Cronkite News RSS Feed https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org Cronkite News is the news division of Arizona PBS. The daily news products are produced by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. en-us Wed, 28 Feb 2024 21:16:32 +0000 Wed, 28 Feb 2024 21:16:32 +0000 [email protected] Business owners challenge bill requiring E-Verify checks for jobs, benefits https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/26/business-owners-challenge-bill-requiring-e-verify-checks-for-jobs-benefits/

Feb. 26, 2024

Business owners challenge bill requiring E-Verify checks for jobs, benefits

PHOENIX - House Speaker Ben Toma says his latest immigration bill could save Arizona billions in welfare benefits annually, but small-business owners rallied Monday to say it will cost the state instead, by driving out businesses and workers. The business owners, backed by advocates and Democratic lawmakers, said HCR 2060 - which would require proof of citizenship to work or to receive any public assistance - will wind up hurting the state's economy while renewing fear among Latinos in Arizona. "HCR 2060 will drive economic investment out of our state. It will instill fear in Black and brown races," said Jose "ET" Rivera, the owner of Tres Leches Cafe in Phoenix. "As a first-generation Mexican-American business owner, I am deeply troubled. We are not welcome." Rivera was just one of the speakers at the rally organized by Sen. Flavio Bravo, D-Phoenix, to oppose Toma's proposal, one of a package of bills in the Legislature that critics are deriding a "SB 1070 2.0" - a reference to the state's controversial "show me your papers law" from 2010. [related-story-right box-title="Related story" link="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/21/senate-votes-to-put-the-illegal-in-illegal-migration-make-it-a-state-crime/" image="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/icearrest-1024.jpg" headline="Senate votes to put the 'illegal' in illegal migration, make it a state crime"] "I was here for that fight," said Alejandra Gomez, executive director of Living United for Change in Arizona, or LUCHA, talking about the days of SB 1070. "I was here for the separation of our families. I was here for the pain and the aftermath of our economy and our neighborhoods … we will not go back to that division, to that hate." Toma did not respond to requests for comment on Monday's rally. But in remarks last week, the Glendale Republican said his proposal is needed to respond to what he called an "invasion" at the southern border that the governor and federal government "are doing nothing about." "We may not be able to do the federal government's job, but we can stop Arizona from becoming like California," Toma said then. "Our message to illegal immigrants is simple: If you want to take advantage of Americans, go somewhere else." He called his proposal "one of the toughest laws on illegal immigration ever written." It would require that businesses and local governments verify the citizenship status of anyone seeking a job or public assistance. It would also "make it a felony to knowingly assist an illegal alien in breaking our employment laws," Toma said. Gov. Katie Hobbs on Monday came out against HCR 2060 and other immigration bills, which she called "job-killing, anti-immigrant legislation meant to score cheap political points." But she may not be able to stop it: Unlike most bills, Toma's resolution would bypass the governor and go directly to voters as a ballot initiative this fall, in what Hobbs called a "desperate, partisan attempt to circumvent the legislative process." But Heritage Action for America defended Toma's plan, saying in a statement last week that the resolution protects Arizonans from the federal government's “prioritization” of illegal immigrants. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7V5aTYmMcmE
(Video by Denzen Cortez/Cronkite News)
"HCR 2060 protects American workers through the commonsense E-Verify program and stems the flow of illegal immigrants by taking away a major magnet for those flooding across the border," the group's statement said. Toma's proposal passed the House Thursday on a 31-28 party-line vote and must now get through the Senate. Joseph Garcia, executive director of Chicanos por la Causa Action Fund, said he hopes the bill does not get through the Senate, but that Monday's rally was needed to educate new voters in Arizona who did not live through SB 1070. "We know the reputation of Arizona with SB 1070 went international in a bad, bad way. So it is about bringing voters up to speed today so we don't go back to the dark days of yesteryear," Garcia said. [caption id="attachment_226850" align="alignright" width="350"]Jose "ET" Rivera, owner of Tres Leches Cafe, said he was "deeply troubled" by the message the HCR 2060 would send to minority communities as well as its economic harm it would to small businesses. (Photo by Martin Dreyfuss/Cronkite News)[/caption] SB 1070 allowed authorities to demand the immigration status of anyone they arrested, a law that critics said was quickly abused by police who used it as an excuse to harass minority communities. Most of the law was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012, which said it infringed on federal authority. Garcia said that immigration is being used as a "wedge issue" by Republicans in an election year, a position echoed by Monica Villalobos, president of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "It is lazy politics to scapegoat immigrants to get elected. Especially this kind of legislation that has already been denounced by the courts," Villalobos said Monday. She said it is a troubling stand for the Republican Party, which frames itself as supportive of small business. "I did not leave the Republican Party. The Republican Party left me," Villalobos said. "It (SB 1070) not only hurt our state image but our state economy. It tore families apart, and instead of Republicans supporting small businesses, they are enforcing crippling policies."]]>
Tue, 27 Feb 2024 02:30:11 +0000 https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/26/business-owners-challenge-bill-requiring-e-verify-checks-for-jobs-benefits/
Going on offense over Defense spending: Biden touts benefits to states https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/26/going-on-offense-over-defense-spending-biden-touts-benefits-to-states/

