Biden visits US-Mexico border as immigration issue heats up

President Joe Biden tours El Paso port of entry, Bridge of the Americas, a busy port of entry along the border, in El Paso Texas. (AP)
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Updated 09 January 2023
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Biden visits US-Mexico border as immigration issue heats up

  • Biden announced his administration’s plan to block Cuban, Haitian and Nicaraguan migrants at the border

EL PASO: President Joe Biden visited the US-Mexico border on Sunday for the first time since taking office, tackling one of the most politically charged issues in the country as he prepares for a re-election bid.
His visit was not expected to result in new policies, but rather to demonstrate that he is taking the issue seriously and to strengthen relations with Border Patrol agents, some of whom have bristled at the rollback of hard-line enforcement policies by the White House.
Biden announced on Thursday his administration’s plan to block Cuban, Haitian and Nicaraguan migrants at the border, expanding the nationalities of those who can be expelled back to Mexico.
The long-term goal of Congress reforming America’s creaky immigration system is unlikely to succeed given Republicans’ newly assumed control of the US House of Representatives.
Right-wing lawmakers have repeatedly torpedoed US immigration reform proposals over the past two decades.
Biden sent Congress an immigration reform plan on his first day in office two years ago, but it floundered due to opposition from Republicans, who also blocked his request for $3.5 billion to beef up border enforcement.
Republicans are pushing their own plans for the border following a midterm election in they seized a narrow majority in the House of Representatives.
Texas’ Republican Governor, Greg Abbott, met Biden in El Paso and handed him a letter outlining five steps to address the border crisis — including detaining the millions of people in the United States illegally.
Republican US Representative Jim Jordan told Fox News on Sunday that his party could help the Democrats — but only if Biden adopted the enforcement policies of former President Donald Trump. Those policies included separating children from their migrant parents as part of a “zero-tolerance” approach to deter illegal immigration.
“They’ve allowed now a situation where frankly, we no longer have a border,” Jordan said.
Biden, joined by Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, is expected to meet in El Paso with congressional lawmakers, local officials and community leaders.
Mayorkas on Sunday said two of the key elements leading to increased numbers of migrants making their way to the United States — international crises and legislative stasis — were outside the president’s control.
“We’re just dealing with a broken system,” Mayorkas told reporters aboard Air Force One on the way to Texas.
The White House said Biden would assess border enforcement operations in El Paso, where the Democratic mayor declared a state of emergency last month, citing hundreds of migrants’ sleeping on the streets in cold temperatures and thousands being apprehended every day.
US border officials apprehended a record 2.2 million migrants at the border with Mexico in the 2022 fiscal year that ended in September, though that number includes individuals who tried to cross multiple times.
‘MARKEDLY DIFFERENT’
At the same time as he expanded his authority to expel migrants, Biden on Thursday opened legal, limited pathways into the country for Cubans, Nicaraguans and Haitians — allowing up to 30,000 people from those three countries plus Venezuela to enter the country by air each month.
While winning praise from some US industry groups desperate to solve pressing labor shortages, Biden’s moves have drawn criticism from human rights activists and some Democrats who say the new restrictions are a retreat from the president’s 2020 campaign promise to restore historical rights to asylum-seekers.
Mayorkas rejected the idea that Biden was reviving Trump-era clampdowns.
“It is not a ban at all,” he said. “It is markedly different than what the Trump administration proposed.”
On the ground in El Paso, migrants greeted the new policy with trepidation.
David Guillen, 43, asked Biden to forgive him and fellow Venezuelan migrants who entered the country illegally, many of whom are now sleeping outside a church in El Paso, fearful of being arrested and deported if they attempt to travel to another city.
“We made a mistake ... but not a bad mistake. It’s just that we want a better life,” he said.
After the El Paso visit, Biden is scheduled to travel south of the border to meet with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in talks that will also touch on immigration.
Americans give Biden failing grades on immigration policy, polls show.
An average of polls gathered by Real Clear Politics shows 37 percent of the public disapprove of Biden’s handling of immigration, a number lower than his overall approval rating.
“Fundamentally we have to fix the system,” Mayorkas told reporters.


