Headlines for Wednesday, May 10, 2023
Cases of Active Tuberculosis Identified in Wyandotte County
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — Kansas health officials have confirmed a small number of active tuberculosis (TB) cases in Wyandotte County. Officials say they have identified fewer than 10 patients so far. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) says there is minimal risk to the general public at this time. Officials say they are working to make sure patients are receiving treatment and to prevent additional cases from occurring. Additionally, the agencies are working with and following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
About Tuberculosis (TB):
TB is an infectious disease that is caused by mycobacterium tuberculosis and is most commonly found in the lungs. In most cases, TB spreads through prolonged contact and is treatable. TB is spread through the air, similar to the way that cold and flu viruses are spread. Whenever someone with Active TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, speaks, or sings, the bacteria are released into the air. People nearby may breathe in these droplets containing TB bacteria and may become infected if the bacteria settle in the lungs and begin to grow. From there, TB bacteria can spread to other parts of the body, such as the kidney, spine and brain. TB is not spread by kissing, shaking hands, sharing food, drink or toothbrushes, or by touching objects like bed linens or toilet seats. Even if someone is infected with TB bacteria, it does not mean the person will develop active TB disease. Most people who become infected do not develop Active TB.
Additional information about TB can be found on the CDC website.
Free COVID Testing Ending in Kansas
WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) — Many Kansans will lose the ability to get free COVID-19 tests at the end of the week. The Kansas News Service reports it's one of the consequences of the federal public health emergency declaration ending. Private insurers will no longer have to fully cover the cost of PCR or rapid at-home tests and uninsured Kansans will have to start paying for those tests. Cynthia Cox, with the Kaiser Family Foundation, says the median self-pay price for a PCR test at Kansas hospitals is $109. “Kansas is on the higher end of states in terms of how much uninsured people will have to pay for COVID tests," she said. Those who do have insurance will likely have to pay more in the form of copays or deductibles. It’s one of several changes tied to Friday’s milestone, including changes to telehealth coverage and Medicaid enrollment. COVID-19 vaccines will remain free.
New $80 Million Dollar Manufacturing Plant Announced for Maize
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) – State officials have announced that a new $80 million manufacturing plant will be built in south-central Kansas. Charlotte Pipe and Foundry Company, the nation’s top manufacturer of cast iron and plastic pipe and fittings, will build the facility in Maize. The plant is expected to create 50 full-time jobs. Kansas Governor Laura Kelly said “Charlotte Pipe brings a strong, family-oriented culture coupled with good-paying jobs and benefits to central Kansas." Construction on the company’s seventh plastics plant in the U.S. is expected to begin in January 2024 and be completed by early 2025. The expansion received local, county, and state government support.
Three Arrested on Drug Charges After Raid in Fort Scott
BOURBON COUNTY, Kan. (KPR) – The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) and the Bourbon County Sheriff’s Office have arrested three people following an investigation in Fort Scott. Late Tuesday morning, officers executed a search warrant at a home (113 S. Barbee St.) in Fort Scott, where meth, marijuana and drug paraphernalia were found. Four people were on the property at the time and three were arrested, including 53-year-old Roger Firebaugh, 38-year-old Janelle Roberts and 61-year-old Cavin Ford, all of Fort Scott. The investigation continues.
12 Kansas City-Area Residents Indicted for $250,000 in Pandemic Loan Fraud
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — A dozen Kansas City-area residents have been indicted for alleged conspiracy resulting in nearly $250,000 in fraudulent pandemic loans. Prosecutors say the 12 area residents each received thousands in fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program loans issued under the federal CARES Act. WDAF TV reports that the loan program was intended to help businesses keep workers employed during the pandemic.