Feb. 26, 2024

Going on offense over Defense spending: Biden touts benefits to states

WASHINGTON - When the Senate approved $95 billion in military and other aid for Ukraine and Israel earlier this month, President Joe Biden singled out Arizona as one of the states that would benefit from the increased defense spending. It's not clear whether Ukrainian aid is entirely the cause, but there's no question that defense spending has been good to the state. The Pentagon spent $15 billion in Arizona in fiscal 2022, the last year for which data is available, up from $14.6 billion the year before. That boosted Arizona back into the top 10 among states, from 13th place in fiscal 2021. And the amount spent in fiscal 2022 may be more than what the Pentagon reported: A study done last fall for the governor's office said that total military spending in the state in fiscal 2022 was $15.5 billion on an industry that supported 78,780 jobs directly or indirectly. Robert Medler, president of the Southern Arizona Defense Alliance, said the report for the state, the so-called Maguire Report, shows the defense industry's economic strength, saying it has a "sizable chunk of an impact on the Arizona economy." [related-story-right box-title="Related story" link="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/23/two-years-later-arizona-lawmakers-remain-divided-on-ukraine-support/" image="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/ukrainehowitzer-1024.jpg" headline="Two years later, Arizona lawmakers remain divided on Ukraine support"] In its annual Defense Spending by State report for fiscal 2022, the Pentagon said more than half of the spending in Arizona - $8.2 billion - went to Raytheon. Northrop Grumman and Honeywell came in a distant second and third with $855 million and $642 million in Pentagon business, respectively, that year. That domestic spending was highlighted by Biden, as he urged House leaders to take up the aid package. "While this bill sends military equipment to Ukraine, it spends the money right here in the United States of America in places like Arizona, where the Patriot missiles are built; and Alabama, where the Javelin missiles are built; and Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Texas, where artillery shells are made," Biden said. The bill would provide $60 billion to support Ukraine, $14.1 billion in security provisions to Israel, $9.2 billion in humanitarian aid, and $4.8 billion to support Taiwan. It passed 70-29 - both Arizona senators voted for it - on Feb. 13. That vote capped months of negotiating with Senate Republicans, who had insisted that immigration reform be tied to the aid package - before they stripped it out at the last minute and approved the aid package on its own. The House has yet to consider the measure, and it's not clear if House leaders will let it come up for a vote in its present form when they return this week from a two-week recess. Alan Maguire, president of The Maguire Company, said spending from the federal government is vital for the Arizona economy. "Virtually all the money that drives the military industry in Arizona is money that comes out of the Department of Defense," said Maguire, who wrote the comprehensive Military Economic Impact Report for the governor's office. Maguire agrees with Medler that the role the defense industry plays in Arizona's economy will only increase as time goes by.
"What I heard in the year and a half that I worked on this study talking to the commanders and their staff at the various bases is they’re all expecting additional missions," Maguire said of his report, which is done every six years. "When the different branches look at places to put an additional mission, the Arizona facilities look very good," he said. “You’re in a friendly state, you’ve got the Goldwater Range (the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range), and you have access to a huge metropolitan area when a lot of the bases in the country are in relatively rural areas." Medler said the defense industry should serve as a point of pride for Arizonans - for more than just the economic benefit it brings to the state. "National security is important, everyone agrees with that, and to be able to have those industries in Arizona and provide the best technology in the world for our warfighters and our national security is something I think Arizonans are proud of," Medler said. "Obviously, the economic benefit is great, too."]]>
Tue, 27 Feb 2024 02:01:58 +0000 https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/26/going-on-offense-over-defense-spending-biden-touts-benefits-to-states/
Two years later, Arizona lawmakers remain divided on Ukraine support https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/23/two-years-later-arizona-lawmakers-remain-divided-on-ukraine-support/

