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US Opens New Mass Facility in Texas For Migrant Children

The new emergency facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, will hold up to 1,600 teens

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FILE - The U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows some of 1,036 migrants who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, May 29, 2019. The federal government is opening a new mass shelter for migrant children near the U.S-Mexico border. VOA

The federal government is opening a new mass facility to hold migrant children in Texas and considering detaining hundreds more youths on three military bases around the country, adding a total of 3,000 new beds to the overtaxed system.

The new emergency facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, will hold up to 1,600 teens in a complex that once housed oil field workers on government-leased land near the border, said Mark Weber, a spokesman for Office of Refugee Resettlement.

The agency is also weighing using Army and Air Force bases in Georgia, Montana and Oklahoma to house an additional 1,400 kids in the coming weeks, amid the influx of children traveling to the U.S. alone. Most of the children have arrived in the U.S. without their families and are held in government custody while authorities determine if they can be released to relatives or family friends.

Shelters not subject to child welfare rules

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FILE – Migrant children play soccer at the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in Homestead, Fla., April 19, 2019. VOA

All the new facilities will be considered temporary emergency shelters and thus not be subject to state child welfare licensing requirements, Weber said. In January, the government shut down a large detention camp in the Texas desert that was unlicensed and another unlicensed facility remains in operation in the Miami suburbs.

“It is our legal requirement to take care of these children so that they are not in Border Patrol facilities,” Weber said. “They will have the services that ORR always provides, which is food, shelter and water.”

Under fire for the death of two children who went through the agency’s network of shelters and facing lawsuits over the treatment of teens in its care, the agency says it must set up new facilities or risk running out of beds.

Flores agreement questions

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The announcement of the program’s expansion follows the government’s decision to scale back or cut paying for recreation, English-language courses and legal services for the more than 13,200 migrant toddlers, school-age children and teens in its custody.

The Health and Human Services department, which oversees the refugee office, notified shelters around the country last week that it was not going to reimburse them for teachers’ pay, legal services or recreational equipment, saying budget cuts were needed as record numbers of unaccompanied children arrive at the border, largely from Central America. In May, border agents apprehended 11,507 children traveling alone.

Attorneys said the move violates a legal settlement known as the Flores agreement that requires the government to provide education and recreational activities to migrant children in its care.

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The federal government is opening a new mass facility to hold migrant children. Pixabay

Advocates have slammed the move as punitive, saying such services are typically available to adult prisoners.

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“ORR’s cancelling of these services will inflict further harm on children, many of whom continue to languish for months without being placed safely and expeditiously into a sponsor’s care. That is not only unacceptable, it could be in violation of the law,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee with oversight on the agency’s budget. (VOA)

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US Officials Identify ‘Strong Culprit’ in Vaping Illnesses

Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that a compound known as vitamin E acetate is a "very strong culprit"

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FILE - A man blows a puff of smoke as he vapes with an electronic cigarette, Oct. 18, 2019. VOA

U.S. health officials say they have found the likely cause of a mysterious illness in people who smoke e-cigarettes, describing the findings as a “breakthrough.” US.

Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that a compound known as vitamin E acetate is a “very strong culprit” in the search for the cause of the mysterious lung disease.

Schuchat, who is the CDC’s principal deputy director, said the compound was found in fluid samples taken from the lungs of 29 patients across the country who were diagnosed with the vaping illness.

“We are in a better place in terms of having one very strong culprit,” she said.

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File – In this Aug. 28, 2019, file photo, a man exhales while smoking an e-cigarette in Portland, Maine. VOA

Schuchat cautioned that more work needs to be done to confirm that vitamin E acetate causes lung damage when inhaled, and said there could still be other toxic substances in e-cigarettes that lead to lung disease.

More than 2,000 Americans who smoke e-cigarettes have gotten sick since March, and at least 40 of them have died.

Health officials say that vitamin E is safe as a vitamin pill or to use on the skin, but that inhaling it can be harmful.

The compound is sometimes used as a thickener in vaping fluid, especially in black market vape cartridges and those containing THC — the component of marijuana that gets people high.

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E-cigarettes have been available in the United States for more than a decade. They work, in general, by using a battery to heat a liquid nicotine solution and turn it into an inhalable vapor.

While e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is addictive, they have been considered safer than traditional cigarettes because they do not contain tar or many of the other substances in traditional cigarettes that make them deadly.

Advocates of e-cigarettes say they are a powerful tool to help adult smokers quit smoking traditional cigarettes.

However, critics say that e-cigarettes are making a new generation addicted to nicotine. They also point out that the long-term health consequences of vaping are not known, and say that e-cigarettes could contain other potentially harmful substances, including chemicals used for flavoring and traces of metals. (VOA)