A federal grand jury has indicted the following people:
54-year-old Renetta Golden-Larimore, Kansas City
47-year-old Don A. Baker, Kansas City
40-year-old Stephan Booth, Kansas City
25-year-old Candace E. Hill-Williams, Kansas City
25-year-old Reisjon Larimore, Kansas City
23-year-old Teiara M. Mercer, Kansas City
48-year-old Padgit L. Smith, Kansas City
45-year-old Joseph Valdivia III, Kansas City
41-year-old Salvadore Valdivia, Kansas City
21-year-old Mone’y C. Woods, Kansas City
27-year-old Cameron P. Henderson, Independence
27-year-old Roger Larimore, Raytown
The grand jury returned the indictment in late April, and it was unsealed Tuesday after several of those charged were arrested and made their first court appearances. Prosecutors say Renetta Golden-Larimore prepared and filed fake PPP loan applications for the other 11, and received payments between $2,000-7,000 from the loan proceeds for doing so. The indictment says Golden-Larimore also created false IRS forms for nonexistent businesses and changed income for some existing businesses in order to qualify for the PPP loans. Prosecutors say each of the people charged received a PPP loan worth nearly $21,000. Golden-Larimore has also been charged with 12 counts of wire fraud in addition to conspiracy. The other 11 have also been charged with aiding and abetting her in one of those wire fraud charges. If convicted, the jury’s indictment also includes a forfeiture allegation, requiring all 12 defendants to forfeit any property obtained from the alleged fraud, including the $20,832.
In a separate case, 42-year-old Theresa Griswold, of Olathe, pleaded guilty to wire fraud after obtaining her own fradulent PPP loan. Griswold admitted she received nearly $21,000.
New Kansas Law Aims to Ease Social Worker Shortage
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS/KCUR) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelley has signed a bill into law aimed at easing a critical shortage of clinical social workers. The new law could make mental health treatment easier to come by. Some Kansas kids wait months for mental health care. Others are treated remotely by clinical social workers in other states. Becky Fast, who directs the Kansas chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, says the standards for licensing clinical social workers in Kansas are tougher than those in other states. She says a new state law will help. "It's gonna reduce obstacles, streamline licensing, make licensing more accessible," she said. Fast says Kansas also needs to develop incentives for clinical social workers to practice in rural counties, where the shortage is particularly acute.
KCC Approves Atmos Energy Rate Hike
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Corporation Commission has approved a settlement with Atmos Energy that could mean higher utility rates for Kansans who use natural gas. The settlement allows Atmos Energy to increase its net revenues by $2.2 million, raising residential rates by more than one dollar per month for the average residential customer. The change will take effect later this month. Atmos supplies natural gas service to more than 3 million customers in eight states, including 139,000 customers in Kansas.
Lawrence Community Holds Ceremony for Poisoned Prairie
LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) — Hundreds of people gathered in Lawrence this week for something organizers called a "healing." The ceremony follows the city’s use of an herbicide spray that killed millions of wildflowers at Prairie Park Nature Center. City workers say they accidentally doused a 5-acre patch of the prairie behind the nature center with herbicide. The city says workers who thought they were controlling weeds unknowingly sprayed the rare stretch of never-before-plowed prairie. Ever since, there's been a public backlash. Daniel Wildcat, a professor at Haskell Indian Nations University, says the damage shows the disconnect between people and nature. "If that person had known a little more about the ecosystem, and looked at it carefully, you'd kind of think that would have been enough to make him think, 'Oh, wait a second; this probably shouldn't be sprayed.' That didn't happen," he said. Many of the native plants may never recover, which could allow invasive species to spread faster in the area.
How a Fed Interest Rate Increase Affects Credit Card Debt, Auto Loans
NEW YORK (AP) — The Federal Reserve has raised its key interest rate yet again in its drive to cool inflation, a move that will directly affect most Americans. On Wednesday, the central bank boosted its benchmark rate by a quarter-point to 5.1%. Rates on credit cards, mortgages and auto loans, which have been surging since the Fed began raising rates last year, all stand to rise even more. The result will be more burdensome loan costs for both consumers and businesses. On the other hand, many banks are now offering higher rates on savings accounts, giving savers the opportunity to earn more interest. Economists worry, though, that the Fed's streak of 10 rate hikes since March 2022 could eventually cause the economy to slow too much and cause a recession. Here's what to know:
WHAT'S PROMPTING THE RATE INCREASES?
The short answer: inflation. Inflation has been slowing in recent months, but it's still high. Measured over a year earlier, consumer prices were up 5% in March, down sharply from February's 6% year-over-year increase. The Fed's goal is to slow consumer spending, thereby reducing demand for homes, cars and other goods and services, eventually cooling the economy and lowering prices. Fed Chair Jerome Powell has acknowledged in the past that aggressively raising rates would bring "some pain" for households but said that doing so is necessary to crush high inflation.
WHO IS MOST AFFECTED?