Feb. 23, 2024

Two years later, Arizona lawmakers remain divided on Ukraine support

WASHINGTON - Two years after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, members of Arizona's congressional delegation remain just as divided as ever on what role the U.S. should play in the war as it enters its third year. While many of the state's Republicans are increasing their calls to take a hard look at the $75 billion in aid so far, and a pending request for $60 billion more, Democrats have steadfastly called for aid to continue, saying it is now "more important now than ever." "Two years in, it is more clear than ever what (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's intent is, and it's not to stop at Ukraine. It is to have Russian troops march forward into NATO territory," Rep. Greg Stanton, D-Phoenix, said Friday. "That is unacceptable to America." But some GOP members said it is not in the best interest of the U.S. to get further involved in a war that continues to drag on. "After nearly two years, no one can still tell me what victory looks like and what America's national interests are," said Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, in a social media post Friday. "If we cannot answer these basic questions, we shouldn't be shelling out $100+ billion to Ukraine." The debate comes as the Biden administration announced economic sanctions against an additional 500 organizations and individuals in Russia "for its repression, human rights abuses and aggression against Ukraine," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday. [related-story-right box-title="Related story" link="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/05/border-bill-includes-funds-for-local-communities-along-with-ukraine-israel/" image="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/disorderflag-1024.jpg" headline="Border bill includes funds for local communities, along with Ukraine, Israel"] The new sanctions come just a week after the death last week of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny in a Siberian prison, a death President Joe Biden blamed squarely on Putin. The new U.S. sanctions bring the total number of economic targets in Russia to more than 4,000 since the start of the war. The war began on Feb. 23, 2022, when Russian troops that had been massing at the border rolled into Ukraine and began a drive toward the capital, Kyiv. But the invasion bogged down and Ukrainian forces quickly pushed the Russians back to the eastern edge of the country, which Russia had invaded along with Crimea in 2014. The war has moved little since. The invasion brought a flood of military and other support from Western nations, but none more so than the U.S., which has sent more than $75 billion in military, economic and humanitarian assistance, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. The Biden administration has since asked for another $60 billion in aid, as part of a $95 billion package that would also send aid to Israel and Taiwan. But that funding struggled in the Senate, which passed it Feb. 13 after weeks of debate, and it now faces even stronger opposition in the House. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Bullhead City, has been skeptical of Ukraine funding since the beginning - offering at one point to arrange an Arizona summit between Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. He did not respond to a request for comment Friday, but he made his position clear in an October statement on the administration's request for a joint package of Ukrainian and Israeli aid. "I will vote for necessary funding to assist Israel in its time of need but if it is combined with billions more for Ukraine, I will vote no," Gosar wrote then. "I have voted against every dime spent supporting the proxy war in Ukraine and I will not start now just because it is wrapped in an Israeli flag." [caption id="attachment_226802" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Mi-17 transport helicopters from the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group are on the flight line at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson being prepared to ship to Ukrainian forces on April 22, 2022. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Kristine Legate/U.S. Air Force)[/caption] Many GOP opponents of Ukrainian aid were like Rep. Eli Crane, R-Oro Valley, who said America has problems at home that it should address first. He said Democrats "ignore our border, disrespect your tax dollars, and refuse to push for peace." Not all of Arizona's Republicans have opposed aid for Ukraine. Republican Reps. David Schweikert of Fountain Hills and Juan Ciscomani of Tucson have both voted for Ukrainian aid, receiving an "A" rating from the Republicans for Ukraine coalition. The same coalition gave Crane, Gosar and Biggs an "F," while Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, got a "C" for voting against one aid package. Like Stanton, Democratic Reps. Ruben Gallego of Phoenix and Raúl Grijalva of Tucson have continued in their support for Ukraine and their condemnation of Putin's actions. The state's senators, independent Kyrsten Sinema and Democrat Mark Kelly, did not respond to requests for comment Friday, but have consistently supported aid for Ukraine and both voted for the latest package on Feb. 13. Stanton pointed to the death of Navalny as evidence of what "Putin is willing to do in order to stay as an authoritarian leader and … reestablish the old Soviet Union." Not supporting Ukraine now would be "one of the worst foreign policy mistakes in American history," he said. "(It) would be a mistake that we would forever regret for years and decades from now that we did not do what we needed to do to support our ally, Ukraine, in the fight against tyranny, the fight against authoritarianism, and the fight to protect the rest of Europe," Stanton said.]]>
Sat, 24 Feb 2024 01:22:03 +0000 https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/23/two-years-later-arizona-lawmakers-remain-divided-on-ukraine-support/
Senate votes to put the ‘illegal’ in illegal migration, make it a state crime https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/21/senate-votes-to-put-the-illegal-in-illegal-migration-make-it-a-state-crime/