Former French president Hollande says Macron ascendency ‘is over’

Updated 22 June 2024
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Former French president Hollande says Macron ascendency ‘is over’

  • “I have no scores to settle at all. That’s all in the past,” Hollande said
  • Now just two years into the younger man’s second term, “Macronism is over, if indeed it ever existed. But it’s over, I say it with no special hostility,” Hollande said

USSEL, France: French President Emmanuel Macron’s ascendancy is “over,” former head of state Francois Hollande told AFP Saturday, after his former protege called a snap election likely to hand massive gains to the far right.
“I have no scores to settle at all. That’s all in the past,” Hollande said on the campaign trail in his native Correze department in central France, where he is standing to be an MP.
Suffering at the time from abysmal poll ratings, Socialist Hollande did not himself stand for a second term at the 2017 election.
Running as a pro-business centrist, his former economy minister Macron pulled off a surprise win that shattered traditional governing parties on the left and the right.
Now just two years into the younger man’s second term, “Macronism is over, if indeed it ever existed. But it’s over, I say it with no special hostility,” Hollande said.
“I don’t mean that his presidential term is coming to an end, that’s something different. But what he may have represented for a time is over,” he added.
Re-elected in 2022 for a second five-year term, Macron lost his absolute majority in parliament in legislative polls the same year.
His party has limped on in minority government, passing hard-fought and controversial reforms including raising the pension age and toughening immigration law.
But a heavy defeat at June 9’s European Parliament election prompted Macron to dissolve parliament in hopes of breaking the deadlock.
A new chamber will be elected on June 30 and July 7 with the far-right National Rally (RN) looking set to win the most seats.
France’s two-round electoral system makes predicting outcomes tricky, but it is highly unlikely that Macron’s gamble will pay off by winning a new majority.
Instead, he could find himself presiding over a government run by an ideological opponent.
Macron’s rule has “had a heavy political cost,” Hollande said.
“The parties were heavily damaged and public morale was too. The far right has never been so strong.”
Hollande’s Socialist party has formed an electoral alliance with other left parties including Greens, Communists and hard-left France Unbowed (LFI).
Their New Popular Front (NFP) is currently running second to the RN in the polls, both well ahead of Macron’s Renaissance outfit.
“It’s time for a political realignment,” Hollande said.
“I didn’t plan to stand for any election in my position, something very serious had to happen” in the shape of the RN’s more than 31 percent in the European election, he added.
Some Socialist voters have struggled with the idea of backing an alliance with LFI and its fiery leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, with some party figures accused of anti-Semitism and a history of Euroskeptic statements.
“I’m in the framework of an alliance because it has to be done, but there’s no kind of confusion” between his positions and Melenchon’s, Hollande said.
If elected, “I’ll be an MP who will call for responsibility whatever happens... vigilant and committed to finding solutions,” he added.


Tourists banned from Italy’s Capri over water shortage

Updated 22 June 2024
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Tourists banned from Italy’s Capri over water shortage

  • The ban by Capri mayor Paolo Falco forced several ferries on their way to the island from Naples and Sorrento in southern Italy to turn back
  • Falco warned of “a real emergency“

ROME: The Italian island of Capri banned tourists from disembarking Saturday after problems with the water supply from the mainland threatened to leave the holiday hotspot parched.
The ban by Capri mayor Paolo Falco forced several ferries on their way to the island from Naples and Sorrento in southern Italy to turn back.
The company charged with supplying the island with water said there had been a technical problem on the mainland on Thursday, and while that had since been fixed problems with the supply to Capri remained.
Falco warned of “a real emergency” and said that while there was still water on most of the island on Friday, local tanks were “running out.”
“The emergency would be worsened by the arrival of the thousands of tourists which arrive on Capri daily,” he said.
Locals could collect up to 25 liters of drinking water per household from a supply tanker, he said.
The ban, which does not apply to residents, will be in place until further notice.
Capri, in the Bay of Naples, is famed for its white villas, cove-studded coastline and upscale hotels. There are some 13,000 permanent residents but huge numbers of day-trippers in summer months.


Russian bomb attack kills three, injures 29 in Ukraine’s Kharkiv

Updated 22 June 2024
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Russian bomb attack kills three, injures 29 in Ukraine’s Kharkiv

  • Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko put the casualty toll at three dead and 29 injured
  • “This Russian terror through guided bombs must be stopped and can be stopped,” Zelensky wrote on Telegram

