Reason Roundup

Texas Will Revoke Licenses for Child Care Facilities That House Refugee Children

Plus: International Sex Workers' Day, vaccines and HIPAA, and more...


As the feds struggle to shelter an influx of unaccompanied migrant kids, Texas threatens to shut down facilities that provide them care. Humane treatment of undocumented immigrant children should be something we can all agree on, regardless of one's thoughts on immigration policy. But no—Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, is determined to punish child care facilities that accept refugee children, forcing facilities to choose between caring for these kids and staying in business.

In a Tuesday announcement, Abbott said that he would revoke the licenses of Texas businesses housing or placing undocumented minors as part of contracts with the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).

"The Governor directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to take all necessary steps to discontinue state licensure of any child care facility under a contract with the federal government that shelters or detains unlawful immigrants," says the June 1 press release. Abbott's order also said the state Health and Human Services Commission should "deny a license application for any new child-care facility that shelters or detains unlawful immigrants or other individuals not lawfully present in the United States."

There are currently 52 licensed facilities in Texas that care for unaccompanied child refugees, notes The Dallas Morning News. "Within three months or so, Abbott's move apparently would force them to stop serving unaccompanied minors because the facilities must have state licenses to qualify for the federal contracts."

Where these children would go in their absence is unclear. The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) has already been struggling to find enough facilities to house undocumented minors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"With a record number of unaccompanied minors arriving at the border in the past several weeks, HHS quickly filled the 7,700 available beds in its network of permanent shelters," The Texas Tribune reported in April.

"Though ORR has worked to build up its licensed bed capacity and currently funds over 13,500 licensed beds (the highest in the program's history), the COVID-19 pandemic has created conditions that have limited placement at ORR's licensed shelter facilities," said the federal Administration for Children and Families in a recent statement, calling on ORR "to increase the number of shelter beds available and minimize the time children are in [Customs and Border Protection] custody."

"It's unclear how many [unaccompanied] children are in state licensed facilities in Texas, as opposed to unlicensed emergency sites such as the one that just closed in Dallas or the site at Fort Bliss Army base in El Paso that can hold up to 10,000 unaccompanied migrant children and teens," says The Dallas Morning News. But "denying the Biden administration use of the state-licensed shelters could force more of the children to be held at U.S. Customs and Border Protection stations—facilities deemed unsuitable for children."

Trying to avoid housing children at CBP stations has led to the opening of new federal emergency facilities in Texas and Arizona, but these have also drawn criticism.

Abbott himself previously called on the Biden administration to shut down one emergency federal facility for migrant teens, suggesting he is aware of potential drawbacks to such facilities. Yet he's now trying to force more refugee kids into them.

Abbott's office justified his move to upend migrant kids' care with falsehoods and fearmongering. It decried Biden's "open border policies"—a laughable assertion on a day when Biden proposed raising the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) budget by $18 million—and complained that "dangerous gangs and cartels, human traffickers, and deadly drugs like fentanyl" were pouring into Texas communities.


Happy International Sex Workers' Day!


On HIPAA and vaccines. A newly common—and misguided—retort to businesses restricting non-vaccinated customers is that this violates a federal law on medical privacy. "It's amazing how many misconceptions are on the loose about HIPAA, the federal health privacy law," writes Walter Olson at The Dispatch:

You've probably heard someone claim it means businesses can't ask you about your vaccination status. (They can.) Or that a store's policy requiring masks is invalid for the same reason. (It isn't.) One meme claims the "rule is simple, HIPAA protects EVERY American from disclosing ANY of their health records to ANYONE." (Completely false.)

Somehow, word of mouth has taken a dull law passed 25 years ago, known mostly for generating paperwork for nurses, and turned it into some sweeping add-on to the Bill of Rights, except that for business people—from hair stylists to dance instructors—the imagined effect is to curtail their rights.

The mistakes often start with the law's initials. HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Notice there is no second word beginning with "P," although the routinely misspelled version, "HIPPA," would have you looking for one.

Notice also that the word that does begin with P is not privacy but "portability." That's a clue that the data privacy rules we talk about here weren't even at the center of the law's rationale at the time.

More on what the law does do here.


• "The Supreme Court on Tuesday set aside a rule used by the 9th Circuit Court in California that presumed immigrants seeking asylum were telling the truth unless an immigration judge had made an 'explicit' finding that they were not credible," reports the Los Angeles Times.

Against digital exceptionalism.

• Labor law eludes criminal justice reform.

• The Trump administration's "remain in Mexico" policy, which said asylum seekers can't wait for their court dates in the U.S., has been repealed.

• Amazon will stop testing potential hires for marijuana. "In the past, like many employers, we've disqualified people from working at Amazon if they tested positive for marijuana use," the company said in a June 1 post. "However, given where state laws are moving across the U.S., we've changed course. We will no longer include marijuana in our comprehensive drug screening program for any positions not regulated by the Department of Transportation, and will instead treat it the same as alcohol use."

• Cryptocurrency in trouble? "Despite some high-profile commentary calling for a cryptocurrency ban, we seem to be a long way off from President Joe Biden signing an executive order that bans the private ownership of bitcoin (as President Franklin D. Roosevelt did with gold)," writes Kyle Torpey. "But there has been increased discussion of tracking and regulating what's going on in the bitcoin ecosystem."

• Food freedom in Utah: "Earlier this month, Utah became the second state in the country to implement a law that allows home cooks to sell prepared meals from their homes," notes Baylen Linnekin. "That very good law, H.B. 94, legalizes what have become known as Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations (MEHKOs)."

• Florida is the latest state to say transgender girls and women can't play on female sports teams in high schools and colleges.

• New York is now suing a PR firm that helped market opioid pills.

• Fact Check: Fact checking is protected by the First Amendment.

• Hashtags are back?