Feb. 21, 2024

Senate votes to put the ‘illegal’ in illegal migration, make it a state crime

PHOENIX - The Senate voted Wednesday to make it a state crime to illegally enter Arizona by crossing the border between ports of entry - a proposal that Democratic opponents called both racially motivated and unconstitutional. The 16-13 party-line vote followed nearly two hours of sometimes heated debate in which opponents invoked the state's failed SB 1070 law and supporters pointed to failed federal control of the border. "This will create fear for anyone with black or brown skin," said Sen. Priya Sundareshan, D-Tucson. "We must all stand together in solidarity against this harmful bill." Republicans reacted angrily to the charge that the bill was racially motivated. "This has nothing to do with skin color, not my vote, not to do with your skin color or anybody's skin color," said Sen. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista. Should it win House approval, the bill is almost certain to be vetoed by the governor, but that did not deter Republicans from pushing the bill that they said is a tool that is needed and that police have been asking for. The bill would make it a state crime to be caught trying to cross the border between points of entry or "to be found at any time" in the state if the person had been denied entry previously. Simple "illegal entry" would be a misdemeanor, but it could be elevated to a felony for those with previous convictions. [related-story-right box-title="Related story" link="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/19/house-panel-advances-gop-plan-to-check-citizenship-of-welfare-recipients/" image="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/everifypresser-1024.jpg" headline="House panel advances GOP plan to check citizenship of welfare recipients"] People charged with illegal entry could be ordered back to their home countries by a state judge or magistrate, who would have the authority to drop the illegal entry charge in exchange. It includes language to shield local officials from being sued for enforcing the law. The law would not apply to those granted asylum to stay in the U.S. or to recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the program that prevents deportation of undocumented migrants who were brought here as children. The bill mirrors a law passed last year in Texas that would make illegal immigration a state crime there. That law has since been challenged in court, but one critic Wednesday said the Arizona bill "is just us following Texas' crazy lead." But critics more often compared the current bill to Arizona's SB 1070 - the so-called "show me your papers" law that let police question the citizenship status of anyone they had stopped. That 2010 law was struck down in 2012 by the U.S. Supreme Court, which said a state law making it illegal to be in this country without documentation infringed on the federal government's authority to set and enforce immigration law. Many Democrats on Wednesday harkened back to the fear that SB 1070 caused the state's Hispanic residents. "Within 12 months, I was pulled over more than 10 times by law enforcement," Sen. Rosanna Gabaldón, D-Sahuarita, said of the effects of SB 1070. "When I asked, 'Why did you pull me over?' they said, ‘You don't belong here, you are here illegally, I need you to prove your citizenship.’” Democrats further warned of myriad "unintended consequences" from passing the bill, from economic impact through the loss of immigrant workers and taxpayers to political blowback that they said Republicans will face. Many Republicans were like the bill's lead sponsor, Sen. Janae Shamp, R-Surprise, who accused Democrats of beating "the drum of the past to spread fear and misinformation" by dredging up SB 1070. [related-story-right box-title="Related story" link="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/15/january-sees-sharp-drop-in-border-numbers-after-record-setting-december/" image="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/tumbleradio-1024.jpg" headline="January sees sharp drop in border numbers after record-setting December"] "There is nothing in here that has to do with 1070; I worked hard to make this a tool that our law enforcement has been asking for," Shamp said. One thing both sides agreed on throughout the debate is that the federal government is failing Arizonans by not securing the border. Republicans said that means it is up to the state to protect itself. "When you have a situation where the federal government has turned border control into a welcome wagon, that is when states must step up and do their part," Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills. Kavanagh said he believes this bill would survive a court challenge, unlike the ruling on SB 1070, "because frankly, I believe this Supreme Court will uphold the protection of our border." Joseph Garcia of Chicanos por la Causa Action Fund disagreed, saying SB 1231, the bill debated Wednesday, is "SB 1070 2.0." "For Arizona, we have gone through this before, with SB 1070. We have suffered two self-inflicted black eyes, from boycotts of visitors and a loss of income," Garcia said. "I am disappointed but not surprised that Arizona has not learned its lesson." Sen. Anna Hernandez, D-Maryvale, told her colleagues they should run for federal office if they want to fix what she said "is a federal issue." "Instead of coalescing to put pressure on our federal representation, which has been an issue of both Democratic and Republican legislatures, we are bringing legislation that is so harmful to our communities," she said. Gov. Katie Hobbs' office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the bill.]]>
Thu, 22 Feb 2024 02:52:08 +0000 https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/21/senate-votes-to-put-the-illegal-in-illegal-migration-make-it-a-state-crime/
Feds OK state plan to expand KidsCare eligibility, pay parent caregivers https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/20/feds-ok-state-plan-to-expand-kidscare-eligibility-pay-parent-caregivers/

Feb. 20, 2024

Feds OK state plan to expand KidsCare eligibility, pay parent caregivers

PHOENIX - State officials said Tuesday they have been given federal approval to expand income eligibility for the state's KidsCare program, a change that could add 10,000 children to the low-cost health care program run by the state. They also said they got the green light to make permanent what started as a pandemic-era program to compensate parents who act as caregivers for their disabled children. "When kids have access to affordable health care, it means more than just a healthier life," Gov. Katie Hobbs said as she announced the changes Tuesday. "It means better high school and college graduation rates. It means they're more likely to find a good paying job, and it means they can grow up to reach their full potential without having to rely on Medicaid as an adult," Hobbs said. The changes would raise the income eligibility limit for the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program - also called KidsCare - from the current 200% of the federal poverty level to 225%. That means a family of four earning up to $70,200 would be eligible to enroll their children, expanding eligibility to an additional 10,000 children in Arizona. [related-story-right box-title="Related story" link="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2023/11/13/parents-of-children-with-disabilities-paid-caregivers-following-arizona-proposal/" image="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/parent-caregivers-001.jpg" headline="Parents of children with disabilities could be paid as caregivers under Arizona proposal"] Hobbs' office said the Legislature last year approved $5.5 million for KidsCare expansion in fiscal 2024 and $6.6 million in fiscal 2025 for the KidsCare expansion. But the change required approval from the federal government, which pays more than three-quarters of the program's cost. The state applied in November and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services gave its OK Friday. Arizona families can begin applying under the new rules on March 1, for coverage to start in April. Also Friday, CMS approved the state's request to make the Parents as Paid Caregivers program permanent. That program, which pays parents who provide direct care services to their children with disabilities, was originally designed to assist parents during the COVID-19 pandemic when it was hard to get outside care. CMS granted a temporary extension of the program in October, before giving permanent approval last week. A Hobbs' spokesperson said the state also allocated $133,100 last year in anticipation of making the program permanent. "Reimbursing parents as paid caregivers is a step in the right direction and the right thing to do for children who need these critical services from those they feel the most comfortable with – their parents,” said Carmen Heredia, Cabinet Executive Officer for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state's Medicaid program. The program is essential for Brandi Coon, whose 9-year-old son Tyson was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, epilepsy and traumatic brain injury after contracting bacterial meningitis as a baby. [caption id="attachment_226524" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Brandi Coon, co-founder of the Raising Voices Coalition, which aims to support and empower families of individuals with disabilities, talks about having to be a caregiver for her her son, Tyson, who has epilepsy and cerebral palsy. (Photo by Kayla Jackson/Cronkite News)[/caption] "As Tyson's mom, I am both his parent and his caregiver,” Coon said at Tuesday's news conference. "Those roles interweave constantly." Coon said an average day of caring for Tyson entails caring for his physical needs, including preparing medications, food and water for his feeding tube. She takes him to a microschool, where he "loves to do hard things with age-appropriate learning curriculum, with modifications to help him succeed academically and socially." Coon co-founded the Raising Voices Coalition in 2021 to advocate for family caregivers and push for the program to become permanent. She said after a failed online petition, the group began "meeting with experienced advocates, disability organizations, and state leaders." "After hearing that a permanent program was not a feasible option – many times – we persevered in growing our grassroots advocacy community of parent caregivers, gathering data and building relationships with elected officials in order to have our voices heard," she said. After AHCCCS applied with CMS to make the program permanent, Coon said the coalition "submitted hundreds of public comments where we shared with AHCCCS our personal experiences, recommendations, and feedback regarding their proposal." That pushed AHCCCS to amend the proposal and expand the scope of disabilities that would be covered by the program. [related-story-right box-title="Related story" link="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/01/25/affordable-care-act-enrollment-hit-record-highs-in-arizona-u-s-in-2023/" image="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/enrollmenttraining-1024.jpg" headline="Affordable Care Act enrollment hit record highs in Arizona, U.S. in 2023"] The KidsCare program is a low-cost health care program run by the state, that offers care to families that earn too much to be eligible for Medicaid. Families in the program pay a premium for health care, but it is limited to $50 a month for one child and $70 a month for two or more. Hobbs Tuesday referenced the fact that Arizona cut its CHIP program during the Great Recession, before restoring it in 2016. "For years Arizona was the only state in the country without a Children's Health Insurance Program," Hobbs said. “Thankfully, bipartisanship prevailed.” But the CHIP program was still anemic when Hobbs was elected. Arizona ranked 49th among 50 states and the District of Columbia for its share of uninsured children in 2022, according to a Georgetown University report. It said 8.4% of children in the state did not have health insurance that year, with communities of color significantly outweighing whites in rates of uninsured children. "As Arizona continues to grow, this is a smart investment that will protect our collective futures," Hobbs said Tuesday.]]>
Wed, 21 Feb 2024 02:40:29 +0000 https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/20/feds-ok-state-plan-to-expand-kidscare-eligibility-pay-parent-caregivers/
Chub snub? Advocates question plan to protect threatened Colorado River fish https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/20/chub-snub-advocates-question-plan-to-protect-threatened-colorado-river-fish/

