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25 Best High School Movies of All Time From Clueless to Superbad


Love it or hate it, the high school years help shape us into the people we are today. And with all the hormones, the trouble-making, the misplaced sense of entitlement, the confusion, and sexual exploration—movies about high school make for pretty damn good entertainment. Whether they bring back nightmares or the best times of our lives, there’s no denying that a good movie about those formidable years is something to which almost all of us can relate.

Regardless of where you stood in your lunch table ecosystem, let’s take some time reminisce on that analog feel of first kisses, pep rallies, and simpler problems that seemed so big at the time. Take a walk down memory lane with these classic teen flicks.

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The Edge of Seventeen

Hailee Steinfeld channels a new-age Molly Ringwald in this sharp spin on the classic teenaged dramedy. The film is as radically honest as it is quick-witted, following high school junior Nadine’s self-aware quest to endure the awkwardness of her salad days. Not to mention, it doesn’t hurt that her teacher mentor is played by Woody Harrelson.

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Dead Poets Society

Robin Williams stars as John Keating, an English teacher at an elite all-boys boarding school, who is determined to encourage his students to break the mold of their regimented education through poetry. The cinematic “seize the day” manifesto is a celebration of the late-Williams’s ability to communicate the wise and the worldly in the most offbeat of characters.

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Lady Bird

Ah, the first documented instance of the natural phenomenon that is Greta Gerwig directing Saiorse Ronan. This semi-autobiographical film stars Ronan as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, a pink-haired firecracker who is trapped within the monotonous confines of her Catholic school adolescence in Sacramento, California. The heartwarming flick features outstanding performances from Laurie Metcalf, Timothée Chalamet, Lucas Hedges, and Beanie Feldstein.

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Perks of Being a Wallflower

If an angsty indie anthem were a film, it would be Perks of Being a Wallflower. Logan Lerman stars as a doe-eyed high school freshman whose fate takes a twist when two boldly offbeat seniors, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller, take him under their wing. From kisses in twinkly-light-draped bedrooms, to dancing on the bed of trucks in traffic tunnels, this coming-of-age is something out of a Tumblr teen’s dreams.

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Olivia Wilde’s feature directorial debut Booksmart has been frequently referred to as “Superbad for girls,” and it’s not just because it stars Jonah Hill’s little sister. The instant coming-of-age classic follows two academic overachievers, played by Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever, as they embark on their final night of high school with one assignment: to cram in all of the fun they missed over the last four years while they played by the rules.

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Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg wrote the perfect contemporary teen sex comedy which follows, naturally, two teenage boys who vow to lose their virginity before graduation. Jonah Hill and Michael Cera play fictional versions of the screenwriters (with Rogen appearing in the film as a bumbling cop), while Emma Stone delivers a star-making turn as Hill’s love interest.


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High school is literally hell in Brian De Palma’s adaptation of Stephen King’s debut novel. Sissy Spacek earned her first Oscar nomination for this horror film, playing the outcast Carrie White who is abused by her evangelical mother and bullied by her mean classmates. But she eventually has her revenge when she uses her telekinetic powers against her enemies.

Bring It On

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One of the best high school sports movies is undoubtedly this cheerleading-focused comedy, which stars Kirsten Dunst as the head of a troupe who learns that their former captain stole their routines from an inner-city Los Angeles squad.

Sixteen Candles

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Molly Ringwald stars in this John Hughes-directed classic as a misfit teen whose 16th birthday is completely ruined when her parents overlook her in favor of her sister’s upcoming wedding. Add to that an endless string of humiliations, from bullying classmates to a insufferably horny geek who won’t leave her alone.

Cooley High

Set in mid-’60s Chicago, Cooley High follows a group of friends who are celebrating the end of the school year—an exciting time that is put to a halt when two of the group are falsely accused of stealing a car.


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Four students enter a prestigious high school in New York City dedicated to the performing arts. All of them are tested throughout the school year to express themselves and try to fit into the rigorous world of theater as they discover their own individual identities as young adults.


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The classic musical starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John is a crowd-pleasing nostalgia fest for the blissfully innocent 1950s. The duo play an unlikely romantic pair—the greaser Danny Zuko and the virginal Sandy—whose classmates scheme to keep them from finding true love together.

American Graffiti

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Years before Star Wars, George Lucas wrote and directed this Oscar-nominated ensemble comedy about a group of high school graduates who spend one last night together in 1962 cruising around and reflecting on their future. The inspiration for the long-running series Happy Days, the all-star cast includes Ron Howard and launched the careers of Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Cindy Williams, Mackenzie Phillips, and Suzanne Somers.

The Last Picture Show

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Nominated for eight Oscars including Best Picture (and winning two for Best Supporting Actor and Actress), Peter Bogdanovich’s stark adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s novel remains one of the most realistic and somber reflections of teenage life. Set in a small north Texas town that’s on the brink of ruin, the film stars Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms, and Cybil Shepard as high school seniors who must reckon with their dying hometown and the paths their futures have in store for them.


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This disarmingly dark comedy remains one of the ballsiest teen movies ever made. Winona Ryder stars as the whip-smart Veronica Sawyer, a popular girl who hates her best friends (a trio of queen bees, all named Heather). Her life spins out of control when she falls for the new kid at school—the trench coat-wearing, gun-toting J.D., played by Christian Slater—who convinces her to kill off her clique

Rebel Without a Cause

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Nicolas Ray’s searing drama essentially invented the American teenager—and teenage angst—and made a Hollywood icon out of its star, James Dean. Dean plays a Los Angeles teenager who rebels against his strict parents and becomes friends with the lonely Plato (Sal Mineo) and the defiant Judy (Natalie Wood)

Hoop Dreams

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The high school sports movie—Hoosiers, Remember the Titans, Varsity Blues—is a film staple, but none have the heart and soul of Steve James’s stirring documentary about two teenagers from Chicago who are recruited by a scout to attend a privileged (and predominantly white) suburban high school to participate in its basketball program.

Mean Girls

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Tina Fey’s sole screenplay is based on the sociological study Queen Bees and Wannabes, which she ingeniously turned into a hilarious comedy that stars Lindsay Lohan as new girl Cady who is tapped by her high school’s reigning popular girls to join their clique. As she attempts to dismantle their power, she only becomes more ruthless and mean herself.

To Sir, With Love

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Sidney Poitier stars in this iconic film, one that inspired countless imitations, as an American teacher in an inner-city London high school who shepherds his class of unruly, disrespectful pupils and inspires them to embrace their education and personal responsibility.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

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Undoubtedly the best high school movie that doesn’t even take place in high school, this John Hughes comedy stars Matthew Broderick in the role that made him a star. The titular character skips out of school for a day with his girlfriend and best friend, which sees the trio embarking on a madcap tour of Chicago while the school principal—and Ferris’s surly sister—are hellbent on catching him playing hooky.