Anyone borrowing money to make a large purchase, such as a home, car or large appliance, will likely take a hit. The new rate will also increase monthly payments and costs for any consumer who is already paying interest on credit card debt. "Consumers should focus on building up emergency savings and paying down debt," said Greg McBride, Bankrate.com's chief financial analyst. "Even if this proves to be the final Fed rate hike, interest rates are still high and will remain that way."
WHAT'S HAPPENING WITH CREDIT CARDS?
Even before the Fed's latest move, credit card borrowing had reached the highest level since 1996, according to Bankrate.com. The most recent data available showed that 46% of people were carrying debt from month to month, up from 39% a year ago. Total credit card balances were $986 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022, according to the Fed, a record high, though that amount isn't adjusted for inflation. For those who don't qualify for low-rate credit cards because of weak credit scores, the higher interest rates are already affecting their balances.
HOW WILL AN INCREASE AFFECT CREDIT CARD RATES?
The Fed doesn't directly dictate how much interest you pay on your credit card debt. But the Fed's rate is the basis for your bank's prime rate. In combination with other factors, such as your credit score, the prime rate helps determine the Annual Percentage Rate, or APR, on your credit card. The latest increase will likely raise the APR on your credit card 0.25%. So, if you have a 20.9% rate, which is the average according to the Fed's data, it might increase to 21.15%. If you don't carry a balance from month to month, the APR is less important. But suppose you have a $4,000 credit balance and your interest rate is 20%. If you made only a fixed payment of $110 per month, it would take you a bit under five years to pay off your credit card debt, and you would pay about $2,200 in interest. If your APR increased by a percentage point, paying off your balance would take two months longer and cost an additional $215.
WHAT IF I HAVE MONEY TO SAVE?
After years of paying low rates for savers, some banks are finally offering better interest on deposits. Though the increases may seem small, compounding interest adds up over the years. Interest on savings accounts doesn't always track what the Fed does. But as rates have continued to rise, some banks have improved their terms for savers as well. Even if you're only keeping modest savings in your bank account, you could make more significant gains over the long term by finding an account with a better rate. While the biggest national banks have yet to dramatically change the rates on their savings accounts (clocking in at an average of just 0.23%, according to Bankrate), some mid-size and smaller banks have made changes more in line with the Fed's moves. Online banks in particular — which save money by not having brick-and-mortar branches and associated expenses — are now offering savings accounts with annual percentage yields of between 3% and 4%, or even higher, as well as 4% or higher on one-year Certificates of Deposit (CDs). Some promotional rates can reach as high as 5%.
WILL THIS AFFECT HOME OWNERSHIP?
Last week, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported that the average rate on the benchmark 30-year mortgage edged up to 6.43% from 6.39% the week prior. A year ago, the average rate was lower: 5.10%. Higher rates can add hundreds of dollars a month to mortgage payments. Rates for 30-year mortgages usually track the moves in the 10-year Treasury yield. Rates can also be influenced by investors' expectations for future inflation, global demand for U.S. Treasuries and what the Fed does. Most mortgages last for decades, so if you already have a mortgage, you won't be impacted. But if you're looking to buy and already paying more for food, gas and other necessities, a higher mortgage rate could put home ownership out of reach.
WHAT IF I WANT TO BUY A CAR?
With shortages of computer chips and other parts easing, automakers are producing more vehicles. Many are even reducing prices or offering limited discounts. But rising loan rates and lower used-vehicle trade-in values have erased much of the savings on monthly payments. Since the Fed began raising rates in March 2022, the average new-vehicle loan rate has jumped from 4.5% to 7%, according to Edmunds data. Used vehicle loans dropped slightly to 11.1%. Loan durations average around 70 months — nearly six years — for new and used vehicles. Largely because of rate increases, the average monthly payment for both new and used vehicles has risen since March 2022, Edmunds says. The average new vehicle payment is up $72 to $729, Edmunds says. For used vehicles, the payment rose $20 a month to $546. The higher rates will keep out of the market people who have the ability to wait for more favorable terms, said Joseph Yoon, Edmunds' consumer insights analyst.