Feb. 20, 2024

Chub snub? Advocates question plan to protect threatened Colorado River fish

Federal water managers proposed a new plan to protect native fish species in the Grand Canyon, but conservation groups say it does not go far enough. The native species at issue is the humpback chub, which is found nowhere on earth besides the Colorado River and its tributaries. Decades after it was declared an endangered species, conservation efforts had allowed its populations to recover to the point that the fish could upgraded to "threatened" in 2021. But the could be imperiled by falling water levels in Lake Powell, the nation’s second-largest reservoir, which have been dropping to historic lows as the region struggles with a decades-long drought. Those low water levels have allowed nonnative fish to pass through the Glen Canyon Dam, which holds back Lake Powell, and eat native fish - like the humpback chub - that live on the other side, in the portion of the Colorado River that runs through the Grand Canyon. Lake Powell, which began filling in the 1960s, was stocked with nonnative fish such as smallmouth bass for recreational fishing in 1982. Smallmouth bass prefer warm water near the reservoir’s surface, but with the surface dropping, the fish are able to move low enough to enter the tubes inside Glen Canyon Dam that allow water to pass from one side to the other. [caption id="attachment_226488" align="alignright" width="350"]A diagram of Glen Canyon Dam shows tubes through which fish in Lake Powell might be able to reach the downriver section of the Colorado River. (Graphic courtesy U.S. Geological Survey/Bureau of Reclamation)[/caption] The Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that manages the West’s dams and reservoirs, released a draft plan this month for water releases from the dam in northern Arizona. It proposed five new ways to manage releases from the dam in an effort to keep native fish thriving in the Colorado River below Lake Powell - four of which involve attempts to make the water cooler and disrupt the spawning patterns of non-native fish. Taylor McKinnon, Southwest director for the Center for Biological Diversity, takes issue with two components of the draft plan. The first, he said, is a tangible change" McKinnon encouraged federal water managers to consider making physical changes to the dam intakes themselves ¬- like adding screens - to keep fish from passing through. “The Bureau of Reclamation has lots of very smart engineers on staff,” he said. “The fact that they have not figured out how to do this to date shows that they have not made it a priority.” The second issue McKinnon described is more of an ideological one. He said federal water managers are not doing enough to look at the long-term viability of the reservoir in the face of a drying climate. “Federal agencies need to become proactive,” he said. “They need to look at the science. They need to look at the forecasts for future Colorado River flows in one decade, two decades. All that information indicates that Glen Canyon Dam is facing climate-inevitable deadpool and climate-inevitable obsolescence.” Deadpool is the point at which water in Lake Powell drops too low to pass water through Glen Canyon Dam. A number of conservation groups are encouraging water managers to consider a future where the dam and reservoir are taken out of use. The Bureau of Reclamation’s draft plan is now in a 45-day public comment period, which began on Feb, 9. -This story is part of ongoing coverage of the Colorado River, produced by KUNC and supported by the Walton Family Foundation.]]>
Tue, 20 Feb 2024 23:14:53 +0000 https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/20/chub-snub-advocates-question-plan-to-protect-threatened-colorado-river-fish/
House panel advances GOP plan to check citizenship of welfare recipients https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/19/house-panel-advances-gop-plan-to-check-citizenship-of-welfare-recipients/

