Influx of migrants at US-Mexico border poses conundrum for Biden

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Customs and Border Protection agents stand guard as immigrants wait to be processed at a US Border Patrol transit center after crossing the border from Mexico at Eagle Pass, Texas, on December 22, 2023. (AFP)
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Immigrants wait to be processed at a US Border Patrol transit center after crossing the border from Mexico at Eagle Pass, Texas, on December 22, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 23 December 2023
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Influx of migrants at US-Mexico border poses conundrum for Biden

  • Border officials have in recent weeks counted some 10,000 daily crossings — an uptick from preceding months
  • While there were more than 2.4 million migrant interceptions via land from October 2022, President Biden is being blamed for inaction

WASHINGTON/EAGLE PASS: US border patrol and several states have found themselves overwhelmed lately, lacking resources to manage the thousands of migrants arriving from Mexico every day — a crisis that has exposed President Joe Biden to intense attacks from his Republican opponents.

Border officials have in recent weeks counted some 10,000 daily crossings — an uptick from preceding months, which had already seen migrants arrive at an accelerating clip.
There were more than 2.4 million migrant interceptions via land in the year from October 2022 to September 2023.
On Tuesday, authorities closed railroads at Eagle Pass and El Paso, Texas due to a “resurgence” of undocumented migrants entering the United States via freight trains.
Border crossings by car have been suspended at Eagle Pass since early December, as have entry points in California and Arizona, with border police saying they had to move personnel away from those checkpoints to focus on processing irregular entries.
Accusing Biden of “deliberate inaction” on the border issue, Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott this week approved a controversial law criminalizing illegal entry into his state.
Abbott, a staunch supporter of Donald Trump, hosted a signing ceremony in front of a section of border wall in the city of Brownsville, a nod to the former president’s flagship project and intense 2024 anti-immigration platform.
The law, set to go into effect in March, makes it a crime to illegally enter Texas from a foreign country, punishable by six months in prison — or up to 20 years, in the case of repeat offenders.
It gives Texas state law enforcement the ability to arrest migrants and deport them to Mexico — a power normally reserved for federal authorities.
In response, several human rights organizations, including the influential ACLU, immediately filed lawsuits challenging the Texas law’s constitutionality.
Even political allies in border states have taken Biden to task over migration, with Arizona’s Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs saying “the federal government is refusing to do its job to secure our border and keep our communities safe.”
Earlier this month, Hobbs announced she would send Arizona National Guard troops to the border to help pick up some of the slack.

The reasons for this recent uptick in migration are not totally clear. Customs and Border Protection have blamed “smugglers peddling disinformation to prey on vulnerable individuals.”
Several migrants in Texas told AFP there has been gossip swirling that a total closure of the US border was imminent, which could have fueled some recent crossings.
“There were rumors that from the 20th (of December), they wouldn’t let anyone else in,” said 32-year-old Yurianlis Alexmar Camacho, who had come from Venezuela with her husband and four children.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will travel to Mexico in the coming days to meet with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in an effort to stem this incessant flow, the White House announced Thursday.
“The president understands that we have to fix this immigration system. It has been broken for decades now,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said the same day.
Biden said earlier this month he was prepared to compromise with congressional Republicans on a border plan — they have demanded a concrete tightening of immigration policy in exchange for agreeing on a new aid package for Ukraine.
The situation is fraught for Biden as he begins his 2024 White House reelection campaign in earnest: in addition to criticism from the right, which says he is too soft on immigration, the president’s progressive supporters expect him to stay far away from his predecessor’s policies on migrants, who are mostly fleeing poverty and violence in Latin America.
But he will have to face the issue head-on one way or another, and soon, as there is no sign the steady flow of arrivals will let up.
Panama said earlier this month that since the start of 2023, half a million people — or double the number from last year — had crossed into its territory through the jungle at the perilous Darien Gap the separates the country from Colombia. The vast majority were headed for the United States.
 


Injuries, 1 death after 'severe turbulence' on flight from London: Singapore Airlines

Updated 10 sec ago
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Injuries, 1 death after 'severe turbulence' on flight from London: Singapore Airlines

One person died and multiple people were injured on a Singapore Airlines flight that experienced "severe turbulence" while heading from London to Singapore before it was diverted to Bangkok on Tuesday, the company said.
"We can confirm that there are injuries and one fatality on board the Boeing 777-300ER. There were a total of 211 passengers and 18 crew on board," the airline said on Facebook.