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Amy Heckerling wrote and directed this brilliant teen comedy, inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma, which stars Alicia Silverstone in her most iconic performance as a ditzy, if well-meaning, Beverly Hills high school student who weaves a complicated matchmaking web—learning that it’s ultimately better to be selfless than selfish.


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Reese Witherspoon delivers her best performance in Alexander Payne’s dark comedy, playing the ambitious Tracy Flick, who is eager to become student body president. Matthew Broderick sheds his youthful charm to play the social studies teacher who will stop at nothing to stop the teenage girl from achieving her goal—a scheme that throws the all-American high school into turmoil.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High

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This film marked the directorial debut of Amy Heckerling and the screenwriting debut of Cameron Crowe. Based on the latter’s undercover reportage at a San Diego high school, Fast Times at Ridgemont High explores the ins and outs of teen sexuality in comically honest fashion. The film also launched the careers of Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Nicolas Cage, Phoebe Cates, Eric Stoltz, Forest Whitaker, Anthony Edwards, and Judge Reinhold.

Dazed and Confused

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Richard Linklater’s comedy follows the American Graffiti framework, examining the various social circles of the rising freshman and senior classes of an Austin, Texas high school on its last day in 1976. Like other great teen ensemble films, it marked early appearances from greats like Matthew McConaughey, Parker Posey, Milla Jovovich, and Ben Affleck.

The Breakfast Club

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Five high school students from varying social classes—a brain (Anthony Michael Hall), an athlete (Emilio Estevez), a basket case (Ally Sheedy), a princess (Molly Ringwald), and a criminal (Judd Nelson)—spend a fateful Saturday detention together in John Hughes’s classic teen drama. Together, the five students learn they have much more in common than they thought.

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Coronavirus crisis disrupts comfortable lifestyles worldwide

It’s a perilous reawakening.

For billions of people across the globe, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic brought weeks of stringent lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. Now that those measures are easing, many find themselves in a strange netherworld — life as it was has been transformed and transmuted, but the parameters of daily existence going forward are not yet clear.

And with disorienting speed, it could all change yet again.

With nearly a quarter-million dead worldwide, and known infections surpassing 3 million, the burials go on; there is no vaccine.

But in country after country, the slow reclamation of public spaces is a kind of alchemy, laced with questions about personal liberty and societal responsibility, the nature of casual encounters and deeper entwinement with loved ones and strangers alike. Wherever breath mingles, collective breath is held.

In all probability, there will be many, many more days of fine-tuning the most mundane actions, wondering what is safe and what is not, considering whether some offhand gesture could upend a life, or lives. France’s President Emmanuel Macron, preparing to ease a nationwide lockdown, warned compatriots in a May Day address that a partial reopening in 10 days’ time would “not be the passage to normal life.”

Here’s a look around the world at signs of — and hopes for — a return to familiar ways.

Mexico City

Music and memory

Masked mariachis serenade the National Institute of Respiratory Diseases in Mexico City on April 7 as a gesture of encouragement for COVID-19 patients and caregivers.

(Pedro Pardo / AFP via Getty Images)

Plaza Garibaldi in downtown Mexico City is not supposed to be silent. For more than a century, the large public square has been the home of Mexican mariachi music.

On a typical night, it would be filled with dozens of bands playing bouncing tunes about love, lust and heartbreak. Spectators would be singing along as they downed beers at crowded sidewalk cafes. The cacophony of violins, trumpets and laughter might continue until dawn.

In these days of the coronavirus, the fiesta has halted.

Now only a few mariachis show up each day at the empty plaza. They are ready to perform, dressed in their handsome charro suits, but they have nobody to play for. The plaza’s bars and restaurants are closed; almost no one passes by.

For years, the musicians have made a living marking momentous occasions — birthdays, weddings, quinceañeras — but these days, such big gatherings are anathema.

Even the statues commemorating famous mariachis look lonely. A sculpture of Juan Gabriel, one of the nation’s most beloved crooners of romantic ballads, has been adorned with a surgical mask.

Daniel Muñoz, 60, has lived his entire life in an apartment on the plaza, where he owns a now-shuttered restaurant called La Símpatía. On a recent afternoon, he stood looking out at the plaza as a hungry tomcat, deprived of the usual bounty from eating establishments, sniffed at his feet.

Muñoz can’t wait until the plaza comes alive again, until he hears “Mexico Lindo y Querido” and “Las Mañanitas” echoing along with voices in the night air.

“It’s odd, I know,” he said. “But I really miss the noise.”

—Kate Linthicum


In a holy season, spice of life


A supermarket worker wearing a mask pushes a customer’s shopping cart across a street in Beirut on March 11. Lebanon has done a relatively good job containing the coronavirus, but the pandemic and ongoing economic strains have made for a muted Ramadan.

(Joseph Eid / AFP via Getty Images)

Souq al-Attareen, the old spice market in the Lebanese coastal city of Tripoli, is a carnival of commerce — even in these coronavirus-shadowed days.

On a recent day, merchants flung their store shutters open, ready to greet customers. Shoppers eager to stock up before iftar — the daily sunset breaking of the fast in the holy month of Ramadan — navigated a beehive of porters, scooters and the occasional pull-cart.

No one seemed concerned with the strictures of social distancing despite the clusters of uniformed security personnel keeping watch nearby.

“We’re ignoring all that at the moment. People need to work,” said Adel, a police officer lingering in the archway of a dairy shop selling braids of salty Majdouleh cheese and chunks of halloumi adorned with black sesame seeds.

In Tripoli, and across the Muslim world, food merchants typically do booming business during Ramadan as people prepare lavish end-of-day feasts for friends and family. The days leading up to Eid al-Fitr, the festival that celebrates the end of the holy month, normally spurs a shopping frenzy.

This year, though, many Lebanese customers are struggling to come up with the cash. Even before the coronavirus crisis hit, the country was weathering economic convulsions that sent the national currency, the pound, tumbling to a third of its value against the dollar.

That has pushed the ever-growing ranks of the poor to choose between observing self-isolation and a scramble for whatever work they can find.

Despite the Lebanese government being effectively bankrupt, it is widely credited with keeping the virus in check with shutdowns. Now, phased reopenings are underway.

The relaxed rules shorten evening curfews, ease vehicle restrictions and extend merchants’ hours at market hubs like Souq al-Attareen. But no one knows how long this lull will last.

“If something happens, we’ll have to close,” said Adel, who did not want his last name used so he could speak freely. “Already, there’s no joy in this Ramadan.”