Feb. 19, 2024

House panel advances GOP plan to check citizenship of welfare recipients

PHOENIX – Arizona Republicans want to make it harder for undocumented immigrants to receive state benefits, and they plan to bypass the governor to do so. The House Appropriations Committee, on a party-line vote, gave preliminary approval to House Speaker Ben Toma's proposal to require cities, towns and agencies to use E-Verify to check the citizenship status of anyone applying for public welfare benefits or a license of any kind. Currently, businesses in the state are required to use the federal E-Verify system to check the immigration status of potential employees to make sure they are authorized to work in the United States. "We may not be able to do the federal government's job, but we can definitely stop Arizona from becoming like California," said Toma, a Glendale Republican. "Our message to illegal immigrants is if you want to take advantage of Americans, go somewhere else." But critics panned the resolution that they say is just one of a group of bills that have been dubbed "SB 1070 2.0," a reference to Arizona’s controversial "show me your papers" bill from 2010 that allowed police to demand proof of citizenship from suspects. [related-story-right box-title="Related story" link="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/01/30/lawmakers-approve-8-million-to-continue-busing-asylum-seekers-from-border/" image="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/dcbus-1024.jpg" headline="Lawmakers approve $8 million to continue busing asylum seekers from border"] All the Democrats on the committee voted against the legislation. Rep. Oscar De Los Santos, D-Laveen, called the resolution "bad policy." "I think you're going to see some strong opposition to that," De Los Santos said of the proposal. "We're seeing a wave of attacks, that I think are politically motivated, on immigrants. And as we saw with SB 1070, it has devastating economic impacts on our state and on our economy." Unlike a bill, the resolution would be put before voters this fall if it passes the Legislature, avoiding the likelihood of a veto by Gov. Katie Hobbs. Besides requiring that local governments and agencies use E-Verify for public benefits, the resolution would expand the number of businesses subject to the law and would make it a crime to help an undocumented immigrant bypass or obstruct the system. At a news conference backed by several fellow Republican lawmakers Monday, Toma said the resolution is his response to the federal government’s lack of action on border issues. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, individuals applying for public benefits are already required to provide proof of citizenship or legal status under both federal and state law. It also says that there are a few public programs that undocumented immigrants are eligible for, including emergency disaster relief, Women, Infants, and Children benefits, and some federal aid programs. The other "SB 1070 2.0" bills would make illegal immigration and border crossings state crimes, moves that would allow local and state authorities to take the place of federal enforcement. Hobbs would likely veto any of those measures. Toma said at the news conference that he is confident the bill will make it out of the Legislature. But Rep. Marcelino Quiñonez, D-Phoenix, said at Monday's hearing that perspectives have shifted since SB 1070 was passed in 2010 and he does not believe voters will approve this plan if it makes it to the ballot. "I am confident that individuals out in the community are going to continue to do the work, to organize, to galvanize, to make sure that this kind of rhetoric and these kinds of policies don't become law in Arizona," Quiñonez said.]]>
Tue, 20 Feb 2024 00:36:43 +0000 https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/19/house-panel-advances-gop-plan-to-check-citizenship-of-welfare-recipients/
Federal regulators deny permits for hydropower projects on Navajo Nation https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/16/federal-regulators-deny-permits-for-hydropower-projects-on-navajo-nation/

