Advocates hope private detention ban sparks change
CHICAGO (AP) — Far from the southern border crisis, Illinois has launched a bullish effort to undercut the Trump administration’s immigration detention practices, and politicians and activists are taking note.
The state recently enacted a first-of-its kind ban on privately-run immigration detention, as President Donald Trump’s threat of mass deportations looms and his administration scrambles to find more jail space in an already overcrowded system. Promises to bar private immigration detention have been made repeatedly by Democrats on the 2020 campaign trail and advocates hope the Illinois law will galvanize others.
“No one benefits from keeping people unnecessarily incarcerated. The only people who do benefit are shareholders,” said senior policy counsel Fred Tsao, of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, which has fought private detention.
Illinois became the first state to bar private companies from contracting with local communities to detain immigrants under a law signed last month by Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who said it made the state “a firewall against Donald Trump’s attacks” on immigrants. The goal was to prevent the construction of a 1,300-bed facility roughly 80 miles from Chicago. Some estimate it would have nearly doubled Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s capacity to house immigrants in the area.
The move was hailed as a major victory by immigrant rights advocates, who have fought off other proposals in the area. While a national ban would be politically and practically unrealistic with most immigrant detainees being held in privately-run detention, some 2020 candidates held up Illinois as a model.
“Private immigration detention centers are exploitation for profit, and I’m glad to see Illinois ban them,” Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted before stopping in Chicago last month. “My plan to end private prisons would require the rest of the country to do the same.”
The Illinois law extends an existing 1990 private prison ban to include immigration detention. Only two other states, New York and Iowa, have banned private correctional facilities, but they don’t include immigration facilities. California, which has gone further than Illinois in limiting local entities when it comes to immigration detention, could follow suit on private detention. A proposal before California state lawmakers that seeks to phase out and bar private prisons by 2028 was amended last month to include immigration cases.
Rare sea turtles smash nesting records in Georgia
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Rare sea turtles are smashing nesting records this summer on beaches in the Southeast, with scientists crediting the egg-laying boom to conservation measures that began more than 30 years ago.
Giant loggerhead sea turtles weighing up to 300 pounds crawl ashore to dig nests in the sand every summer along the southern Atlantic coast. While nesting typically occurs from May through August, record nest counts set in 2016 have already fallen in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
So far this year, researchers and volunteers in those three states have cataloged more than 12,200 nests left by loggerheads, a threatened species protected under the Endangered Species Act. That’s already far ahead of the 11,321 nests in the previous highest count three years ago.
“My laboratory is almost floor-to-ceiling in samples right now,” said University of Georgia professor Joe Nairn, who studies adult female turtles using DNA extracted from eggshell samples taken from each loggerhead nest found in the three states. “It’s pretty obvious to us that this is a big year.”
Loggerheads crawling from the surf of the Atlantic Ocean lay roughly 100 pingpong-ball sized eggs per nest. During the nesting season, volunteers from North Carolina to Florida comb the shoreline each day around sunrise to catalog new nests and cover them with protective screens to keep out wild hogs and other predators until the eggs hatch.
The nest counts serve as a key indicator of the overall population’s health. Female loggerheads tend to lay eggs only every three to four years, so the numbers often fluctuate. Still, scientists have seen an encouraging leap in the past 15 years.
Loggerhead nesting along Georgia’s 100-mile coast hit its low point in 2004 with fewer than 400 nests.
So far this year, more than 3,500 loggerhead nests have been recorded on Georgia’s beaches, surpassing the state’s 2016 record of 3,289. Mark Dodd, the state biologist who heads Georgia’s sea turtle recovery program, said he expects the final count to reach 4,000 nests by the end of August.
Apollo 11 at 50: Celebrating first steps on another world
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A half-century ago, in the middle of a mean year of war, famine, violence in the streets and the widening of the generation gap, men from planet Earth stepped onto another world for the first time, uniting people around the globe in a way not seen before or since.
Hundreds of millions tuned in to radios or watched the grainy black-and-white images on TV as Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, in one of humanity’s most glorious technological achievements.
Astronaut Michael Collins, who orbited the moon alone in the mother ship while Armstrong proclaimed for the ages, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” was struck by the banding together of Earth’s inhabitants.
“It was a wonderful achievement in the sense that people everywhere around the planet applauded it: north, south, east, west, rich, poor, Communist, whatever,” Collins, now 88, told The Associated Press in a recent interview.
That sense of unity did not last long. But 50 years later, Apollo 11 — the culmination of eight years of breakneck labor involving a workforce of 400,000 and a price tag in the billions, all aimed at winning the space race and beating the Soviet Union to the moon — continues to thrill.
For the golden anniversary, NASA, towns, museums and other institutions are holding ceremonies, parades and parties, including the simultaneous launch of 5,000 model rockets outside the installation in Huntsville, Alabama, where the behemoth Saturn V moon rockets were born. Apollo 11K and Saturn 5K runs are “go” at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
Armstrong, who expertly steered the lunar module Eagle to a smooth landing with just seconds of fuel left, died in 2012 at 82. Aldrin, 89, who followed him onto the gray, dusty surface, was embroiled recently in a now-dropped legal dispute in which two of his children tried to have him declared mentally incompetent. He has kept an uncharacteristically low profile in the run-up to the anniversary.