US Lawmakers Refocus on Immigration Deal
U.S. senators expressed differing expectations on Tuesday for what Congress might produce on thorny immigration topics, one day after a government shutdown ended on a promise of Senate action to protect young immigrants and boost border security.
On Monday, McConnell said he intended for the Senate to consider legislation addressing the plight of undocumented immigrants brought to America as children and other issues by Feb. 8, when U.S. government funding expires once again. The assurance convinced more than 30 Senate Democrats to join Republicans in voting to end a three-day partial federal shutdown.
“The Republican majority now has 16 days to work with us to write a bill that can get 60 votes [in the 100-member Senate] and prevent Dreamers [young immigrants] from being deported,” Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said. “The clock is ticking.”
President Donald Trump already rejected an immigration proposal negotiated by three Republican and three Democratic senators that reportedly included a legislative fix for recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals [DACA], enhanced border security and reforms to legal immigration. A top Trump ally on Capitol Hill, Republican Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, dismissed the deal as a starting point for negotiations going forward.
Schumer, meanwhile, retracted a tentative offer on border wall funding he reportedly made to the president in private talks at the White House last week.
Democrats opposed the wall but expressed willingness to back limited funding for physical barrier construction in order to reach a deal on DACA recipients. Given the president’s rejection of that deal, Democrats said negotiations must start from scratch on all items, including the border wall.
Cigarette Smoking Rates in US Reach Historic Lows
The American Lung Association says fewer Americans smoke cigarettes now than before tobacco control policies were put in place.
In its annual report, the ALA says smoking rates among adults and teens are at historic lows. On average, just over 15.5 percent of American adults and eight percent of high school students smoke cigarettes.
The association gets its data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which show the smoking rate declined from 20.9 percent in 2005 to 15.5 percent in 2016. Still, CDC data shows that nearly 38 million American adults continue to smoke.
Yet, the American Lung Association finds that certain groups and regions in the United States are disproportionately impacted by tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke. Thomas Carr, the ALA's Director of National Policy who wrote the 2018 report "The State of Tobacco Control," said poorer Americans, those who are less educated, Native Americans and some ethnic groups have smoking rates that are close to 30 percent or higher.
There's also peer pressure, and when friends or parents smoke, teens tend to take up the habit. Studies show that most people who smoke start before they are 18. Some start as young as age 11 according to The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Carr calls it a pediatric disease. "It starts in your teens and then once you’re hooked, you can’t get off of it."
The lung association is pushing states to raise the age where young people can legally purchase cigarettes to 21, the minimum age in the United States for purchasing alcohol. The thought is that if middle and high school students can't get cigarettes, they are less likely to start smoking.
The lung association issues an annual report to help promote state and federal regulations to make it easier for people who smoke to quit and to help those who don't smoke not to start.