Feb. 16, 2024

Federal regulators deny permits for hydropower projects on Navajo Nation

Federal energy officials took the unusual step of denying permits Thursday to several pumped hydropower projects proposed on the Navajo Nation, citing a new policy that gives tribes a greater voice in projects on their lands. The tribe and environmental groups had urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to deny applications for several of the pumped storage projects, saying they worried about the impact of the projects but had not been consulted by developers. In the past, the FERC said, it would have given a preliminary OK to the projects while the debate continued, but that under a new policy it will no longer "issue preliminary permits for projects to use Tribal land if the Tribe on whose land the project is to be located opposes the project." Indigenous advocates and conservation groups hailed the move as a win for tribes. [related-story-right box-title="Related story" link="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2023/12/26/pumped-hydropower-plans-proliferate-one-in-particular-stirs-opposition/" image="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/hydromap-1024.png" headline="'Pumped' hydropower plans proliferate; one in particular stirs opposition"] "It is encouraging to see federal decision-makers honoring the trust responsibilities to Native American Tribes,” said a statement from Nicole Horseherder, executive director of the Navajo nonprofit Tó Nizhóní Ání, or Sacred Water Speaks. “Historically, that has not been the case. These projects would have damaged vital groundwater sources that have already been harmed by 50 years of industrial overuse from coal mining," Horseherder's statement said. The "pumped storage" hydropower projects under review use water stored at higher-elevation reservoirs that flows downhill through a turbine, generating electricity, before ending up in a lower reservoir. Then, when electricity demand is lower, that water is pumped back up to the upper reservoir to start the process over again. Developers were seeking preliminary permits that would have allowed planning to proceed, but not construction, on seven projects. The FERC rejected them all: Three Black Mesa projects proposed near Kayenta by the hydropower company Nature and People First; one by the same company near Lukachukai; one by a New Mexico arm of that company, near Two Grey Hills, New Mexico; and two near Page by a company called Western Navajo Pumped Storage. All are on Navajo land. People who live near the project sites worried that the project could damage underground water supplies and sacred lands, and said developers had not done enough to involve nearby residents. There’s been an increase in hydropower projects across the U.S., including on different tribal reservations. But some advocates say tribes like the Navajo Nation are not being consulted enough about their development. Heather Tanana, an attorney specializing in water policy and a member of the Navajo Nation, said the new FERC policy is consistent with the way the Biden administration has been interacting with Tribes, but still represents an improvement. “I think it's a huge testament to the work of local community efforts,” Tanana said. “They're not representing the Navajo Nation as a governmental capacity. To have the communities be empowered in that way is new. ”Tribes have long been excluded from negotiations about access to water from the Colorado River. Thirty federally-recognized tribes use water from the river, and many are still calling for more inclusion in talks about how to divide its shrinking supply. [related-story-right box-title="Related story" link="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2023/06/22/supreme-court-says-treaty-does-not-require-feds-to-secure-navajo-water-rights/" image="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/navajotruck-1024.jpg" headline="Supreme Court says treaty does not require feds to secure Navajo water rights"] In June 2023, the Supreme Court ruled against the Navajo Nation in a case surrounding the tribe’s rights to the river. The tribe claimed it was the federal government’s legal duty to help figure out their future water needs, and aid them in accessing that water. But the justices said an 1868 treaty did not require the government to do so. The recent decision to deny the hydropower projects comes on the heels of widespread opposition from nearby communities. In July 2023, environmental groups filed resolutions with FERC from 18 Navajo communities and agencies that opposed the Black Mesa projects. “I think that was able to really help strengthen that argument from the Navajo Nation Department of Justice regarding the lack of community consultation and consent,” said Adrian Herder, a community organizer with Tó Nizhóní Ání. Tanana said the FERC ruling does not mean the end of development proposals - including hydropower projects - on Navajo Nation, but it does represent a shift in how regulators decide whether they should go forward. “I do think it's fair to say that the community is in the driver's seat now,” she said. “Unless they're the ones pursuing development that they view as beneficial to their community, it's going to be a lot harder to happen.” -This story is part of ongoing coverage of the Colorado River, produced by KUNC and supported by the Walton Family Foundation.]]>
Sat, 17 Feb 2024 01:54:02 +0000 https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/16/federal-regulators-deny-permits-for-hydropower-projects-on-navajo-nation/
January sees sharp drop in border numbers after record-setting December https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/15/january-sees-sharp-drop-in-border-numbers-after-record-setting-december/

Feb. 15, 2024

January sees sharp drop in border numbers after record-setting December

WASHINGTON - Border encounters plunged from record highs of more than 300,000 in December to 176,205 in January, a 42% drop that Customs and Border Protection attributed to enforcement efforts and a traditional seasonal drop. While most people welcomed the drop, few were confident that it will remain at this level - a level that critics said should still be considered a "crisis." "When this is considered to be a good month at the border, that's when you know that things are really bad. … If you look at historic trends it is still extraordinarily high," said Ira Mehlman, a Federation for American Immigration Reform spokesperson. "January tends to be a month where you see a dip pretty much every year. It’s too early to be taking a victory lap ... when in fact this is not a victory at all," he said. The drop comes as Congress and the White House remain deadlocked over immigration reform. The Senate last week rejected a sweeping bipartisan plan that would have increased funding for border enforcement, reformed the asylum process and given the president authority to shut down the border. The GOP-controlled House, meanwhile, is insistent on a hardline measure it passed last year that has since gone nowhere in the Senate. [related-story-right box-title="Related story" link="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/01/30/lawmakers-approve-8-million-to-continue-busing-asylum-seekers-from-border/" image="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/dcbus-1024.jpg" headline="Lawmakers approve $8 million to continue busing asylum seekers from border"] That led a group of moderate Democrats to unveil their own plan Thursday, arguing that nothing on the border will improve without comprehensive immigration reform. "Restoring order to the southern border is critical for the United States of America. And we can only do that with more boots on the ground and with improved technology," said Rep. Greg Stanton, D-Phoenix, part of the New Democrat Coalition that said their plan would do just that. The coalition's 11-point framework calls for an additional 2,000 Border Patrol officers and improved technology to stop the flow of fentanyl and other drugs. But much of their plan calls for creating pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have been in the country working and paying taxes for years. "These are young people who are doing amazing things to support this community. They’re going to college and serving in the military, serving this community," Stanton said. "The fact that they theoretically could be deported … and that we can't vote in the Congress to provide a path to citizenship for these Dreamers is not only immoral, but it is self-defeating for our economy." Southern Border Communities Coalition Director Lilian Serrano said Congress has a long way to go to fix an immigration system that she says is decades behind where it should be. "Our border is not a scary place. For many of us who have been living along the US-Mexico border for generations, we are not afraid of the people coming from all over the world," Serrano said. "We know that people coming are not the problem. The problem is our immigration system is still stuck back 30, 40 years in the past." Serrano said both sides are stuck on what she called "enforcement-only policy, quote-unquote, 'solutions' to the problem. What we really need is to reimagine how we reapproach the border." "We know that there are still conversations in Congress around closing the border and while I don't think that was the sole reason for the decrease in migration (in January), the way that information was given to the rest of the world did have an effect on groups of migrants and if they decide to come in," she said.
But Mehlman said the most effective border solution is already on the table: H.R. 2, the bill that passed the House in May 2023 but has yet to be acted upon by the Senate. It would tighten asylum and parole rules, and call for border wall construction to resume, among other things. "That is a bill that systematically goes through all the loopholes or discretionary authority this administration has claimed they’ve had in enforcing our laws and correcting those," Mehlman said of H.R. 2. "The Senate bill did nothing of the kind which is why it crashed and burned." Despite his opposition to H.R. 2, Stanton said the results of this week's special election in New York should serve as a signal to party leaders that voters want compromise - and some form of action on immigration. He said "immigration and the border were front and center" in the race for New York's 3rd District, which flipped from Republican to Democratic on Tuesday. "They (Republicans) thought that they could do nothing and then use the border and immigration as a cudgel against Democrats. And I think they learned that in that New York 3 race, that doing nothing is not just bad policy for America, it's bad politics for Republicans," Stanton said. "And actually doing something, reaching across the aisle to do a bipartisan agreement is good for them substantively and politically," he said.]]>
Fri, 16 Feb 2024 02:32:48 +0000 https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/15/january-sees-sharp-drop-in-border-numbers-after-record-setting-december/
House panel advances bill for a Holocaust center, but holds back funds for now https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/14/house-panel-advances-bill-for-a-holocaust-center-but-holds-back-funds-for-now/

