Jordan Ecker

Jordan Ecker is an editorial intern at The American Prospect

Recent Articles

How Neglect of Puerto Rico Sparked a National IV Bag Shortage

Hurricane Maria inflicted severe damage on Puerto Rican manufacturing plants that make the plastic bags that medical facilities need to administer drugs.

(Britta Pedersen/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)
(Britta Pedersen/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images) W hen Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in late September, hospitals across the mainland United States already faced intermittent shortages of intravenous fluids. But the Category 4 hurricane severely damaged several manufacturing plants owned by Baxter International, one of the major manufacturers of the small IV bags that deliver those fluids, setting in motion a major national shortage. Nearly six months later, the scarcity of IV bags has reached crisis levels, illustrating what damage to a supply chain concentrated in Puerto Rico can do to one of the world’s most advanced health-care systems. This development underscores an inescapable reality: A strong sector may have great doctors, nurses, and hospitals, but if one link in the supply chain breaks, people suffer. IV bags, simple plastic bags that are used to mix and deliver a liquid medication or salt water to patients through an intravenous line, are involved in nearly every...

Q&A: America’s Marijuana Moments

Historian Emily Dufton discusses the prospects of a Sessions-led backlash to legal weed.

Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa via AP Images Hundreds of people marched through the streets of Portland, Oregon, for the 17th Annual Global Cannabis March book_cover.png W hen Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era policies in early January, which had prevented federal prosecutors from pursuing marijuana cases in states that had legalized or decriminalized the drug, the staunch conservative rekindled the debate over a drug that some researchers and users believe is less toxic than alcohol. In Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America , independent historian Emily Dufton, a former American Council of Learned Societies fellow at the Center for Public Integrity , details how 1960s social movements fueled both the marijuana decriminalization effort and the reactionary “parent movement” that sought to recriminalize the drug. She cautions that today’s marijuana activists should view marijuana’s history as a pendulum swinging between more liberal marijuana policies...

The GOP Tax Plan Places Huge Burden on Graduate Students

Late last week, House Republicans passed the “Tax Cuts and Job Act,” a bill they claim will cut taxes and raise wages for the majority of Americans. One group that would see a huge tax increase are graduate students. Many of them survive on modest stipends, but they could see their taxes quadruple under the GOP plan.    

Most doctoral programs come with a sticker price somewhere between $20,000 and $50,000 per year. Yet many graduate students usually do not pay the going rate. Instead, these students work as teaching assistants who conduct research and teach classes. They receive a small yearly stipend, typically between $15,000 and $35,000. Roughly 145,000 graduate students fall into this category.

The House Republicans' plan would treat waived tuition as income, which means some graduate students would see their tax bills skyrocket despite their meager take-home pay.

In an interview with Wired, Amanda Coston, a Carnegie Mellon PhD student, said she expects her tax bill to increase from roughly $2,000 to more than $10,000. Essentially, Coston would pay taxes on $76,234 (tuition plus stipend), even though her real annual income is only $32,400. (The latest version of the Senate bill does not tax waived tuition.)

Michael Stenovec, a UCLA graduate student working on his doctorate in political science, told The American Prospect that the Republican plan “hurts graduate students who work in high-cost areas like Los Angeles and at public schools without the resources to better compensate grad students.”

The higher tax burden is not the only new penalty: Interest on student loans would no longer be tax deductible. Other workers in the higher-ed sector would also suffer under the Republican tax scheme. University employees from janitors to administrative assistants have long been able to score free tuition for their children. Under the GOP plan, that valuable benefit would be counted as taxable income.

In knowledge sectors like “eds and meds,” graduate students help large research universities—as well as the regions of the country that host them—maintain a competitive edge in the global economy. A plan that forces graduate students to cough up thousands in additional taxes a year to give tax cuts to the super-wealthy is no way to build off that success. It’s actually a move that may put graduate school out of the reach of America’s best and brightest.

Immigration Advocates Warn Undocumented Are ‘Fair Game’ After Detention of Texas Child

The arrest of Rosa Maria Hernandez, an undocumented ten-year-old with cerebral palsy, by Customs and Border Protections, after she received emergency gallbladder surgery in a Texas hospital is a heinous example of the dark turn immigration enforcement has taken under Donald Trump.

Marissa Montes, an immigration attorney with the Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles says that Rosa Maria’s arrest sends the message to undocumented people that “anyone is fair game: Regardless of whether you have a criminal record, under the Trump administration, you are considered an enforcement priority.”

The child is not the first undocumented person arrested at a hospital, or even at Driscoll’s Children Hospital. Earlier this summer, Oscar and Irma Sanchez, the undocumented parents of an American-born infant were arrested at the same hospital as their child underwent surgery. Other undocumented people have been arrested at public facilities as ICE has stepped up its enforcement efforts, including a father who was dropping his daughter off at school and a woman who was detained after seeking a protective order from domestic abuse at a courthouse.

During the first three months of the Trump presidency, ICE arrested 20,000 undocumented people, a 30 percent increase over the same period in 2016. Revisions to Department of Homeland Security guidelines, made during Trump’s first month in office, have produced the spike in arrests by expanding the categories of people considered a “priority for removal.”

In the waning years of the Obama administration, undocumented people with criminal backgrounds who posed a threat to public safety were the focus of deportation efforts. The Trump DHS has moved to deport any undocumented person with any kind of record, including minor infractions.

These rule changes essentially make every undocumented person in the U.S. a deportation target, because they have all technically broken the law by crossing the border illegally. Rosa Maria’s arrest was not a mistake: Under DHS rules, she is a priority for deportation.

Montes tells The American Prospect that under previous administrations—and even during Obama’s first term, when total deportations peaked—ICE agents didn’t make arrests in schools, hospitals, courts, or places of worship. This changed under Trump, despite pleas by local officials who say detaining undocumented people at courthouses created a chilling effect that has caused a drop in reports of sexual assault and domestic violence.

Ali Noorani, the executive director of the National Immigration Forum, argues that if DHS “is really interested in keeping the homeland secure, they should be spending every dollar available on public security threats.”

During the early Obama years, more undocumented people were deported per year than under any other president in history. But in 2014, President Obama directed DHS to prioritize threats to public safety and deportations declined thereafter. The Trump administration has reversed that trend. Instead, ICE and CPB now spend their time prowling around courthouses and checking the documents of people in ambulances en route to hospitals. While Trump officials growl about the threat that undocumented people pose to public safety, they seem less interested in responding to real public safety issues, like the circumstances that allowed a gunman commit mayhem in Las Vegas, than they are in making all undocumented people fear for their own safety, and proving that no one—not even a ten-year-old girl with cerebral palsy needing emergency surgery—is out of the reach of immigration agents.

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