"But with inventory levels improving, it's a matter of time before discounts and incentives start coming back into the equation," attracting more buyers, Yoon said. New vehicle average prices are down from the end of last year to $47,749. But they're still high compared with even a year ago. The average used vehicle price dropped 7% from last May's peak, to $28,729, but prices are edging back up. Financing a new vehicle now costs $8,655 in interest. Analysts say that's enough to chase many out of the auto market. Any Fed rate increase is typically passed through to auto borrowers, though it will be offset a bit by subsidized rates from manufacturers.
WHAT ABOUT MY JOB?
The nation's employers kept hiring in March, adding a healthy 236,000 jobs. The unemployment rate fell to 3.5%, just above the 53-year low of 3.4% set in January. At the same time, the report from the Labor Department suggested a slowdown, with pay growth also easing. Some economists argue that layoffs could help slow rising prices, and that a tight labor market fuels wage growth and higher inflation. Economists expect the unemployment rate to go up to 3.6% in April, a slight increase from January's half-century low of 3.4%.
WILL THIS AFFECT STUDENT LOANS?
Borrowers who take out new private student loans should prepare to pay more as as rates increase. The current range for federal loans is between about 5% and 7.5%. That said, payments on federal student loans are suspended with zero interest until summer 2023 as part of an emergency measure put in place early in the pandemic. President Joe Biden has also announced some loan forgiveness, of up to $10,000 for most borrowers, and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients — a policy that's now being challenged in the courts.
Ban on Trans Health Care for Kids Heads to Missouri Governor
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Transgender minors won't have access to puberty blockers, hormones or surgery under legislation passed in Missouri. Lawmakers approved the ban Wednesday, sending it to Republican Governor Mike Parson for his signature. Parson had warned lawmakers to pass the bill or he'd make them keep working past the normal end of their session. The prohibition would take effect August 28 and expire four years later. Minors already receiving gender-affirming care will be exempt. The ban also affects some adults. Medicaid will no longer cover gender-affirming care in Missouri, and transgender and non-binary prisoners and inmates would no longer be able to get surgeries.
The ban includes exceptions for minors already getting such treatments. Missouri's legislative leaders vowed to stop minors from accessing puberty blockers, hormones and surgeries. And Missouri's Republican attorney general, Andrew Bailey, took up the charge after Parson appointed him to fill the vacant position in January. In response, the Kansas City Council was considering a resolution Wednesday to make Missouri's largest city a sanctuary for people seeking such medical care.
Kansas City Considers Becoming LGBTQ Sanctuary City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A city council committee will hear public testimony on a proposal to designate Kansas City as a sanctuary city for transgender people seeking gender-affirming care. The Transportation, Infrastructure and Operations Committee will consider a resolution Wednesday that says the city will not criminally prosecute or fine any person or organization that seeks, provides, receives or helps a person receive gender-affirming care. The debate comes amid controversy over a rule proposed by Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey that would require adults and children to undergo more than a year of therapy and fulfill other requirements before receiving gender-affirming treatments.
If the council's Transportation, Infrastructure and Operations Committee passes the resolution, it could go before the Kansas City Council on Thursday. Council member Andrea Bough, who co-sponsored the resolution with Mayor Quinton Lucas and councilman Eric Bunch, said that Bailey's proposed rule is part of a larger effort by Republican-controlled legislatures across the country to pass bills restricting the rights of LGBTQ residents, particularly transgender people. Bough said members of the city's LGBTQ Commission reached out to supporters in city government for some type of response to several anti-LGBTQ proposals in this year's Missouri Legislature.
Clinics Held on How to Change Gender Designation on Kansas Birth Certificates, Driver's Licenses
WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) — Legal experts say transgender Kansans could soon lose the ability to change their gender identification on birth certificates and state IDs. A new state law preventing those changes takes effect July 1st. So, transgender allies and activists are urging people who want to update their documents to do so now. Ellen Bertels runs the Name Change Project at Kansas Legal Services. “Statistically, it's clear that having an accurate identity document like a driver's license or a birth certificate reduces the risk of harassment, discrimination and even physical violence for trans folks in public," she said. Bertles in holding a series of in-person and virtual gender marker clinics in Kansas City, Lawrence and Wichita to help people complete the paperwork before the law takes effect. One clinic begins Wednesday at 4:00 pm at the Kansas City Center for Inclusion. Another one takes place next week at the Lawrence Public Library (May 17).