Feb. 14, 2024

House panel advances bill for a Holocaust center, but holds back funds for now

PHOENIX - A House panel gave tentative approval Wednesday to a Holocaust education center, but not before stripping out funding for the project that supporters said will provide an "immersive experience for the next generation on hate and genocide." Lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee, mindful of the current budget shortfall, stripped out $10 million in state funding that was called for in the bill. But committee members, who overwhelmingly approved the amended bill, said they are confident they will be able to fill in a number as the session progresses. The temporary loss of funding did not appear to dampen the spirits of supporters of the planned Hilton Family Holocaust Center, which they said will allow students "to touch and feel history" of the Holocaust and other genocides. "I believe the fight for the future is grounded in knowledge and education," said Steve Hilton, the son of a Holocaust survivor, whose family is helping fund the center. "It will be designed to create an immersive experience for the next generation on hate and genocide." Testimony included references to reports like a 2021 nationwide survey that found a "disturbing" 63% of 11,000 U.S. millennials and members of Generation Z did not know 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust, and 10 percent did not believe the Holocaust occurred. [related-story-right box-title="Related story" link="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2023/01/06/arizona-educators-build-empathy-through-mandatory-holocaust-education/" image="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/HT-6.jpg" headline="Empathy and humanity are at the center of Holocaust education in Arizona"] Phoenix Hebrew Academy sixth-grader Ruby Stanlis got an ovation from the attentive committee and a packed hearing room after her testimony. "We are already forgetting the history of the Holocaust. Mistruths about religion spread so quickly through social media," Ruby said. "A Holocaust center will give students the chance to touch and feel history." The bill comes three years after the state began requiring lessons about the Holocaust and genocide be taught at least twice between seventh and 12th grade in Arizona schools. Dobson High School teacher Kim Klett said she currently has to raise funds if she wants to take her students to Los Angeles's two Holocaust museums, limiting the trip to just 50 kids. Having a Holocaust education center in the state would let her take her Mesa students on a field trip to the center, she said. Supporters said that of the 10 largest cities in the U.S. only two - Phoenix and San Diego - do not currently have some sort of Holocaust memorial. If built, the planned $30 million Hilton Family Holocaust Education Center would be the second Holocaust center in Arizona, after the Tucson Jewish Museum and Holocaust Center. Jerry Lewkowitz, founding member of the Arizona Jewish Historical Society, testified to the importance of educating each future generation. "L'dor v'dor is a Hebrew saying. It means, from generation to generation. We pass on our beliefs, our values and our history to the next generation," Lewkowitz said. That was echoed by Rabbi Jeffrey Schesnol of Or Adam Congregation for Humanistic Judaism in Scottsdale. "This is the most important thing I will do for the rest of my life," said Schesnol, who is also director of the Arizona Jewish Historical Society. "'Rabbi' means teacher but all of us here today are responsible for teaching." [related-story-right box-title="Related story" link="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2022/03/09/holocaust-survivors-preserved-robert-sutz-artist/" image="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/20220212-LifeMasks_888-800x500-1.jpg" headline="'Life masks' created to keep stories of the Holocaust alive"] The hearing comes amid a surge in antisemitism: The Anti-Defamation League reported that in the weeks after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel, there was a 388% increase in hate crimes against Jews over the same from a year earlier. But the bill's lead sponsor said it's not just a Jewish thing, it's about speaking out against hate everywhere. "I don't just think it is important for the Jewish community, it is important for everyone." said Rep. Alma Hernandez, D-Tucson. Her bill has more than 80 co-sponsors in the Legislature. Hilton said efforts to create a Holocaust center are "the most important thing for the Jewish community for the state of Arizona in its entire history," while Schesnol said it is important for current generations to bear witness. "You are not permitted to finish the work, but neither are you to desist from it," he told a captivated committee. That was echoed by Ruby, with a more direct call to action. "Today we all have an opportunity to be upstanders, not bystanders," she said.]]>
Thu, 15 Feb 2024 04:16:33 +0000 https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/14/house-panel-advances-bill-for-a-holocaust-center-but-holds-back-funds-for-now/