In a California Town, Farmworkers Start From Scratch After Surprise Flood 加州小鎮淹大水 農人辛勤積攢一夕成空
Until the floodwaters came, until they rushed in and destroyed nearly everything, the little white house had been Cecilia Birrueta's dream.
She and her husband bought the two-bedroom fixer-upper 13 years ago, their reward for decades of working minimum-wage jobs, first cleaning houses in Los Angeles and now milking cows and harvesting pistachios in California's Central Valley.
The couple replaced the weathered wooden floors, installed a new stove and kitchen sink, and repainted the living room walls a warm burgundy. Here, they raised their three children, the oldest now at the University of California, Davis.
Birrueta and her husband felt content. Until last month. Until the floodwaters came.
A brutal set of atmospheric rivers in California unleashed a disaster in Planada, an agricultural community of 4,000 residents in the flatlands about an hour west of Yosemite National Park. During one storm in early January, a creek just outside of town busted through old farm levees and sent muddy water gushing into the streets.
For several days, the entire town looked like a lagoon. Weeks after record-breaking storms wreaked havoc across California and killed at least 21 people, some of the hardest-hit communities are still struggling to recover.
Birrueta, her husband and their 14-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter had to move into a camp that typically houses migrant farmworkers, who arrive each spring with few belongings and the hope of building a life like the Birruetas had. There, 41 families from Planada are staying in long beige cabins and relying on space heaters for warmth because the camps lack furnaces.
"We came as immigrants, we started with nothing," said Birrueta, 40, who was born in Mexico. "We bought a place of our own that we thought would be safe for our kids, and then we lost it. We lost everything."
The recent floods dealt a painful blow to a community in which more than one-third of households are impoverished. Roughly one-fourth of residents are estimated to be undocumented immigrants, making them ineligible for some forms of disaster relief.
Student Loan Case Could Reshape Presidential Politics 學貸豁免案恐將重塑美國總統制
文/Michael D. Shear、Adam Lipta
One of President Joe Biden's most ambitious proposals — a $400 billion program to forgive student loan debt for 40 million Americans — could become the latest victim of a legal tug of war with the Supreme Court over the powers of the presidency.
Conservative justices on the court signaled Tuesday that they are deeply skeptical that Biden has the power to wipe out such a vast amount of student debt. In oral arguments, several justices said they believed a program that costs so much and affects so many people should have been more explicitly approved by Congress.
It was not the first time the court has suggested that Biden overstepped his authority, but the case has the potential to curtail Biden's ambitions just as newly empowered Republicans in the House have vowed to block his every move in Congress.
During Biden's first two years in office, the court has blocked him from enacting key parts of his agenda, including sweeping measures to address climate change, vaccine requirements at large companies and a ban on evictions during the pandemic.
In each case, the court's conservative majority said the president needed clear congressional approval to pursue such major policies.
The court's decision on whether to block the student loan program as well, which is likely to come by summer, will have a vast impact on millions of borrowers who have struggled to pay back their loans.
And it will set additional legal precedents, potentially defining new limits for presidential power.
The ruling could have other broad political implications, forcing Biden and his allies to reshape their efforts to court one of the Democratic Party's most important constituencies ahead of the 2024 campaign: young people.
When Biden announced his plan to forgive federal student loans in August, he and his political strategists envisioned being able to triumphantly declare that he had made good on his promise to borrowers that they could now "crawl out from under that mountain of debt."
Instead, the president may have to face the voters with a very different message: that despite his best efforts, student debt relief was thwarted by Republicans who blocked his policy at the Supreme Court.