—Nabih Bulos


Hard-earned exercise, while exercising caution

Daily Life In Beijing After China Declared Epidemic Contained

Citizens wear protective masks while exercising at a park in Beijing on April 23. Life is slowly returning to normal in the capital more than three months after a lockdown was imposed to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

(Lintao Zhang / Getty Images)

Drawing deep, deliberate breaths, elderly Chinese women practicing the meditative movements of tai chi glided their limbs slowly, as if the air were syrup. Huffing joggers made their way around the nearby running track.

The Workers’ Stadium, a large sports complex in eastern Beijing that had been closed since late January, is again open for morning exercise — a welcome change from the capital’s long shutdown regimen. But things are different than in pre-coronavirus days.

Everyone wears a mask and makes online reservations. A woman in goggles and gloves at the entrance makes note of each arrival’s name, phone number, identification and temperature.

Stadium users also have to display codes on their phones that are determined by key health metrics, including whether they had been previously quarantined at home and completed the mandatory 14 days of staying in or if they had traveled to any high-risk districts.

If the code is green, they can come in. If it’s yellow or red, they go to home isolation — or a hospital.

In a quiet corner of the stadium, one couple hit a badminton shuttlecock back and forth. They glanced around after a few minutes, then pulled off their masks — first the man, then the woman. Swinging their racquets high, they let the cool air whoosh around their uncovered faces.

Then a patrolling volunteer in a red Communist Party armband took note.

“Masks on!” she shouted. They quickly obeyed.

—Alice Su

Milan, Italy

Keys to revival


The stores and cafes in Milan’s Via Manzoni have been dark since March 10 as Italy battles one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks.

(Janna Brancolini / Los Angeles Times)

Three men made their way down Milan’s Via Manzoni, a wide stone boulevard whose high-end cafes and upscale retailers have been dark for the past seven weeks, with their masks fixed in place and a yard of space between them, as required by law.

They had chosen their number carefully, to avoid violating rules prohibiting public assembly as Italy continues to battle one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, with particular devastation here in the country’s north.

But the three carried a rattling, rustling message, in the form of about 2,000 keys — some actual metal ones, some oversized cardboard cutouts, some printed-out photos — symbolizing shuttered businesses and by extension the many affected by the shutdowns who could not march alongside them.

As the men approached the famed La Scala opera house, they turned left and stopped in front of Milan’s city hall. There, they would hand over the symbolic keys to the city’s bars and restaurants, barbershops and beauty salons — a reminder of stricken businesses that might never reopen if forced to remain closed much longer.

“I always say my restaurant survived World War II, and I just hope it can also survive coronavirus,” said organizer Alfredo Zini, 52, whose Ristorante Al Tronco, named for a tree trunk in its garden, first opened in 1933.

Milan’s protest was part of a nationwide demonstration Wednesday as Italy’s 300,000 eateries struggle to survive Europe’s longest-running lockdown, in effect since the second week in March. More than 50,000 are at risk of closing permanently, according to the Italian Federation of Public Merchants.

Many owners hoped they would be allowed to reopen on May 18, but the government said June 1 was the earliest possible date. Those extra weeks will result in another 9 billion euros in lost revenue industrywide, according to the federation.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conti has said the country’s reopening must be gradual to keep the infection curve from bouncing upward again.

Zini said he didn’t want to open before it was safe, but that he was surprised the government still hadn’t issued guidelines. How far apart should tables be? How often must equipment be cleaned? What type of masks should servers wear?

The latter will be a difficult necessity, he said, because his workers are accustomed to showing off their smiles.

“For Italians, hospitality is our strong point,” Zini said. “People come here because they feel like they’re treated well.”

—Janna Brancolini


Still orderly, but chafing

Virus Outbreak Singapore

A so-called safe-distancing ambassador wearing a red armband watches over customers lining up at a food court in Singapore on April 18.

(YK Chan / Associated Press)

Singapore’s government doesn’t call it a lockdown. Rules that keep people from mixing in public, and perhaps spreading the coronavirus, are given a more coolly technocratic, perhaps euphemistic, term: “circuit breaker.”

But the city-state is still weeks away from ending restrictions, and the signs of strain are showing.

“Safe-distancing ambassadors” — workers enlisted to conduct surveillance checks of fellow residents — are deployed across the island nation to enforce rules about eating outdoors, wearing masks and loitering.

Thousands of people have been warned or cited for flouting the safety measures, and after numerous confrontations, the government had to issue yet another admonition, this one against threatening or abusing the ambassadors.

Methods for snitching on fellow residents abound. There’s a reporting tool embedded in a government app, and there are Facebook groups set up to post photos and videos designed to shame scofflaws, who are derided as “covidiots.”

Luckily, this food-obsessed nation is small enough for blanket coverage from meal-delivery apps, which have kept many of Singapore’s most beloved restaurants and food stalls open.

But expanded restrictions resulted in the closure of bubble tea stands, purveying popluar tea-based drinks with toppings like tapioca pearls.

That sparked anxious queues before the bubble-tea drought commenced, and Singaporeans were said to be buying up tapioca flour for homemade versions.

Affluent residents are almost as much of a Singapore hallmark as stifling heat and humidity, and as the lockdown has stretched on, those two signature traits have at times collided.

Communal swimming pools, public or private, are closed, but one British expatriate, barred from using his condominium pool, agreed to pay $20,000 for three months’ access to a private garden attached to a nearby Balinese-style mansion up for sale. The draw: It has a private pool.

“I was shocked,” said Lester Chen, a property agent at Singapore Realtors Inc., who negotiated the deal. The well-heeled client, he said, called swimming a necessity.

—David Pierson

Gijon, Spain

Seeing the sea, missing a grandmother


Iberian hams that were previously displayed outdoors are now shown behind display cabinets as an additional post-pandemic hygiene measure in Gijon, Spain.

(Claudia Núñez / Los Angeles Times)

For more than 40 days, idyllic beaches fronting the northern Spanish city of Gijon — normally packed as springtime turns toward summer — were all but abandoned.

Officially, they’re still mainly closed to tourists and residents. But with a slight relaxing of restrictions, a few children, under their parents’ watchful eyes, can be seen at water’s edge, sometimes with dogs frolicking alongside.

Spain has suffered the world’s fourth-highest fatality toll in the coronavirus outbreak, behind only the United States, Italy and Britain. Since mid-March, the government has fought the infection’s spread with business shutdowns and stay-at-home orders.

These are days of slow reemergence. Patrols that previously monitored residents’ confinement indoors have now turned their attention to urging proper physical separation among those newly out in public.

