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Competition-winning 4th grade robotics team told to 'go back to Mexico

A group of black and Latino fourth graders from Pleasant Run Elementary in Indianapolis won a regional robotics challenge — and were in turn taunted by lesser-ranked competitors and their parents with cries of "go back to Mexico!" The five-person Pleasant Run PantherBots, three of whom are Latino and two of whom were black, became the target of the racist bullying at both a school auditorium and parking lot at the Plainfield, Indiana, competition, the Indianapolis Star reported.

The team consists of Elijah Goodwin, 10; Angel Herrera-Sanchez, 9; Jose Verastegui, 10; Manuel Mendez, 9; and Devilyn Bolyard, 9.

"They were pointing at us and saying that 'oh my god, they are champions of the city all because they are Mexican. They are Mexican, and they are ruining our country,'" Diocelina Herrera, mother of Herrera-Sanchez, told the IndianapolisStar.

"It's not going to affect us at all," Goodwin, the team's leader, said. "I'm not surprised because I'm used to this kind of behavior ... When you have a really good team, people will treat you this way. And we do have a pretty good team."

n a statement, Plainfield Community Schools Superintendent Scott Olinger condemned the racist behavior and singled out parents who participated for particular dismay.

"The Plainfield Community School Corp. does not condone or tolerate language or behaviors that degrade others," Olinger wrote, according to the Star. "Had our organizing team been made aware of the alleged behaviors by unknown adults on Feb. 2, we would have taken immediate action."

The statement continued:

"We were pleased to host such an impressive array of young students, and we were equally proud of the teamwork, camaraderie, knowledge and fun that these children displayed. To learn now that adults may have acted in a way that distracted from the success of the day is disheartening. In the Plainfield schools, such behavior is unacceptable, regardless of whether it comes from adults or students."

While it's not clear what motivated this particular hateful attack, similar stories of racism in schools have been cropping up in recent months. According to a survey by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the bigoted campaign rhetoric of President Donald Trump and his hardline policies in office has negatively affected the K-12 school environment.

While it's not exactly clear what spurred this specific racist incident, similar events have been on the upswing in recent years.

Of the more than 10,000 teachers, counselors, administrators and other school employees who responded to the poll, 90 percent said the election had negatively affected the environment at their school.

Eight in 10 reported fears for marginalized students including "immigrants, Muslims, African-Americans and LGBT people," while four in 10 reported "derogatory language" directed at minority students.

"More than 2,500 described instances of bigotry and harassment directly related to election rhetoric," the SPLC added.



Even Mitch McConnell Doesn’t Think Mexico Will Pay For The Border Wall

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is skeptical that Mexico will pay for the wall President Donald Trump promised to build along the U.S. border.

When Politico Playbook asked McConnell if he thought that Mexico would pay for the wall, he replied, “Uh, no.”

Having Mexico foot the bill became a rallying cry at Trump’s campaign events last year.

“And who’s going to pay for it?” he would ask. “Mexico!” the crowd would shriek in reply.

Yet it became clear just days into Trump’s presidency how unfeasible such a plan would be. Press secretary Sean Spicer floated the idea of raising taxes on imports from Mexico by 20 percent as part of a broader package to fund the wall’s construction in January. He quickly retracted the suggestion.

Father of slain soldier who criticized Trump says travel rights reviewed,h_491/2acd6d_46dc2a55f25a440385fe8ab7a7b53e2f~mv2_d_3500_2567_s_4_2.jpg

The father of an American soldier killed in Iraq who came under criticism last year from then-candidate Donald Trump said he has canceled a speaking engagement in Toronto after being notified that his U.S. travel privileges were under review.

Khizr Khan, an American citizen born in Pakistan, had planned to speak at a luncheon in Toronto on Tuesday in a discussion about President Trump's administration, according to Ramsay Talks, a speaker series based in Toronto hosted by Bob Ramsay.

The organization said on its Facebook page on Monday that Khan, a U.S. citizen for over 30 years, was notified Sunday evening that his travel privileges were being reviewed.

Khan, in an accompanying statement, said he had not been given a reason as to why his travel privileges were being reviewed and apologized to ticket-holders for the cancellation. He declined to comment further in an email exchange with Reuters.

"This turn of events is not just of deep concern to me but to all my fellow Americans who cherish our freedom to travel abroad," Khan said in the statement included in the Facebook post. "I am grateful for your support and look forward to visiting Toronto in the near future."

It was unclear who called for the review or the grounds for it.

