for-profit child care spaces. Especially now.
As a recent British study warned, financial markets are investing in child care at an alarming rate. Large corporations are gobbling up small nurseries and child-care chains in England and elsewhere without investing in better services. Too often, programs are left heavily indebted and at risk of closing, the study found.
Canadian child-care experts say they have been receiving inquiries since last spring from financial industry analysts looking to advise clients on investment opportunities in this country.
Why would Ottawa allow its historic new child-care spending to be sucked into global capital markets in this way?
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland gets it. In an interview last year Freeland said she is a “huge believer in the private sector” and believes small business will be key to post-COVID recovery. But caring for seniors and children are “special cases,” she said. “We need to have a strong bias towards not-for-profit care for them.”
As momentum builds for a deal with Ontario, Ottawa should insist on nothing less.
The Guardian on sick pay
Sajid Javid has begun a rather dramatic U-turn. Until recently, the health secretary insisted that care workers and frontline NHS staff had to get vaccinated against Covid or find another post, but the policy has now been dropped. Compulsory vaccination is still good health policy, he told fellow MPs, but ministers worry about a plunge in staff numbers. Yet there is a policy that public health officials, doctors and trade unionists have been calling for since the start of the pandemic, and that would not infringe on civil liberties or dent staff numbers: introducing a proper sick pay system. Doing that would reduce the spread of infectious diseases, ease the cost-of-living crisis for the working poor during this pandemic, and be a small step towards a fairer country.
The UK’s statutory sick pay system is in terrible health. The previous health secretary, Matt Hancock, admitted that he couldn’t live on what it pays, currently £96.35 a week. No surprise there: it is among the lowest sick pay in the industrialized world.
Even worse, about 2 million workers do not earn enough to qualify for it, a fact that troubled the government enough to consult on whether to make the regime more generous. Three out of four employers who responded agreed that statutory sick pay should be extended, and small businesses were as supportive as large. Despite such hearty enthusiasm, the welfare secretary, Thérèse Coffey, long-grassed any idea of reform. The motive is probably the same as that behind last autumn’s withdrawal of the £20 boost to universal credit: the government does not want any of its pandemic-era “giveaways” to become permanent. For all that ministers pretend spending cuts are over, this remains a very austere government.
The UK is thus running a huge risk to public health. If waiters think they are coming down with Covid but know they are not eligible for any sick pay, they have every incentive to go to work and cough and splutter over colleagues and customers alike. If care workers suspect they are seriously ill but worry that £96 a week will leave them behind on rent and bills, they have a choice: fall into debt or risk patients getting ill – with potentially serious consequences. These are terrible choices, yet ministers force them on low-paid workers every single day. About 8 million workers – more than a quarter of the labor force – face penury just for falling ill. So much for clapping for careers.
What’s also unfair about this system is who it affects. New research from the IPPR thinktank shows that those people denied sick pay tend to be older or from an ethnic minority and it argues that this reeks of “age and race-based discrimination”.
A healthier sick pay regime would allow anyone to claim it, regardless of low earnings. It would vastly increase mandatory pay and allow workers to claim from day one of their illness. When, in spring 2020, Rishi Sunak announced his measures to prop up the economy and slow the spread of coronavirus, he said: “We’re all in this together.” It was a generous phrase that soon rang hollow, as more and more low-paid workers fell ill just by doing their often essential jobs. The chancellor has had nearly two years to fix the sick pay system. If not now, when?