In banks and shops, thick yellow lines on the floor mark prescribed distancing. Even a few days ago, nervous customers veered far away from one another in supermarket aisles; now they are still staying well apart, but venturing close enough to converse.

“There is still a very small influx of people,” said Jonatan Cadenas, manager of La Casa Real del Jamon, the Royal House of Ham. He used to showcase his prized jamon iberico in the open air, but now the cured ham is displayed behind glass and plastic barriers.

Life has changed in other ways, large and small. Masks and gloves, once found only in medical supply shops or pharmacies, are now a pandemic staple, to be found in regular markets.

Construction workers and operators of farming equipment are back on the job — though wearing masks, and with gloves slipped over work-callused hands. Rancher Ramon Moreno was annoyed but accepting.

“I can’t stand the mask or the gloves,” he said. “But it is what it is.”

This week, Johana Fernández, 41, took her two children — 10-year-old Nicolás and 8-year-old Manuela — for a first stroll on the beach since March 14, when stay-home orders began. Children under 14 are now allowed to come out for once-a-day walks.

Manuela said what she missed most wasn’t playing in the park or being with her friends, but visiting with her grandmother.

“I so want to see her,” she said.

—Claudia Núñez

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Why Filing Bankruptcy Would Be No Quick Fix for States

Fiscally troubled states are nothing

In fact, our nation was born during a
time of great economic upheaval, in which many of the new states found
themselves deeply indebted immediately after the American Revolution. 

The residents of those states paid a high price—literally and figuratively—for their freedom from King George III.

>>> When can America reopen? The National Coronavirus Recovery Commission, a project of The Heritage Foundation, is gathering America’s top thinkers together to figure that out. Learn more here.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of
financial struggles for the states.  In
fact, less than half a century later, in a painful episode, almost one-third of
U.S. states defaulted on their debts.

States were also especially strapped
for cash immediately after the Civil War and during the Great Depression.

As many cities and states stared into
the financial abyss during the Great Depression, Congress took action and for
the first time allowed governmental entities—municipalities, including cities
and special taxing districts, but not the states themselves—to declare

While the Supreme Court initially struck down
Congress’ attempt to provide for municipal bankruptcies as impinging on states’
sovereignty, it reversed course two
years later in 1938 after Congress again passed a law providing for municipal
bankruptcies and upheld Congress’ ability to do so.

According to Stanford University law professor Michael McConnell, a former federal appeals court judge, the Supreme Court held that the new statute was OK as it “did not interfere with state sovereignty because it was drawn to ensure that the state retained control of its fiscal affairs, and because the state consented to the bankruptcy proceeding.”

Still, Congress has never amended the
bankruptcy code to allow a state itself to take advantage of the bankruptcy
process, though today even counties—which at common law were considered to be a
part of the state itself—can take advantage of the bankruptcy process created
by Congress. 

Nevertheless, states retain the ultimate authority over whether their municipalities and other political subdivisions can declare bankruptcy. If a state has not authorized it, that route remains closed, even though Congress has otherwise made it available.

‘Blue-state Bailouts’?

It’s against this backdrop that late
last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., set off a firestorm
with his comments that he would
favor allowing financially troubled states to declare bankruptcy rather than
providing any “blue-state bailouts.”

Regardless of Sen. McConnell’s intentions, the idea of letting states “use the bankruptcy route” to fix their financial problems is no simple task and isn’t particularly relevant to the COVID-19 crisis.

Government bankruptcies are the result
of decades of fiscal mismanagement and not a temporary crisis. 

As Sen. McConnell is undoubtedly aware, Congress would first have to pass legislation allowing states to take advantage of the bankruptcy process.

And even if he could gain enough
support in both houses of Congress and obtain the president’s signature to pass
this proposal into law, constitutional questions still remain.

As others have pointed out, unlike
municipalities, which are creatures of state law, states themselves are sovereigns. They
have entered into their own contracts—both with those to whom they have sold
bonds and the public employees to whom they have promised future retirement
benefits—without setting aside enough funds to pay them.

The argument can be made that they are
responsible for making good on those contracts, and if that isn’t financially
possible, for attempting to renegotiate them.

Subjecting them—even voluntarily—to the
extensive federal oversight involved in the bankruptcy process would
extensively intrude on a state’s sovereignty—maybe even unconstitutionally so.

Despite its goals, bankruptcy is not always
an orderly or even fair process. Bankruptcy involves making hard choices, and
oftentimes, certain creditors who otherwise would have had higher priority of
repayment are pushed further back in line. By definition, there’s not enough
money to go around.

Rather than having the state’s elected officials make those decisions, an unelected, unaccountable federal bankruptcy judge would do so, or at a minimum be significantly involved in the process by having ultimate authority to accept or reject any plan put forward by the bankrupt state.

That could have both benefits and
pitfalls, but would ultimately lead to those decisions being made by an
official of a different sovereign who is further removed from the oversight of
that state’s residents.

And even if a state can only voluntarily invoke the process as Sen. McConnell suggested, it’s not clear that would be enough to save the idea from this constitutional conundrum. 

Even if states can’t declare
bankruptcy, they’re not completely defenseless against creditors. States still
have their shield of sovereign immunity. They can’t be sued unless they consent
to it.

And even if states do waive their
sovereign immunity and consent to be sued, that’s a much more limited intrusion
than wholly submitting a state’s financial decisions to federal oversight. 

What about Puerto Rico?

Congress passed a bankruptcy-like mechanism to
allow Puerto Rico to restructure its debts. 
While the experience may be instructive, there are differences.

First, Puerto Rico is a federal territory, not a state, so it does not have the same level of sovereignty as states.  Second, as the Puerto Rico restructuring shows, it is far from a painless process, and a federal judge will be forced to resolve many politically sensitive disputes—especially the amount and source of funds used to pay pensioners. 

States do face an impediment in
restructuring their own debts—one put in place by the Framers themselves. It’s
the Constitution’s Contracts Clause, which largely prohibits states from
interfering with private contracts and substantially limits a state’s
ability to repudiate its own contracts.

All this is to say that Sen. McConnell’s point is a fair one with no easy solution. 

While the current crisis has
undoubtedly placed a financial strain on many governmental entities, many of
these same entities and states grappled with financial struggles and ballooning
deficits for years before the
current pandemic was on anyone’s radar.

The fiscal outlook for Illinois, for
example, is particularly problematic,
with credit-rating agencies recently downgrading its debt to just above
junk-bond status. 

It hardly seems fair to provide unrestricted funds to these states to make up for these pre-existing shortfalls. Congress has already supplied emergency funds to the states—provided that the states use the money for coronavirus-related purposes—and may be willing to do so again

What Sen. McConnell and others, including President Donald Trump, seek to avoid is having the federal government essentially guarantee state debts and revenue streams by providing additional funds to the states to make up for pre-existing budget gaps—especially those states’ unfunded pension liabilities.