KYIV: Russian guided bombs struck an apartment building in Ukraine’s second largest city of Kharkiv, on Saturday, killing three people, injuring 29 and prompting President Volodymyr Zelensky to call for more help from Kyiv’s allies.
Pictures posted online showed parts of an apartment building in ruins, with windows smashed, balconies shattered and rubble strewn about a crater on the ground.
Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko put the casualty toll at three dead and 29 injured in the mid-afternoon attack. Regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said two children were among the injured and four of those hurt were in serious condition.
“This Russian terror through guided bombs must be stopped and can be stopped,” Zelensky wrote on Telegram.
“We need strong decisions from our partners to enable us to stop the Russian terrorists and Russian military aviation right where they are.”
Syniehubov said rescue work was proceeding. Other civilian targets had also been hit and public transport halted.
Mayor Ihor Terekhov said there had been four strikes.
Kharkiv lies about 30 km (20 miles) from the border with Russia. The city of about 1.3 million people has frequently been targeted in Russian attacks during nearly 28 months of war.
Russia has relied increasingly on the use of the bombs, relatively inexpensive, dropped from a distance and involving fewer risks for its forces.


Bangladesh says it won’t let in any more Rohingya fleeing Myanmar fighting

Updated 22 June 2024
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Bangladesh says it won’t let in any more Rohingya fleeing Myanmar fighting

  • Clashes between Myanmar junta and insurgents started in October 2023
  • Deadly fighting engulfs Rohingya-inhabited border areas

DHAKA: Bangladesh will not take in any more Rohingya fleeing violence in neighboring Myanmar, Mizanur Rahman, Bangladesh’s refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, said on Saturday, amid reports that people from the areas affected by fighting have been gathering on the border.

Concerns that a war between Myanmar’s junta and the opposition ethnic-minority Arakan Army would trigger a new wave of refugees seeking safety in Bangladesh have been on the rise over the past few months.

Clashes between Myanmar’s military-controlled government forces and insurgents in Rakhine and Chin States started in late October 2023 with a multi-pronged offensive against the junta, which has been in control of the country since early 2021.

Most of the Rohingya — hundreds of thousands of whom fled to Bangladesh following a brutal military crackdown and persecution in 2017 — come from Rakhine. One of the most heavily Rohingya-populated areas in the state, Maungdaw, has been under the control of the Arakan Army, which last week warned it was expecting the junta to attempt to recapture it.

“On the other side of the border in Myanmar, a fierce gunbattle is happening and, every day, people are dying. Maungdaw town is a predominantly Rohingya-inhabited area,” Rahman told Arab News.

“We have heard that (some) Rohingyas have tried to enter Bangladesh ... (they) have gathered on the border on the Myanmar side, mainly near the Teknaf subdistrict under Cox’s Bazar.”

More than a million Rohingya Muslims currently live in squalid camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, turning the coastal district into the world’s largest refugee settlement.

Rahman said Bangladesh cannot receive more refugees and will not allow any more Rohingya to enter the country from Myanmar.

“The Rohingyas living in Cox’s Bazar camps are very anxious about the safety and fate of their relatives living in Maungdaw and the surrounding area,” he said. “(But) we can’t receive any more Rohingyas, as Bangladesh is already overburdened with more than 1 million. Our stand is that not a single more Rohingya will enter our land.”

The UN estimates that 95 percent of Rohingya refugees are dependent on humanitarian assistance, which has been dropping since 2020, despite urgent pleas for donations by the World Food Program and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The protracted humanitarian crisis has started to affect the host community, which, despite not being a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, has been supporting the Rohingya by providing not only land, but also water, electricity, healthcare and a huge law-enforcement presence.

The Bangladeshi Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief estimates the government has spent around $2 billion since the beginning of the crisis on maintaining infrastructure for refugees.


Agricultural fire that killed 12 in southeast Turkey under control, media says

Updated 22 June 2024
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Agricultural fire that killed 12 in southeast Turkey under control, media says

ANKARA: Turkish authorities have brought under control an agricultural fire that killed 12 people and wounded 78 others in a region near the Turkish border with Syria and Iraq, local media reported on Saturday.
The fire had started late on Thursday due to the burning of straw and spread because of strong winds, the local governor's office said. Authorities have launched an investigation into the cause of the fire, Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc said in a post on X on Friday.
Broadcaster NTV and others said the fire was now under control and authorities were working to cool the scorched areas. NTV said many animals trapped in the fire were also killed.
Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said late on Friday that the treatment of the wounded was still underway, with some in critical condition.
"We are continuing the treatment and monitoring of five of our wounded. Three of our five wounded receiving treatment in Diyarbakir are intubated," Koca said on X.
Burning straw is a common practice by farmers and villagers in central Anatolia following harvest periods.