DEA Confiscates Drugs, Arrests 72 in Kansas and Missouri Following Year-long Drug Operation
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KSHB) — The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has announced the results of a year-long operation targeting two Mexico-based drug cartels. KSHB TV reports that "Operation Last Mile" ran from May 1, 2022 to May 1 of this year. It targeted operatives working with the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels. The DEA says the two cartels are responsible for the vast majority of fentanyl and meth brought into the U.S. The DEA says it worked with state and local authorities to arrest 72 people in Kansas and Missouri. The agency says it confiscated a total of 1.3 million fentanyl pills, 100 pounds of fentanyl powder, 200 pounds of meth, 400 guns and nearly $500,000 in cash.
2 Parsons Residents Arrested Following Discovery of Missing Man's Body
PARSONS, Kan. (Montgomery County Chronicle) — Two Parsons residents have been arrested near Branson, Missouri, in connection with the death of a missing southeast Kansas man. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation has confirmed the discovery of the body of 23-year-old Dakota A. Patton, of Labette County, who had been missing since April 25. The Montgomery County Chronicle reports that Patton’s body was found in a rural field northeast of Parsons on Monday. The KBI also said that two people were arrested in Hollister, Missouri, which is near Branson, in connection with Patton’s death. Authorities arrested 32-year-old Clint W. Nibarger and 47-year-old Kimberly J. Thomas, both of Parsons. The two were arrested by the Taney County, Missouri, Sheriff’s Department around 6 pm Monday. Nibarger and Thomas were booked into the Taney County Jail and await extradition to Kansas. The investigation continues.
Kansas Physician Admits to Role in Telemedicine Fraud Scheme
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A doctor from Kansas has admitted to a role in a telemedicine fraud scheme for unnecessarily ordering genetic testing and orthotic braces, defrauding Medicare of about $16 million. Gautam Jayaswal, of Overland Park, pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in St. Louis to conspiracy to commit health care fraud. He could face up to five years in prison and must repay the money. Federal prosecutors say Jayaswal contracted with several companies and fraudulently ordered orthotic braces for 1,433 patients. The plea agreement says companies he worked for used those orders to defraud Medicare of nearly $1.4 million. He also signed orders for medically unnecessary genetic tests for 2,061 patients, costing Medicare Part B about $14.7 million.
Video Shows Missouri Police Officer Punch Man on Ground 5 Times
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Two Missouri police officers are under investigation after a video was posted online showing one of them repeatedly punching a man who was pinned to the ground. Columbia police Chief Geoff Jones said Monday that he asked the Boone County Sheriff's Department to investigate his officers' actions early Sunday morning. The Columbia Police Department is also conducting an internal investigation. The video clip is about 9 seconds. It shows a man being pinned to the ground by one officer. A second officer punches the man in the face five times, causing the man to bleed. Jones said "police use of force must be reasonable."
In the background, someone can be heard saying, "He's punching him in the face. Oh my God." Jones said he is thankful that someone brought the officers' conduct to his attention. "We have a high expectation that officers act appropriately when using force, and they are expected to intervene when they observe force that is not to these standards. I will enforce that expectation." A police spokesman did not immediately respond to a call Monday from The Associated Press.
Audit Finds Systemic Failings Regarding Sexual Abuse Cases Reported at Hesston College
HESSTON, Kan. (Kansas Reflector/KPR) — An audit of a small Mennonite college in rural Kansas has found systemic failings when it comes to sexual abuse reports. The audit found that in some cases, those who reported sexual abuse were pressured to meet their alleged abusers face-to-face and “forgive and forget” the abuse. The Kansas Reflector reports that Hesston College commissioned an international law firm last year to review legal compliance and make recommendations about the college’s policies. In the 64-page report released in April, reviewers found frequent violations, including cases in which administrators failed to adequately respond to reports and failed to give the person reporting abuse access to support and resources.
Due to the small size and religious nature of the campus community, which has about 325 students, the audit posited that reporting was made more difficult. Several report filers said the college’s religious values put pressure on survivors to forgive those accused of abuse. Students told the auditors that they felt blamed by college administrators for sexual harassment, including employees telling students not to go out late or wear “flashy things.”