Allowing states to pursue bankruptcy may create as many problems as it solves. Sen. McConnell’s statements that “[bankruptcy] saves some cities” and that “there’s no good reason for it not to be available” to the states, too, glosses over serious constitutional questions, but the point stands that states—not the federal government—are responsible for their budgets.

States that were
already on a path to insolvency prior to COVID-19 face more pressure now to
develop responsible budgets and must attempt to reduce their outstanding debts
before they spiral out of control.

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WTH? Mueller Prosecutor Zelinsky Pushes Feds to Examine Emails Between Hasidic Doctor Who Promoted HCQ Treatment for Coronavirus and Jerome Corsi

WTH? Mueller Prosecutor Zelinsky Pushes Feds to Examine Emails Between Hasidic Doctor Who Promoted HCQ Treatment for Coronavirus and Jerome Corsi

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Amid coronavirus outbreak, states reopen restaurants, salons

Millions of people across the U.S. were able to venture out to movie theaters, retail stores, restaurants and other businesses for the first time in weeks as governors in several states allowed stay-at-home restrictions to expire.

In Texas, an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott allows many retail stores, restaurants, malls and movie theaters to reopen at 25% capacity amid the coronavirus outbreak; in rural counties with five or fewer confirmed coronavirus cases, retailers can open at 50% capacity. In Utah, restaurants and salons and gyms also may open with some restrictions. Other states, including Idaho, Maine and Tennessee, are easing some restrictions, some over the objections of local leaders.

But governors in states extending or expanding their orders in the face of rising death tolls from the pandemic continued to face pushback and protests amid skyrocketing unemployment rates.

In Michigan, hundreds of protesters, many carrying assault-style weapons and wearing body armor, entered the State Capitol on Thursday night, demanding the end to stay-at-home orders. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer late Thursday declared new states of emergency and disaster after the GOP-controlled legislature denied her request for a 28-day extension.

Friday morning, President Trump tweeted that the protesters were “very good people” and that Whitmer should compromise.

Protesters trying to enter the Michigan House of Representative chamber on Thursday are kept out by the Michigan State Police.

(Jeff Kowalsky / AFP via Getty Images)

Armed protesters in the Michigan Capitol in Lansing chanted “Let us in” and “Lock her up,” referring to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Armed protesters in the Michigan Capitol in Lansing chanted “Let us in” and “Lock her up,” referring to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

(AFP via Getty Images)

“The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire,” Trump said on Twitter. “These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”

The discord comes as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. surpassed 1 million this week. On Friday, the death toll from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, climbed past 64,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The decentralized process of reopening the economy has led health experts to warn of a second wave of coronavirus cases, particularly since some of the states reopening parts of their economies have not had consistently declining numbers of confirmed cases. Federal guidelines for easing restrictions recommend there be a 14-day decrease in cases, improved testing and a return to normal conditions in hospitals.

“There are some states, some cities, kind of leapfrogging over the first checkpoint,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Thursday on CNN. “And, I mean, obviously you could get away with that, but you are making a really significant risk.”

In New York, by far the state hardest hit by the pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that schools would remain closed for the remainder of the academic year. He made the announcement after 289 New Yorkers died in the 24-hour period ending Friday. He said that was down from 306 deaths the day before. The rate of hospitalizations continues to fall, he said. Nearly 24,000 people in New York have died from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday that the city will open 40 miles of streets this month to pedestrians in a bid to encourage social distancing as the weather warms up. De Blasio said May will be a decisive month in the city’s battle to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The mayor criticized governors who are lifting restrictions.

“There are some other parts of the country that have not focused on the evidence as part of reopening, and I hope and pray that it doesn’t backfire and that the government in those states don’t act in a hasty manner,” de Blasio said. “We are not going to let that happen here.”

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The (Almost) Debunking of Christopher Steele, Stopped By Bill Priestap

The FBI’s former head of the Counterintelligence Division, Bill Priestap, whose unsealed notes discussed the FBI’s possible motivations for setting up then-National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, is also allegedly responsible for stopping FBI Special Agents from doing an ‘enhanced asset validation review’ of the former British spy, whose now debunked dossier launched the investigation into President Donald Trump’s campaign, sources with knowledge told this reporter.

On Wednesday, Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered four pages of emails and handwritten notes to be unsealed in the case of Flynn. Then, on Thursday, another 11 pages of internal text messages and emails between FBI Special Agents were unsealed by the court, after they were discovered by U.S. Attorney Timothy Shea, as well as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri Jeffrey Jensen, who was appointed by Attorney General William Barr to oversee the Flynn case.

The January 2017 handwritten notes by Priestap suggested that the FBI was targeting Flynn and, in the notes, Priestap writes, “what is our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?”

Priestap could not be immediately reached for comment.

In Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s December report on the origins of the Russia investigation, he revealed that it was Priestap who made the final decision to launch the Russia probe. The FBI probe against the Trump campaign was called “Crossfire Hurricane,” and in the case of Flynn it was “Crossfire Razor.” After years of congressional and Department of Justice investigations, evidence revealed that former British spy Christopher Steele, who was paid by the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign to investigate Trump, had purveyed Russian disinformation and made up sources in his now debunked dossier. Horowitz’s investigation also revealed that Steele had been manipulated by Russian intelligence, who had fed him lies about the Trump administration with the specific intent to sow chaos in the 2016 U.S. election.

Normally an enhanced validation review in the FBI is triggered “if a source is paid more than $100,000 per year for information, or the source’s information is so critical that it can shape national policy or trigger some sort of diplomatic or military action. In this case, an enhanced validation of Steele would have been the appropriate course of action given the fact that this had the potential to impact our Presidential election.  In this context, it becomes very questionable as to why Priestap would shut it down,” said the former senior FBI official.

The biggest question raised by Horowitz and members of Congress was how did Steele’s dossier become the main piece of evidence used to gather a secret warrant on Trump campaign advisor Carter Page, and why did the FBI believe the information? Horowitz’s investigation revealed that the FBI never bothered to conduct an asset validation on Steele and according to the former FBI official, who spoke to this reporter, it was Priestap who insured that they didn’t do it.

Former FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok, who has since been fired, and FBI Special Agent Joe Pientka, who is still with the Bureau, were not only involved in the now controversial findings in the Flynn case, but it was Pientka who was tasked with getting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance warrant on Page. Both Pientka and Strzok at the time believed Flynn did not lie to them, however, it was Strzok who pushed to keep a target on Flynn.

