The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

April 17 2017 5:14 PM

In Three Months, the Number of Parents Apprehended With Kids at the Mexican Border Fell 93 Percent

The Trump administration is boasting of an immigration-policy success after the Department of Homeland Security reported a 93 percent decrease in parents apprehended with children trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. In December, border patrol agents apprehended 16,000 parents and children, Reuters reports. Immigration numbers usually increase in March, when the weather gets warmer, but this year, DHS recorded only a little more than 1,100 apprehensions of parents and children for the month. The drop was even more significant than the already-steep decrease in total apprehensions, which fell 72 percent from December to March.

In early March, Reuters reported that DHS was considering a policy that would separate mothers and their children if apprehended at the border, an unprecedented shift away from previous policies that allowed many people seeking asylum to live freely in the U.S. until their hearings instead of in detention centers. The proposed policy, which would detain mothers in detention facilities and send their children into protective custody with the Department of Health and Human Services, was floated as a way around a federal court ruling that prohibited long-term detention of minors. It was justified as a deterrent that would keep parents in fear of losing their children from making the journey to the U.S.

Now, it seems the policy was as effective as a threat as it might have been as a course of action. DHS never even had to implement the proposed policy to see a dramatic reduction in the fastest-growing segment of undocumented immigrants or asylees: parents crossing the border with children. There were other threatened policies, including one that would have allowed the U.S. to prosecute parents for human trafficking if they hired smugglers to get their children across the border safely. But parents have not been prosecuted, and mothers have not been detained while their children got sent to HHS facilities. Instead, thousands of parents were forced to choose between staying at home in potentially dire situations and risking rumored criminal charges or enforced separation from their children in the U.S.

Trump did make one recent concrete shift in his administration’s approach to asylum cases. In February, updated instructions for asylum officers directed them to be more skeptical of asylum applicants claiming “credible fear” of returning to the nation from which they fled. In 2016, asylum officers found about eight in 10 cases of claimed credible fear to be valid and moved those applicants forward in the asylum application process. Previously, asylum officers were instructed to move a case forward and let a judge make the final decision even if an officer had reasonable doubt about an applicant’s credible fear. The new documents don’t contain that instruction, and they go further to advise that a person’s awkward demeanor or caginess may be signs of untrustworthiness instead of the logical product of fear, trauma, or a language barrier.

Reuters claims that after it broke the news that DHS was considering separating mothers from children in March, “Democratic members of Congress blasted the proposal, and within days it had made headlines across Mexico and Central America. … The possibility that mothers and children might be separated at the border caused particular alarm.” Two-thirds fewer parents with children were apprehended at the border that month. Some were convinced to stay in their dangerous home circumstances by U.S.- and U.N.-funded public service announcements that aired in Central American countries, telling horror stories of journeys north and quoting parents who allegedly sent their kids to the U.S. for a better life, then never heard whether they made it there safely.

This makes it seem like the leak of the DHS proposal could have been intentional. As I wrote in March, the policy would have been largely unenforceable at current immigration rates. The U.S. government is not equipped to detain and take into protective custody the thousands of extra parents and children who would have otherwise been allowed to live independently while applying for asylum or waiting for immigration hearings. By leaking a harsh proposed policy instead of actually setting it in motion, DHS was able to strike fear into families without having to enforce a policy and deal with the poor human-rights optics it would have yielded.

Last month, an attorney at Oakland, California’s Centro Legal de la Raza told me the proposed DHS policy wouldn’t even work as a deterrent, because “People don’t leave their country and travel through multiple other countries, often really dangerous journeys, with their children just for kicks. People are fleeing because their lives are under threat.” She went on: “A lot of our clients, a lot of the stories we hear, are that people … get a threat and within that week, they’re gone. I don’t think people are looking into the details of border patrol policy at the moment when they make that difficult decision to leave their home.”

In statements about the steep decline in parents bringing children across the border, the DHS has made the opposite argument—that crueler policies promise to make migrating to the U.S. almost as punishing as the circumstances in refugees’ home nations. As a DHS spokesman told Reuters, the rumors of mistreatment they might receive at the U.S. border resulted in “15,000 women and children who did not put themselves at risk of death and assault from smugglers to make the trip north.” Thousands of these families still have credible fear of staying in their communities, which would make them eligible for asylum in the U.S. The only thing that’s changed is a newfound fear of what the U.S. might do to them once they get here.