U.S. Customs & Border Protection said it does not contact travelers in advance of their travel out of the United States, according to an official who said any U.S. citizen with a passport may travel out of the country. CBP would not comment specifically on the Khan case, citing privacy protections.

Trump signed a revised executive order on Monday banning citizens from six Muslim-majority nations from traveling to the United States, but Pakistan is not one of those countries and the ban does not apply to U.S. citizens or legal permanent U.S. residents.

"Mr. Khan will not be traveling to Toronto on March 7th to speak about tolerance, understanding, unity and the rule of law," said Ramsay Talks, which announced guests would be refunded the ticket price of $89.

Khan and his wife, Ghazala Khan, appeared at the Democratic National Convention in support of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and shared the story of their son, U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed during the Iraq war.

During his speech, he asked Trump if he had ever read the U.S. Constitution and said that he would gladly lend him his copy. He urged Trump to "look for the words liberty and equal protection of law" in the document.

Trump responded by questioning whether Clinton's aides scripted Khan's speech and questioned whether Ghazala Khan was allowed to speak.

Khan and Trump went on to exchange further criticism, dominating the presidential campaign for several days over the summer.





White House Refuses To Guarantee People Won’t Lose Health Insurance From Repeal

White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to assure Americans on Sunday that anyone currently covered under the Affordable Care Act would not lose their coverage under President Donald Trump’s health care plan. Sanders repeatedly dodged the question on ABC’s “This Week,” saying Trump had promised to repeal Obamacare and replace it “with something that’s better.”

Host George Stephanopoulos pressed Sanders on why, if Trump was so intent on replacing the law with something better, the White House couldn’t guarantee that everyone currently with insurance wouldn’t lose it. Sanders said it was “a goal” to make sure people didn’t lose coverage, but she stopped short of saying people would be able to keep their current insurance, or would even be offered similar plans.

“We cannot survive under the current system,” Sanders said. “We have to make a massive overhaul to the health care system in America, because it is simply just not sustainable, and everybody agrees with that.”

“There is nobody that argues that we’re on a track that we can maintain,” she continued. “So we’re looking at every possible way to do exactly that: repeal a terrible, failed system and replace with something better.”

When Stephanopoulos pressed again whether that meant Trump wouldn’t sign a replacement bill that would cause people to lose coverage, Sanders said she wouldn’t “speak specifically for the president on that topic.”

“What I can say is he’s made it a high priority and a No. 1 focus that we make sure that people that have insurance continue their insurance, particularly those in the highest need,” she said.

A consulting firm told governors Saturday that the Republican plan to replace Obamacare could lead to millions losing their health coverage, with many people covered under the Medicaid expansion suddenly unable to afford health insurance.

When he was running for president, Trump told “60 Minutes” in 2015 that everyone would win from his health care replacement.

“I am going to take care of everybody,” Trump said. “I don’t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.”

More recently, in January, Trump vowed “insurance for everybody,” but congressional Republicans have taken to guaranteeing “access” to health care, rather than health care itself, meaning if individuals have the money to pay for insurance, they can get it.

According to the presentation given to governors on Saturday, the effect of the GOP replacement bill would be huge insurance enrollment losses and greater budget pressure on states to make up the loss in federal money for programs like the Medicaid expansion.




‘Dreamer’ Doctors Fear Deportation Under Trump Migrant Crackdown

Belsy Garcia Manrique (left) and Cesar Montelongo are classmates at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. Having entered the U.S. as children of undocumented immigrants, they worked hard and long toward their dream of a medical career, but now fear deportation under President Trump.

The past few years have been an emotional roller coaster for Belsy Garcia Manrique.

The 26-year-old undocumented immigrant from Guatemala studied biology, chemistry and math at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, with little hope of becoming a doctor, her dream job.

Then, in 2012, President Barack Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which gave hundreds of thousands of undocumented young people like Manrique who came to the U.S. as children access to work permits in the United States and a two-year, renewable reprieve from deportation. While it was not a path to citizenship, they could live openly and start careers that matched their potential.

“It was exciting,” said Manrique, who speaks with a warm Southern drawl. “It was that feeling of, things are going to change, they’re going to get better.”

Now in her second year at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Manrique is once again filled with uncertainty. While campaigning, Donald Trump pledged to dismantle DACA. He has since said he’ll “work something out” for people covered by DACA. But amid reports of immigration sweeps and the arrest of at least one DACA recipient, many of the nation’s 750,000 DACA beneficiaries are nervous.

The United States is home to some 11 million undocumented immigrants. Though many escaped violence and persecution, particularly in Central America, seeking asylum is not an option if they’ve been in the country longer than one year.