As for Pientka, he had allegedly been shut down by senior FBI officials from seeking clarity from sources and exercising caution in the investigative steps being undertaken.  In particular, Priestap had stopped Pientka from following through with normal FBI protocol to conduct a validation review of Steele directly and of his salacious dossier, something that would normally be a part of the Woods File. Priestap not only blocked Pientka, but he would’ve more than likely informed former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and former FBI Director James Comey of the transpiring events, because he normally had multiple daily briefings a day with the senior officials on the case, so “it would not be surprising if Priestap’s notes, which were unsealed, were in his mind a sort of insurance policy from the malfeasance – to protect himself if this ever came to light,” the former senior FBI official said.

After Pientka was shut down the first time by Priestap, he went to another senior official within the bureau. He attempted to skirt around Priestap’s authority by approaching a Senior Executive in the Directorate of Intelligence “and asked them to perform an enhanced validation review. Pientka, as the investigating Agent, went to that Senior Executive directly because he believed his chain of command, which included Priestap, would deny that request. “That Senior Executive at the Directorate of Intelligence was ultimately asked not to do the enhanced validation by Priestap,” said the former FBI official, who noted that the official no longer works for the bureau.

The enhanced validation review was denied and blocked by Priestap on several occasions, the former senior FBI official told this reporter.  Had the enhanced validation review been conducted, it would have ensured that assertions made by Steele in his dossier were independently verified, and any information contradicting those assertions would have been presented to the court.

Horowitz’s investigation found numerous instances in which those procedures were not followed by the agents.

“Enhanced validation reviews are essentially conducting the same kind of ‘due diligence’ that you would do when making any critical decision in life,” said the former senior FBI official. “In this instance, choosing not to do this kind of review seems as though someone in the chain of command above Pientka didn’t want the facts to get in the way of the decision they had already made.”

In fact, Pientka is also referred to in Horowitz’s report as an unnamed SSA. In the report, however, it was Pientka who was accused of not following FBI protocol on Page’s FISA warrant application. Despite Horowitz’s findings, it appears Pientka attempted on several occasions to complete the asset validation but was allegedly blocked both times by Priestap, the source said.

The inspector general also noted than an unnamed “Case Agent 1,” was “primarily responsible” for some of the “most significant” errors and omissions in the FISA warrant applications and renewals submitted to the FISC to extend the monitoring of Page.

“No FBI Agent who has been on the job longer than a few years would ever keep notes that question the motives of the investigation to which they are assigned,” said the former senior FBI official. “For Priestap to have kept notes that talk about entrapping the subject of the investigation indicate that he was either woefully incompetent at his job or that he was keeping an insurance policy. It appears that he was looking to shift blame onto those working underneath him (Pientka) and shirk responsibility for not standing up to McCabe and Comey who were likely ordering him to do things that he knew he should not be doing.”

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Joe Biden denies former staffer’s sexual assault allegation


WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Friday emphatically denied all egations from a former Senate staffer that he sexually assaulted her in the early 1990s, declaring flatly “this never happened.”

Biden’s first public remarks on the accusation by a former employee, Tara Reade, come at a critical moment for the presumptive Democratic nominee as he tries to relieve mounting pressure after weeks of leaving denials to his campaign.

“I’m saying unequivocally, it never, never happened,” the former vice president and senator said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Biden said he will ask the National Archives to determine whether there is any record of a complaint being filed, as Reade has claimed. He said the Archives was the only possible place a complaint would be, and that his Senate papers held under seal at the University of Delaware do not contain personnel records.

“The former staffer has said she filed a complaint back in 1993,” Biden said. “But she does not have a record of this alleged complaint.”

Reade did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. The Archives deflected inquiries to Capitol Hill, saying , “Senate personnel complaints from 1993 would have remained under the control of the Senate.” A spokeswoman for the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights said confidentiality rules bar the office from commenting on “whether specific claims may or may not have been filed.”

Biden, in his TV interview, said “there are so many inconsistencies” in Reade’s various accounts. But he said he does not “question her motive.” He said over his five decades in public life, none of his employees was asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement.

Republicans worried about President Donald Trump’s increasingly precarious political standing are casting Democrats as only defending women who allege wrongdoing against conservatives. They’re digging in despite the possibility of renewed attention on the multiple sexual assault allegations lodged against Trump, who denies the accusations.

In light of his own situation, Trump himself is stepping delicately around the Biden controversy.

“He’s going to have to make his own decision,” Trump said in a podcast interview Friday with Dan Bongino. “I’m not going to be telling him what to do.” The president added that it would be a “great thing” if Biden had records that could “dispose” of Reade’s allegation.

Democrats, meanwhile, are in an awkward position of validating women who come forward with their stories while defending Biden in what many in the party consider the most important election of their lifetimes.

Former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Donna Brazile said before Biden’s interview that his silence was “damaging,” but afterward said he handled the matter well.

“He responded, he denied it, and there’s nothing more to be added to it,” Brazile said, before alluding to Reade’s repeated public statements. “If you add to the story the way Tara Reade has, it only brings more confusion.” Karen Finney, who worked for Hillary Clinton in 2016, described Biden as “very clear and consistent” and “sincere,” but said, “I wish they had done this a little bit sooner.”

The November presidential election will be the first of the #MeToo era, during which numerous women have publicly disclosed experiences of sexual harassment and assault.

Women are a core constituency for Democrats. Biden wrote the Violence Against Women Act as a senator, but came under criticism for his handling of Anita Hill’s 1991 Senate testimony against now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Just before he launched his 2020 campaign, Biden apologized after several women said he’d made them uncomfortable with unwanted touching.

He has pledged to pick a woman as a running mate, and the Reade allegation has left those thought to be in contention in a tough spot.

“Women deserve to be heard,” said Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia Democratic governor candidate, “but I also believe that those allegations have to be investigated by credible sources.”

That echoed talking points the Biden campaign issued to surrogates last week that were obtained by The Associated Press. They pointed to investigations by The New York Times, The Washington Post and the AP that found no other allegation of sexual assault against Biden and no pattern of sexual misconduct.

Some Democratic donors say the matter hasn’t come up in recent strategy calls. Others worry it could be used against Biden, much as Republicans harped in 2016 on Clinton’s private email server and activities of the Clinton Foundation.

“We know they’re going to try elements of the same playbook,” said Finney, pointing to calls for Biden to release his Senate papers.

Other Democratic operatives expressed concern the allegation complicates a central Biden campaign rationale: that he provides a moral counter to Trump.

“I think we have to apply a consistent standard for how we treat allegations of sexual assault, and also be clear-eyed about how Donald Trump will use these allegations,” said Claire Sandberg, who worked as Bernie Sanders’ organizing director.