April 14 2017 6:16 PM

This Week in Women’s Rights: Abortion Bans, Equal Pay, and GPS Tracking for Domestic Abusers.

Donald Trump signed a law on Thursday that will make it easier for states to direct federal family-planning funding away from Planned Parenthood centers and other health clinics that provide abortion care. The legislation was a reversal of a last-ditch effort Barack Obama made to protect these health-care providers from a wave of state legislators trying to prove their commitment to fetal development over women’s health.

Ah, well! They say nothing good can last, all is impermanent, and presidents who love “beautiful babies” will lose all respect for those babies when they grow up to be adult women. At least one state has stepped up to protect its residents from potentially losing access to health care if federal funding for Planned Parenthood goes away. Last week, Maryland became the first state to promise to fill in up to $2.7 million in funds the state’s nine Planned Parenthood centers would lose if Trump and Republicans in Congress ever decide to do what they’ve been promising to do for years.

April 14 2017 3:41 PM

Equal Pay Legislation Banning Salary History Questions Is Absolutely Based in Data

There’s a hot trend sweeping the field of equal-pay legislation right now, and business leaders aren’t happy about it. Last summer, Massachusetts passed the country’s first law that prohibits employers from asking job applicants for their current salaries or salary histories. The legislation was touted as a way to counter the pay discrimination that can follow a woman throughout her career when the salary bump she gets with each job move is based on pay that’s already lower than that of her male peers. Business alliances in Massachusetts opposed the law, calling it “counterproductive” and “misguided,” and claiming it would lead to “unbridled litigation.”

April 13 2017 6:06 PM

Bless Dianne Bentley, Who Undid Her Cheating Governor Husband With His Exceedingly Boring Sexts


There are several losers in the extramarital affair that brought down Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, starting with the man himself, who ended up resigning on Monday and pleading guilty to two misdemeanor crimes. There’s also his paramour, Rebekah Mason, who resigned from her job when news of the affair first broke last year. The entire state of Alabama lost its governor and took another hit to its already-tattered reputation in the same month a hit podcast named one of its municipalities “Shit Town.” Poor Robert, poor Rebekah, poor Alabama.



But, to the extent that sex scandals that lead to ethics violations and campaign-finance missteps can have winners, the Alabama fiasco has a big one: Dianne Bentley, Robert’s ex-wife. This hero was instrumental to the state legislature’s investigation and Robert’s eventual downfall, giving her the upper hand in a familiar scenario that usually relegates politicians’ scorned spouses to the role of the “Good Wife” or hurt victim.


April 13 2017 4:07 PM

Trump’s Support for “Beautiful Babies” Is Tremendous


“It was a slow and brutal death for so many,” Donald Trump said last week from Florida as he announced the American attack on a Syrian airbase in retaliation for the Assad regime’s reported use of chemical weapons on a rebel town. “Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack.” If the images of the “beautiful babies” themselves swayed Trump’s heart, then his invocation of them seemed to sway many of his critics. This was a speech that turned the president of the United States into the president of the United States, we were told. This was a new president whose “heart came first,” and who is “an emotional man, but … also a very smart man.”



Some cynics, perhaps not understanding the consistency of the president’s support for beautiful babies, have been skeptical about his baby-induced change of heart toward Syria. “If Donald Trump truly cares about the beautiful babies of Syria, he wouldn’t have banned them from entering the United States as refugees,” California congressman Ted Lieu told MSNBC on Wednesday. Others pointed out that more than 55,000 children had already died in the Syrian civil war, seemingly with no emotional effect on the American president.


April 12 2017 5:22 PM

The Charging Bull Sculptor Is Right. Fearless Girl Should Go.


Wall Street’s “Fearless Girl” statue has weathered more than her fair share of mischief since she was erected the night before International Women’s Day. Just two days after her arrival in the Big Apple, she got humped by a man in a suit miming child rape. A few weeks later, supporters of our dear President Donald Trump nonconsensually draped her in MAGA gear and anti-immigrant placards.



Now, the sculptor of the decades-old “Charging Bull” statue the girl “fearless”-ly faces down is claiming she doesn’t belong there in the first place. Artist Arturo Di Modica, who installed his bull sculpture under the cover of night after the 1987 stock-market crash, called on Wednesday for New York City authorities to remove the girl statue, saying it violates his rights as an artist.


