Authorities cite COVID-19 to justify extensions of student loan payment pause, immigrant expulsion order. COVID-19 is still around, but The Pandemic—a threat so pervasive and severe it requires a wide-scale reorganizing of society—is over. That's long been Republicans' position, and lately even President Joe Biden has agreed. And yet… both sides are still using The Pandemic to excuse extraordinary political measures.
For Democrats especially but also Republicans, the COVID-19 pandemic is over except when it's politically convenient to say that it's not. It's over except when it comes to justifying programs they like and don't otherwise have the support or authority to enact.
For the Biden administration, this means suspending the requirement that student loans must be repaid. Legal challenges have halted Biden's plan to totally wipe out a lot of student loan debt, something his administration is cynically portraying as some sort of cruel obstacle to their benevolence, rather than the way our democratic process works. So the administration has once again extended a moratorium on student loan payment collection that was first issued at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The payment moratorium—which has now been extended nine times, including six times under President Biden—was set to expire on January 1, 2023. It will now be extended until 60 days after court cases regarding the debt forgiveness plan are resolved or, if they are not resolved by the end of next June, 60 days after that.
For Republicans, this means fighting to keep in place an immigrant expulsion measure known as Title 42—also invoked in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic to justify an extraordinary policy. Part of the Public Health Service Act, it says the federal government can take emergency steps to stop the spread of disease. The Trump administration cited it as grounds for the immediate expulsion of migrants caught crossing U.S. borders and for denying these migrants the opportunity to apply for asylum.
"Between March 2020 and August 2022, U.S. border officials carried out over 2 million Title 42 migrant expulsions," noted Reason's Fiona Harrigan recently. "Former CDC Director Robert Redfield extended the Title 42 order for one month and then indefinitely. The Biden administration sometimes fought to keep the order in place and then tried to rescind it, only to be challenged by a federal judge."
Earlier this month, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia vacated the order. Under the ruling, it would cease to apply on December 21.
Now, 15 states—all but one led by Republicans—filed a motion to intervene in the case, which would allow them to fight to keep the immigrant expulsion order in place. The motion was filed by the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Even as Republican leaders have largely opposed extending public health measures based on pandemic concerns, these states are still citing COVID-19 as justification for keeping immigrants out. States have an interest in "excluding persons carrying communicable diseases," states their motion.
"The states mistakenly believe Title 42 can be used for general border enforcement," Lee Gelernt of the American Civil Liberties Union told The New York Times. "But it is a limited public health provision, and these states have not remotely shown that they need Title 42 for public health reasons."
A questionable consensus on autism treatment. In The Boston Globe, John Summers takes a fascinating look at the evidence—or lack thereof—guiding treatment for autistic kids in America. Known as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), it's based on discredited theories of behaviorist B.F. Skinner.
"Legislatures in most states, including Massachusetts, have responded to the rapid acceleration of autism diagnoses by mandating insurance coverage of ABA," notes Summers. "Early Intervention, a federally funded program serving children from birth to 3 years, steers children diagnosed with autism into ABA programs."
And yet there's little data on whether ABA programs are actually effective and in Summer's own experience with an autistic son, it has not been. "To my knowledge, only one large-scale outcomes analysis has been undertaken by government," writes Summers:
That is the US Department of Defense's ongoing "Autism Care Demonstration," a multiyear assessment of claims made in the military's insurance program. "The Department remains very concerned," the 2021 report concluded, as "almost half of the participants are experiencing no change or worsening symptoms after two years of ABA services." The data showed no correlation between treatment intensity and outcomes. Of the improvements that were imputed to ABA, the Pentagon's report questioned whether they were "clinically significant." ABA's own research standards, the report said, "do not meet our hierarchy of evidence standard for medical and proven care."
Read the whole thing here.
Fauci to be deposed in social media case today. Anthony Fauci is scheduled to be deposed today in a case accusing the Biden administration of improperly pressuring social media companies to suppress information about COVID-19. The case was filed by attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana (both Republicans). "We all deserve to know how involved Dr. Fauci was in the censorship of the American people during the COVID pandemic," Lousiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said in a statement yesterday. "Tomorrow, I hope to find out."
• Seven people were killed after a gunman opened fire at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia.
• The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit says the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, created by Congress in 2020, is unconstitutional, representing the "vesting government power in a private entity not accountable to the people."
• Mandatory life sentences for minors convicted of certain crimes are unconstitutional, says the Tennessee Supreme Court.
• Ohioan Dean Gillispie was awarded $45 million in a wrongful imprisonment lawsuit. Gillispie "sued Miami Township police and former detective Scott Moore for suppressing evidence and tainting eyewitness identifications in the 1991 rape and kidnapping case against Gillispie," notes USA Today. Moore's moves sent Gillispie to prison for more than 20 years.
• New York just enacted a two-year moratorium on cryptocurrency mining.
• "Britain's Supreme Court has ruled that Scotland's government cannot unilaterally hold a second referendum on whether to secede from the United Kingdom, in a blow to independence campaigners that will be welcomed by Westminster's pro-union establishment," reports CNN.