Many DACA recipients – also known as “dreamers” after the DREAM Act, a failed federal legislative proposal to legalize their status – grew up studying hard in school, wanting to believe that academic success would somehow earn them legal status one day. Meanwhile, their parents lived and worked in the shadows.

Now they worry they might get caught in Trump’s immigration dragnet and deported to dangerous countries they hardly know.

“I got too safe and complacent” after DACA, said Manrique, who arrived in the United States when she was seven years old and recalls her mother pulling her across the Rio Grande River in a floating tire. “This election burst that bubble.”

“I’m just trying to prepare for the worst,” she added.


Manrique’s school, Loyola Stritch, currently has 28 undocumented medical students, more than any other program in the country. About 70 undocumented students are enrolled in medical schools nationwide, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Loyola Stritch was one of the first programs to actively recruit undocumented applicants after DACA was introduced. This is in line with the university’s Jesuit tradition of openness, said Mark Kuczewski, who chairs Loyola Stritch’s department of medical education. It also serves a practical purpose, he added, whereby undocumented students can eventually help fill the United States’ projected shortage of up to 90,400 physicians by 2025.

Loyola Stritch’s first class of DACA enrollees, who matriculated in 2014, are completing their clinical rotations in teaching hospitals. But if DACA is revoked and they lose their work authorization, they will not be able to start medical residencies and move to the next stage of their career.

Many of the students finance their medical education through hundreds of thousands of dollars in private loans – and if they can’t work as doctors, there’s little chance they’ll be able to pay it back.

“These young people are social capital,” said Kuczewski, a bioethics professor. “They’re ambitious, they’re all at least bilingual and bicultural, and they’re incredibly well-suited to serving patient populations that are underserved.”

Manrique’s classmate, Cesar Montelongo, was 10 years old when his family fled to the United States to escape drug-cartel turf wars in their hometown of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, one of the world’s most dangerous cities. They crossed the U.S. border legally and overstayed their tourist visas.

It took more than a decade for a family-sponsored visa application submitted by Montelongo’s American uncle to be approved, by which time Montelongo and his sister were too old to qualify as part of the family.

A joint MD-PhD candidate in Loyola Stritch’s highly competitive program, Montelongo says that without DACA his only option to legalize his status would be to apply for a visa through his younger brother, who was born in the United States. This will take about 20 years at current rates. By then, Montelongo would be nearly 50, and he could face deportation in the meantime.

“There is so much good I can do in that time,” said Montelongo, whose bioinformatics research is aimed at developing tools for more personalized medicine through genome sequencing and transcription. “It’d be a loss not to perform to my potential until 20 years from now.”

Both Manrique and Montelongo said they were drawn to medicine because their undocumented status meant their families went without health insurance. They couldn’t afford to see doctors until their illnesses were too severe to ignore.


Growing up in Calhoun, Georgia, Manrique feared random daytime phone calls that could signal trouble for her undocumented parents.

The dreaded call finally came in 2011. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested Manrique’s father at their home and detained him after they raided employment records at the carpet factory where he worked. A lawyer saved him from deportation.

With Trump’s recent executive actions on immigration, Manrique said, “I’m worried about my parents all the time. It’s terrifying.”

Two days before Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven countries and halting refugee resettlement, which is currently suspended by the courts, the U.S. president issued another order that has caused widespread alarm among undocumented immigrants.

The January 25 order greatly expands the definition of who is considered a criminal and therefore a target for deportation. It prioritizes removal of undocumented immigrants who have “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense,” regardless of whether they’ve been charged or convicted of a crime.

Even if Trump does not end the DACA program, hundreds of DACAbeneficiaries could be subject to deportation under the expanded definition, said attorney Leon Fresco, who headed the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Immigration under President Obama. At particular risk are DACA recipients with outstanding orders of removal from the country. Any run-in with the law they might have had, however minor, could endanger their reprieve from deportation under DACA.

“There is a 100 percent guarantee that some will have their DACA status revoked and they’ll be deported,” Fresco said. “It could happen any moment.”

Universities, municipal governments and workplaces across the country are setting up legal defense funds and hotlines to protect undocumented people from deportation. Loyola Stritch brought in an immigration lawyer to speak with students about their rights.

Meanwhile, the American Medical Association and Loyola Stritch are lobbying for a bipartisan bill that would grant temporary legal status to DACA beneficiaries if Trump does away with the program.

DACA is inherently a short-term solution,” Montelongo said. “And now there’s really going to be no long-term solution. Staying in this limbo is the best we can hope for.”




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