Advocacy groups such as Into Account have said sexual misconduct and assault has been a systemic issue at Hesston since the college’s beginning. Daniel Bender, the Mennonite bishop who founded the college in 1909, confessed to repeatedly sexually abusing his daughter. The latest review, conducted in November 2022, was the result of multiple student complaints about mishandled sexual misconduct reports and a student campus protest demanding action. Students also demanded that Bender’s portrait be removed from the college’s administration building, or a plaque be put up explaining his abuse. The portrait was removed months later, following the audit’s publication. The audit recommended more professional training, student outreach and oversight of the campus Title IX office, along with changing the college’s approach to having survivors reconcile with their abusers.
KC Chiefs Will Play Exhibition Game in Germany
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KSHB) — The Kansas City Chiefs will return to Europe to play again next season. They will take on the Miami Dolphins on November 5th in Frankfurt, Germany. KSHB TV reports this is the Chiefs' third regular season international game. The NFL is accelerating its international marketing campaign this year. The plan includes advertising, sponsorship deals, and fan events. The Chiefs / Dolphins game can be viewed on the NFL Network.
Our Love Affair with Uniform Landscapes Kills Trees. So, Kansas and Missouri are Going for Variety
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (KNS) — Communities in Kansas and Missouri are starting to diversify the types of trees they plant. Houses sell for more money in neighborhoods with big, leafy, mature tree canopies. So, pests that can kill many trees quickly can pose real economic dangers. When cities find they have too many of the same kind of trees, those trees become extra vulnerable to pests and disease. Now, communities in both states are hedging their arboreal bets by diversifying their tree populations. (Learn more.)
What are the best trees for Kansas and Missouri homes? Here's what experts recommend.
Kansas State Employee Virtual Job Fair Set for May 17
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The state of Kansas is hiring. Job-seekers are invited to attend the State of Kansas Agencies Virtual Job Fair Wednesday, May 17 (8:00 am to 5:00 pm). This virtual fair, which is hosted by KANSASWORKS, will focus on highlighting employment opportunities within many of the state’s 98 government agencies.
Registration is required to participate in the event, regardless of previous participation. The Virtual Job Fair portal features a job-seeker training video, a list of participating employers, and channels for attendees to register and log in. Job-seekers are encouraged to dress professionally, as employers might request to engage in a video interview. Candidates can participate via any digital device. Any individual with a disability may request accommodations by contacting their nearest workforce center at (877) 509-6757 prior to the event.
Click here to register for the May 17 State of Kansas Agencies Virtual Job Fair.
KANSASWORKS links businesses, job candidates and educational institutions to ensure that employers can find skilled workers. Services are provided to employers and job candidates through the state’s 27 workforce centers. KANSASWORKS is free for all Kansans to use. State employment opportunities can be found at jobs.ks.gov.
Kansas Angler Receives Multiple Citations After Attempting to Fish with Handgun
GARDEN CITY, Kan. (WIBW) — An angler in Kansas received multiple citations after he attempted to fish in Garden City with a 9 mm handgun. According to WIBW TV, game wardens, with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, say that Finney County officials seized a 9 mm handgun that had been used to take fish in Garden City. Authorities noted that it is illegal to use firearms to catch a fish.
Chase County Featured in Kansas Ghost Towns Documentary on PBS
CHASE COUNTY, Kan. (Emporia Gazette) — Humanities Kansas recently awarded a $10,000 grant to PBS Kansas, based in Wichita, to support the “Kansas Ghost Towns Documentary, Part 2.” The Emporia Gazette reports that the documentary is part of a continuing exploration of towns that have disappeared across the state. Humanities Kansas is an independent nonprofit spearheading a movement of ideas to empower the people of Kansas to strengthen their communities and our democracy. “The humanities connect people to place over time and across generations,” shared Julie Mulvihill, Humanities Kansas Executive Director. “This documentary will create a space for important conversations that will help us see more clearly our past and plan for our future.” “Kansas Ghost Towns, Part 2” features insightful interviews with expert scholars including author Sandra Wiechert; Jay Price, Wichita State University History Professor; and others. Part 1 of Kansas Ghost Towns premiered in September 2022, and viewers requested a sequel. The documentary is scheduled for broadcast during the station’s Summerfest membership drive. It will premiere on Thursday, August 31 at 7 pm.
What is Title 42 and How Has the US. Used It to Curb Massive Migration?