Britain’s new protest laws unlawful, London court rules in rights group’s challenge

Updated 17 min 49 sec ago
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Britain’s new protest laws unlawful, London court rules in rights group’s challenge

  • Civil rights group Liberty took the government to court over changes to public order laws made last year
  • Judge rules new regulations gave the police almost unlimited powers to shut down protests

LONDON: Britain unlawfully gave police wider powers to impose conditions on peaceful protests which cause “more than minor” disruption to the public, London’s High Court ruled on Tuesday.
Civil rights group Liberty took the government to court over changes to public order laws made last year, which it says gave the police almost unlimited powers to shut down protests.
The case was heard in February amid a wider crackdown on protest movements in Britain and across Europe, as environmental activists have used direct action protests to demand urgent government action against climate change.
Judges David Bean and Timothy Kerr ruled in the group’s favor on Tuesday, finding that the regulations granting the new powers were unlawful.
The High Court granted the government permission to appeal and suspended its decision that the new powers should be quashed pending the outcome of the appeal.
Liberty’s legal action focused on the Public Order Act, under which the police can impose conditions on a protest if it could cause “serious disruption to the life of the community.”
The law was amended last year, so police could impose conditions in cases where a protest could cause “more than minor” disruption, which Liberty said was unlawful.
Government lawyers argued that ministers were given express powers to amend the law on what amounted to serious disruption.
But the High Court ruled that the government exceeded its powers, which “did not extend to lowering the threshold for police intervention.”


Thai minister quits over legal complaint seeking PM’s dismissal

Updated 59 min 48 sec ago
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Thai minister quits over legal complaint seeking PM’s dismissal

  • Pichit Chuenban says his resignation would allow the country ‘to move ahead and not impact the administrative work of the prime minister that needs continuity’

BANGKOK: A Thai minister at the center of a pending legal complaint seeking the dismissal of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin resigned on Tuesday, in an effort to insulate the premier from possible repercussions.
A group of 40 senators lodged a complaint to the Constitutional Court last week against Pichit Chuenban, 65, saying his appointment last month as minister to the prime minister’s office breached the constitution, as he has a criminal record.
The court was due on Thursday to decide whether or not to accept the case, which could lead to Srettha’s suspension.
“Even though I have been vetted and honestly believe that I am qualified by law, this matter is linked to the prime minister,” Pichit said in his resignation letter, shared with media by Srettha’s office.
He said his resignation would allow the country “to move ahead and not impact the administrative work of the prime minister that needs continuity.”
It was not immediately clear whether the resignation would have any impact on the complaint submitted to the court.
Pichit was jailed for six months in 2008 for contempt of court after an alleged attempt to bribe court officials with 2 million baht ($55,000) hidden in a paper grocery bag.
His law license was suspended for five years by the Lawyers Council of Thailand after the incident. The government has said it carefully vetted Pichit’s qualifications and was confident it could defend his appointment before the court.
Pichit becomes the third minister to quit Srettha’s cabinet, after his foreign minister and deputy finance minister resigned following a cabinet reshuffle last month.
The senators, whose term has ended, are currently lawmakers in a caretaker capacity pending the selection of a new chamber. They have accused Pichit of lacking integrity and ethical standards to hold a ministerial post.
Government critics say Pichit was appointed due to his close relationship with a client, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who returned to Thailand last year after 15 years in exile. Thaksin, an ally of Srettha, still wields considerable political influence, despite officially being retired.
The government has insisted Pichit was appointed due to his capabilities.


Arab Americans reject Biden, Trump reelection: Survey

Updated 21 May 2024
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Arab Americans reject Biden, Trump reelection: Survey

  • President gets 7%, predecessor 2% support because of Gaza ‘genocide’
  • Much higher backing for third-party candidates Jill Stein, Cornell West

CHICAGO: A national survey of Arab Americans released on Monday shows that most respondents overwhelmingly reject the reelection of both President Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump.

Conducted by the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Truth Project on May 17 and 18, the survey shows support for Biden at 7 percent and Trump at 2 percent.

Arab and Muslim voters played a significant role in helping Biden defeat Trump in several key swing states in the November 2020 presidential election.

After taking office in January 2021, Biden responded by unveiling “A Plan for Partnership” with the Arab-American community that was to help strengthen ties with his administration.

But Biden’s unequivocal backing of Israel, including helping to approve more than $40 billion in military aid for the country’s alleged genocide in Gaza — which has taken more than 35,000 Palestinian lives — has all but erased that support and his edge over Trump in key swing states, according to the survey organizers.

“Since the start of the genocide many have speculated about who Arab Americans would vote for — Biden or Trump. The answer is neither, with third-party candidates getting substantial support,” ADC National Executive Director Abed Ayoub said in a statement to Arab News.

Third-party candidates Dr. Jill Stein and Dr. Cornell West received much higher support among Arab Americans.

Stein, who is Jewish and with the Green Party, received 25 percent support while West, who is African American, received 20 percent.

Not mentioned in the survey was leading third-party candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. His views have varied from calling for peace and recognition of Palestine to rejecting accusations that Israel’s actions in Gaza constitute genocide. Kennedy has declined repeated requests from Arab News for interviews.

Five national polls released in March and April from Quinnipiac University, Fox News, Marquette Law School, NBC News and Marist College showed Kennedy with 13 percent support for his independent presidential bid. Stein and West received only 3 percent each in the national polls.

As the presidential election approaches, “it is evident that Arab-American and allied voters are supporting candidates that are listening to our concerns and demands,” ADC said.