Republicans seized Friday on the prospects of scouring Biden’s records, showing aggressiveness that was harder for them four years ago while Trump was having to deny varying levels of sexual assault and harassment.

Trump joined fellow Republicans in arguing that Democrats aren’t being consistent, pointing again Friday to the aggressive questioning of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when he faced an allegation of sexual assault. Biden said Friday that women “should start off with the presumption they are telling the truth. Then you have to look at the circumstances and the facts. And the facts of this case do not exist.”

Trump’s reelection campaign quickly released a digital ad featuring prominent Democrats, including Biden and Clinton saying, “Believe women” and similar sentiments.

“Ladies and gentleman, we just can’t have it both ways,” Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway said at the White House. “We cannot decide which women were included in ‘believe all women.’” Hill, long critical of how Biden handled her accusations against Thomas, issued a statement highlighting the complexities across the political spectrum. Noting Reade, Kavanaugh’s accuser Christine Blasey Ford and Trump’s many accusers, Hill called for an investigation of “outstanding claims of sexual misconduct” against Trump and Biden, warning that otherwise “the public is left to figure out the truth on its own.”


Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Darlene Superville and Brian Slodysko in Washington contributed to this report.


Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”

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Some businesses reopen as states test effects of easing lockdowns

One of the largest drugstore chains in Britain, Boots, announced Friday that it was setting up a program in its pharmacies to provide safe spaces for victims and survivors fleeing domestic violence to find help.

From Friday, anyone who needs help will be able to ask a pharmacist to use a Boots consultation room, where they’ll be able to access domestic abuse helplines as well as other resources, the domestic violence charity Hestia announced in a statement. 

Pharmacies are one of the services deemed essential under the U.K.’s coronavirus policy, so people are free to leave their homes to visit them without violating quarantine guidance.

“Whilst lockdown and social distancing measures continue, it is restricting victims of domestic abuse reaching out to their friends, family and co-workers for support. We know there is an increased level of uncertainty for people looking to escape an abusive relationship,” Lyndsey Dearlove, head of Hestia’s anti-domestic abuse program UK SAYS NO MORE said in a statement.

One survivor who fled an abusive home said the new program could make a big difference, according to the statement.

“Sometimes getting out of that bubble of abuse, that you are in at home, helps you to realise that help is out there… An abuser wouldn’t really think that their victim could access help at the local pharmacy or be able to have a moment in a place like that. So being able to contact a domestic violence helpline in this way will be life changing for many,” the survivor said.

Lockdowns could mean millions more domestic violence cases, UN says

If you are a survivor or victim in the U.S. and it is an emergency, dial 911. Other resources include: The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE, or text LOVEIS to 22522. If it is an emergency in the U.K., call the police at 999, or for additional resources in Britain, you can dial the National Domestic Abuse hotline at 0808 2000 247.  

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Will There Be a Second Coronavirus Relief Check? What We Know So Far

Millions of Americans, many who’d been furloughed or laid off from their jobs, received stimulus payments that were designed to help ease the financial burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now many of those same Americans are wondering if Congress plans to craft another stimulus relief bill until they are able to get back to work.

The answer is not any time soon.

Last month, President Donald Trump signed the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that funded the initial wave of relief checks, and on April 24, Trump signed the $484 billion bill to aid small businesses.

Trump said during a news conference on April 7 that the second round of direct payments to Americans could happen.

“It is absolutely under serious consideration,” Trump said.

Economic stimulus checks are prepared for printing at the Philadelphia Financial Center May 8, 2008, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Millions of Americans are wondering if another round of checks could be on the way soon.
Jeff Fusco/Getty

Recently, a group of 62 Congressional leaders, including former presidential candidates Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders, signed a letter urging Congress to consider monthly payments.

Several proposals from Democrats and others would offer Americans another round of cash payments.

However, GOP members have said they are reluctant to spend more because of the national debt and until they study closer how the aid they’ve given so far has impacted people.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, too, has said that in order for anything else to pass, he will demand specific liability protections be extended to companies as they reopen.

Congressional Democrats, however, are also working toward creating new legislation that could include a plethora of additional incentives, such as payments to health care workers, truck drivers, and grocery store clerks.

The incentives, known as the Heroes Fund—written by Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.)—would authorize payments of up to $25,000 for essential workers such as truck drivers, grocery store clerks, and health care workers, who’ve all been on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The payments would not be a lump sum but would fund raises the equivalent of an additional $13 per hour from the start of the public health emergency until Dec. 31, 2020.

“Not to do something, in my view, is morally wrong. It’s medically disastrous,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters during an April 24 press conference.

As states begin easing social distancing and reopening businesses, Democrats are considering a number of incentives to states, as well as funding for food stamps, infrastructure, and more aid for small businesses.

The sticking point between Democrats and Republicans has been the inclusion of state aid and local aid, a provision Pelosi said had to be included.

Democrats also hope to include $1.8 billion for voter-by mail, a program that Republicans fear would result in fraud during the coming November election, if implemented.

Meanwhile, undocumented immigrants and their families who are in the U.S. on work authorization or a Temporary Protective Status, who are considered essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic could receive work authorization extensions impacting more than 300,000 undocumented immigrants.

“They risk their families’ health to keep us safe,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. “Now is the time more than ever that we need to stand with them and protect them during these awful times.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier this month that meetings between Senate Democrats and Republicans could be scheduled for early May, although that is tentative.

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Coronavirus: Immigration detention centres in crisis

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A cell in the Otay Mesa, California, detention center in 2006.

As coronavirus continues to spread, a crisis is growing inside ICE immigration detention centres in the US.

Verónica says that for days she has only been fed bread and water because the cooks stopped working due to the coronavirus pandemic. She is a young Salvadoran asylum seeker who has been detained in an immigration centre in the US since October of last year.

At the centre she is held at in Otay Mesa, in San Diego, California, they were not given any face masks or gloves as protection, despite the fact that there were already confirmed positive cases of Covid-19 inside the facility, says the 23-year-old.

“There is no medical assistance here, they don’t take care of us, they tell us to gargle with salt water, that we are fine, that it is just a cold,” she says in a phone call on 21 April.

So Verónica decided with another colleague to put together pieces of T-shirt fabric and, with daily sanitary pads and hair ties, make protective masks. Her description is replicated by more immigrants who spoke to the BBC not only in Otay Mesa but other centres, and by organisations that provide legal advice and that are constantly communicating with detainees.

As of Thursday, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE) confirmed 490 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in an estimated population of 31,000 detainees. Only 1,030 detainees have been tested up until the same date.

There have been no deaths as a result of Covid-19, according to information that ICE sent to the BBC.