WASHINGTON (AP/KPR) — This week marks the end of coronavirus restrictions on asylum that have allowed the U.S. to quickly expel migrants at the southern border for the last three years. The restrictions are often referred to as Title 42, because the authority comes from Title 42 of a 1944 public health law that allows curbs on migration in the name of protecting public health. The end of Title 42's use has raised questions about what will happen with immigration - illegal and otherwise -- at the U.S.-Mexico border. The Biden administration is preparing for a large increase in migrants. Here's a look at what Title 42 is and why it matters:
HOW DID IT START?
In March 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an order limiting migration, saying it was necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Schools and businesses were closing their doors and hospitals were filling with patients. President Donald Trump was looking for ways to curtail illegal immigration — one of his signatures political issues. The order authorized Customs and Border Protection to immediately remove migrants, including people seeking asylum. The order said areas where migrants were held often weren't designed to quarantine people or for social distancing.
The Biden administration initially continued the policy. While many Democrats pushed President Joe Biden to overturn it, some — especially in border states — have advocated keeping Title 42 in place, saying the U.S. is unprepared for a massive increase in asylum-seekers. Title 42 has been used more than 2.8 million times to expel migrants since its implementation. However, children traveling alone were exempt. Also, it has been unevenly enforced by nationality, partly because it's harder to expel people to some countries, including Venezuela and Cuba.
WHY IS IT ENDING?
The Biden administration announced in January that it was ending the national emergencies linked to the pandemic. That also spelled the end of using Title 42 to deal with immigration. Thursday is the last day Title 42 is expected to be used. This isn't the first time its use has come close to expiring. The CDC announced in April 2022 that the rule was no longer needed because vaccines and treatments were more widespread. Republican-leaning states sued to keep it in place. While it seems likely that Title 42 will go away this week, last-minute legal maneuverings that keep it in place are always possible.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Starting Friday, asylum-seekers will be interviewed by immigration officers. Those who are found to have a "credible fear" of being persecuted in their home countries can stay in the U.S. until a final determination is made. That can take years. While some people are detained while their asylum process plays out, the vast majority are freed into the United States with notices to appear in immigration court or report to immigration authorities.
One key concern is that migrants might feel they have a greater chance now to get asylum in the U.S. so more will attempt to enter and overwhelm authorities' ability to care for and process them. That could take U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents away from other responsibilities such as looking for smugglers and facilitating the billions of dollars of trade that crosses the southern border.
Already some locations along the U.S.-Mexico border are seeing greater numbers of migrants. U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said on Twitter on Monday that his agents had stopped about 8,800 migrants a day over a three-day period. That was up from about 5,200 a day in March and at a clip to smash the December tally, the highest month on record. Others have argued that no one really knows how many people will try to enter the U.S. They note that people expelled under Title 42 face no consequences, so some have tried to enter repeatedly.
DOES THE U.S. HAVE A PLAN?
The Biden Administration says yes. Critics say no. The federal government has said that it has spent more than a year getting ready. It expects more migrants will be coming initially. The Biden administration's strategy has hinged on providing more legal pathways for migrants to get to the U.S. without coming directly to the border. That includes setting up centers in foreign countries where migrants can apply to emigrate as well as a humanitarian parole process already in place with 30,000 slots a month for people from four countries to come to the U.S.
The U.S. is expanding appointments available through an app called CBP One, which allows migrants to schedule a time to present themselves at a border crossing to request permission to enter. There also are consequences. The U.S. is proposing a rule that would generally deny asylum to migrants who first travel through another country. It also wants to quickly screen migrants seeking asylum at the border and deport those deemed not qualified, and deny reentry for five years for those who are deported. Republicans have lambasted the administration, saying the U.S. isn't doing enough to secure the border. On Monday, Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs called on the White House to deliver more funds for border communities as well as a satisfactory plan to deal with any increase in migrants. Hobbs is a Democrat, like the president.
Civil rights groups have other concerns. They have compared the severe limits on migrants who come through a third country to actions taken by Trump, the first president in decades to make it a priority to secure the southern border. Under Trump, illegal immigration fell to record low levels. Critics contend the Biden plan to process asylum claims quickly at the border is not fair to migrants who have just arrived from a long, perilous journey.
This summary of area news is curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Tom Parkinson and Kaye McIntyre. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day. These ad-free headlines are made possible by KPR members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on Twitter.