April 12 2017 4:28 PM

Donald Trump’s Modeling Agency Is Closing—Not That That Has Anything to Do With Donald Trump

The New York company Trump Model Management is shutting down, a piece of news that has nothing to do with Donald Trump. Sure, the agency still bears the vestigial name of its model-connoisseur founder. And yes, the president’s financial disclosure forms last year reported that he owned an 85 percent stake in the company and earned $2 million from it in 2015. But the truthier truth is surely what he has told the American people: He has handed over control of his businesses to his two oldest sons, he has absolutely nothing to do with those businesses anymore, and the details are none of our business. The matter is settled! So this is just a news item about a random failing modeling agency, which happens to have been recently accused of flouting immigration law by using foreign models who have overstayed their tourist visas.

As Mother Jones reports, the company’s president, Corinne Nicolas, emailed colleagues over the weekend to inform them of the company’s preparations to close. “The Trump Organization is choosing to exit the modeling industry,” she wrote. “On the heels of the recent sale of the Miss Universe Organization, the company is choosing to focus on their core businesses in the real estate, golf and hospitality space.”

Trump founded the agency in 1999, and it once represented top names including Pat Cleveland and Carmen Dell’Orefice. But Trump’s political career has hurt the agency. Several top models and agents have fled since November. The ’90s supermodel Maggie Rizer quit just days before the election, saying she adored Nicolas but “as a woman, a mother, an American and a human being, I cannot wake up Wednesday morning being the least bit related to the Trump brand.” That gives her something in common with the president, who insisted that he, too, woke up on Wednesday, Nov. 9, as a man unrelated to the Trump brand.

Meanwhile, here is another interesting tidbit of business news that likewise has absolutely nothing to do with any Trumps currently occupying the White House. Net sales of Ivanka Trump’s clothing collection increased by $17.9 million in the year ending January 31, according to a new annual report from the company that licenses the clothing. That means the steep decline in sales at Nordstrom, for example, did not put the brand overall into free-fall. But it’s a significantly smaller increase than the previous year.

It’s tempting to connect the flagging performance of the Trumps’ sprawling business empire to public perception of the Trump presidency. Why else would Eric Trump have bragged to the New York Times last month that “our brand is the hottest it has ever been”? And didn’t the Times also report that Ivanka still receives fixed payments from several of the family’s real-estate endeavors, and that she continues to receive financial reports on her company’s performance? And why do so-called “ethics experts” keep using phrases like “tremendous possibility for conflict of interest”? Never mind all that. Rest assured that the fortunes of Ivanka Trump the brand no longer concern Ivanka Trump the woman. The latter stepped down from her management role at the former in January, when her husband was named a senior advisor to the founder of Trump Model Management.

April 12 2017 1:08 PM

How a Hospital’s Design Could Affect Your Chances of Getting a C-Section

When pregnant women choose hospitals for their deliveries, they’re more often swayed by a particular obstetrician or midwife than by a hospital’s quality metrics, according to research published earlier this year in Birth Issues in Perinatal Care. Though previous research has found that nearly one in three women end up delivering with a health-care provider they’ve never met or only met briefly, 73.2 percent of pregnant women surveyed in January 2016 said they chose a doctor before evaluating the facility where she delivers babies. Only 17.4 percent picked a hospital first.

April 11 2017 4:32 PM

White House Waits So Long to Plan Easter Egg Roll, Only Deplorables Remain to Fill Baskets

We can’t blame the Trump administration for everything. “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated,” as President Trump said in February. Same for all the vacancies in the federal government—who could have predicted those would come up?

But when it comes to doing a subpar job of planning the annual Easter Egg Roll, a 138-year-old White House tradition, the administration has nowhere to look but in the mirror. The New York Times blew the lid off this scandal in Tuesday’s paper, with just a little under a week to go until E-day, Monday’s do-or-die event. 

April 11 2017 3:22 PM

The San Bernardino Gunman Had a History of Domestic Abuse, Like Most U.S. Mass Shooters

Monday’s elementary-school shooting in San Bernardino, California, left an 8-year-old student and a 53-year-old teacher dead and a 9-year-old student injured. Police say the gunman, 53-year-old Cedric Anderson, shot and killed himself after his shooting spree. He was the latest in a long line of American shooters whose histories of domestic abuse were warning signs, missed or ignored by authorities, of escalating violent tendancies.