Despite the fact that ICE assures on its website that the health, safety and well-being of detainees are “among the highest priorities”, in recent weeks groups of immigrants have started hunger strikes in protest and several courts have ordered the release of detainees.

What is happening?

Verónica says that she sleeps in a cell “with eight beds, one on top of the other at a distance of about a metre” and that she lives with four other women. “We use the same bathroom… we are not in an environment where you can have social distancing” she says.

The detention centres are managed by private companies and have different sizes and layouts, but the detainees and organizations BBC spoke to agree that there are often spaces where hundreds of people live together and that cells are shared.

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The Otay Mesa Detention Center in California has the highest number of infections among detainees and ICE workers

In addition, detainees are in charge of cleaning the areas they use, including collective toilets, and do so without protection such as gloves or face masks.

“(Detainees) only have access to one bar of soap for the entire week,” says Veronica Salama, an immigration attorney at the US human rights organization Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

Ms Salama warns that her clients “had no idea of the severity of this disease” at first and that “officials did not inform them of anything or gave them any handouts with instructions for hand washing”.

“There are officials who enter the units where the detainees are to deliver food without gloves or masks,” she says.

The situation has led to “people organising themselves in 30 facilities to demand changes and in 13 of them there has been retaliation”, says Cynthia Galaz, from the organisation Freedom For Immigrants, which has a direct telephone line to connect with detention centres.

Ms Galaz has gathered testimonies from people who say they have received threats that they would be sprayed with pepper spray or transferred to a solitary confinement area, informally called “el hoyo” (the hole).

“They throw people into a room where they are alone for a long time and basically people describe it as psychological torture,” she points out.

In addition to lawsuits filed in courts calling for the release of specific detainees, a federal judge ordered ICE last week to identify and consider releasing those immigrants in their custody whose age or health condition puts them at risk of getting sick with Covid-19.

Judge Jesús Bernal, from a federal court in Los Angeles, determined that the evidence presented “suggests a systematic inaction” by the government “that goes beyond a mere ‘difference of medical opinion or negligence'”.

What does ICE say?

The ICE press office referred BBC to a website with information on its response to the pandemic in detention centres.

The agency indicates there that nearly 700 people have been released “after evaluating their immigration history, police record, and whether they pose a possible threat to public safety, or are at risk of flight, or represent a national security concern”. Additionally, they say, they have limited the entry of new detainees.

“ICE’s detained population has dropped by more than 4,000 individuals” since 1 March, they said. In addition to temporarily suspending all visits, the agency “decided to reduce the population of all facilities to 70% or less to increase social distancing”.

Detainees with symptoms of fever or respiratory problems are “isolated and monitored” for a specified period of time.

Those who do not have the symptoms mentioned above, but “who are included in the epidemiological risk guidelines” are monitored for 14 days. Those with moderate to severe symptoms or those requiring “higher levels of care or monitoring” are transferred to hospitals.

The agency, however, did not provide information to the BBC on how many people have been hospitalised.

‘They never tested me’

Rosmary Freites is one of the immigrants who, due to her medical condition – she is diabetic and asthmatic – was released from the Broward Transitional Center (BTC) in Florida, after the organisation United We Dream helped her by filing a petition with more than 1,000 signatures for her release before a judge.

Ms Freites, a 23-year-old from Venezuela, describes how she was isolated in a room with five other detainees for a couple of days and that when she asked why, officials told her that a person who was there had contact with a lawyer who tested positive for Covid -19.

“After two days they took us out of the quarantine and they never tested me or gave me a mask,” she says. The SPLC documented that the Krome detention centre in Miami had four spaces set aside for people in quarantine and that “people are going in and out, it is not really a quarantine”.

Another reported problem is the transfer of immigrants from one centre to another, which is what happened to Anette Villa’s husband, who is asthmatic.

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A protest for ICE detainees outside the Broward Transitional Center in Florida

The Cuban woman says that in recent weeks her husband went through at least three different centres before finally being admitted to Baker, in north-central Florida.

“The pandemic was already under way and with all the transfers they made him do while they were processing him, he spent two nights sleeping on the floor” she describes.

Ms Villa, who lives in Florida, says that her husband travelled from Mexico and that he claimed asylum before the border authorities 11 months ago. “He knows that if he catches the virus, his lungs are going to collapse. He is panicking and I tell him to calm down. I am afraid he will die,” she says.

‘They sprayed us with pepper spray’

Otay Mesa Detention Center, where Verónica is held, currently has the most confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 98 detainees and 8 ICE employees infected. Organisations like the SPLC fear that the number is higher.

“We don’t know all the details of what is happening inside, the situation is not transparent,” says lawyer Maia Fleischman, referring to all the centres.

Otay Mesa made headlines in recent days after audios were released in which a detainee describes the moment when a group of detainees were allegedly pepper sprayed inside their cells.

The incident was reported on 10 April, after a group of detainees refused to sign a document, in which they say the company that manages the detention centre was released from responsibility in the events that anyone caught the virus. Only after they signed the documents would they would be given masks, they say.

“The attack happened in my unit,” says Briseida Salazar, a 23-year-old Mexican woman who was released on bail days later. Ms Salazar, one of the few who spoke English in the group of more than 60 women, helped translate the document for the others and, as a result, they refused to sign it.

“At one point we got very frustrated and started to protest and the manager who was there told us that we were making a lot of noise and called the emergency team and they came up with the pepper spray.”

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Getty Images

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The government maintains that many of the detainees must remain in custody

Veronica, who was on the phone at the time with a member of the organisation Pueblos Sin Fronteras (PSF), shouted that they were being pepper sprayed and that they were handcuffing a detainee suffering from mental health issues. ICE confirmed the facts, but denied that pepper spray had been used.

“Contrary to numerous reports, there was no use of force or chemical agents dispersed during the incident”, adding that the allegations were “simply not true”.

According to PSF, which exchanges daily calls with detainees in Otay Mesa, there are more than 100 detainees on hunger strike protesting about the lack of testing and protective measures.

In another part of the facilities, detainee Samuel Gallardo Andara, a 28-year-old Venezuelan nurse, says that in the area where he is being held, of about 100 people, “half of them have become ill”.

“Doctors have monitored us and given us Tylenol, that’s it.”

Immigrants’ rights organisations have filed lawsuits against ICE detention centres in the past denouncing irregularities with medical assistance inside the facilities. The pandemic has highlighted problems that have existed inside these facilities for a long time, these organisations say.

From the phone, Veronica says that she is very stressed and that at the moment she does not see a “way out of this”.

“What we are living here is very difficult, very difficult,” she says right before the time allowed for her call runs out and the line is down.