In its survey, 19 percent of Arab Americans said they were “undecided” and 3 percent said they would not vote in November.

ADC said support for Stein and West is based on the two running on an anti-genocide platform.

Stein has been a “strong and vocal supporter of Palestine” throughout her career, ADC noted, adding that West has also adopted this stance.

Arab, Muslim and other voters have shown significant opposition to Biden’s reelection in more than 30 state primaries, including five key swing states where he won by slim margins over Trump.

The primary election campaigns have been led by the #AbandonBiden movement, which told Arab News that it is considering hosting its own “Presidential Convention” in the autumn to galvanize Arab, Muslim and “progressive” voters to consider alternatives to Biden.

The ADC / Truth Project survey is based on outreach to 36,139 Arab Americans and “allied voters” who were asked one question: “Who are you voting for in November?”

Over the two days, 2,196 (6 percent) responded. ADC said this was “a high level of enthusiasm” in the presidential election race.

The Truth Project is a social welfare body committed to uniting a diverse coalition of Americans and organizations who support justice and equality in Palestine.

ADC has a large national grassroots membership base, and was founded in the 1980s to fight for civil and Arab-American rights.


North Korea’s Kim was ‘sincere’ in Trump talks: Seoul’s former president Moon

Updated 21 May 2024
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North Korea’s Kim was ‘sincere’ in Trump talks: Seoul’s former president Moon

  • Former South Korean president Moon Jae-in was instrumental in brokering two high-profile summit meetings between Kim Jong Un and then-US president Donald Trump
SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un offered to give up his nuclear arsenal if America guaranteed his regime would survive, former South Korean president Moon Jae-in said in a recently released memoir.
Moon, who led South Korea for five years from 2017, was instrumental in brokering two high-profile summit meetings between Kim and then-United States president Donald Trump, aimed at securing Pyongyang’s denuclearization in return for sanctions relief.
But after the second summit collapsed in 2019, diplomatic outreach was abandoned, with relations between the two Koreas now at one of their worst points in years, as Kim doubles down on weapons production and draws closer to ally Moscow.
In the memoir released Friday, titled “From the Periphery to the Center,” former president Moon outlined in great detail his interactions with the North Korean leader.
“Kim said he would forsake nuclear weapons if there was a guarantee of regime survival,” Moon said in the book, adding that he felt the young North Korean leader was “very honest.”
According to Moon, Kim’s reasoning was: “I have a daughter and I do not wish her generation to live with nuclear weapons... Why would we continue to live in difficulty, under sanctions, with nuclear weapons if our security can be guaranteed?“
But the North Korean leader was “well aware of mistrust from the international community and the (belief from the) US that the North had been lying” about its commitments to denuclearization, Moon said.
Kim specifically asked him how the North could manage to “make Washington believe in our sincerity” to disarm.
In five years since the Hanoi summit, Pyongyang has declared itself an “irreversible” nuclear weapons power, accelerated weapons development, branded Seoul its “principal enemy” and threatened war over “even 0.001 mm” of territorial infringement.
It has also moved closer to Moscow, purportedly supplying it with arms in exchange for space technologies, something which would violate rafts of United Nations sanctions on both countries.
Despite how things have played out, Moon said in his memoir that he still believed Kim was sincere in his plans to denuclearize, but that it was strongly contingent on “corresponding measures” from the US.
Kim and Trump failed to strike a deal because Washington demanded complete denuclearization before it would consider providing sanctions relief, Moon wrote.
“In retrospect, I regret that (South Korea) did not mediate more effectively by listening to the North’s demands and relaying them to Washington if deemed reasonable,” he said.
“Though there are negative views about Trump, he was a very good fit for me as a counterpart in alliance diplomacy,” he said.
“While there are assessments that he is rude and harsh, I liked him for his honesty. A person who has a smiling face but acts differently and thus can’t be read is more difficult to deal with,” he added.
Trump was both apologetic and regretful that the Hanoi summit ended without a deal, Moon wrote.
Trump was “willing to accept (the North Koreans’ terms) but then-Security Adviser John Bolton fervently opposed it,” Moon wrote.
When Trump asked then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for a second opinion, he agreed with Bolton, leaving Trump no option but to walk away, Moon wrote.
It is impossible to take Kim’s words at face value now, Hong Min a senior analyst at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, said.
What was clear “is that Kim tried to change the status quo by expressing his intention to denuclearize,” he said.
The only way to know if Kim was serious, would have been to strike a deal in Hanoi and “gauge how far the North would go toward denuclearization,” he added.
Moon was succeeded by conservative Yoon Suk Yeol, who has taken a significantly more hawkish stance on North Korea.
Yoon has not commented on the memoir but his minister for unification Kim Yung-ho said on Monday that taking Kim’s words at face value could have lead to a security-related “miscalculation.”
“While ignoring North Korea’s (nuclear) capability, if we only focus on the North’s intentions, this could result in a miscalculation of the security situation,” he said, according to the Yonhap news agency.