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America's farmworkers are aging, not being replaced
By Jessie Higgins
MAY 8, 2019

The average age of America's hired farm laborers was just under 42 in 2017, up from 36 in 2006. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture

EVANSVILLE, Ind., May 8 (UPI) -- The average age of America's hired farm laborers is steadily increasing, threatening the future of the nation's farming industry, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The reason is the foreign-born workers, who comprise more than half the workforce, are getting older. At least half those workers are unauthorized. And because the United States is cracking down on illegal immigration, younger immigrants are not arriving to replace them.

Between 2007 and 2016, the estimated number of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico dropped about 22 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. During roughly that same time period, the average age of migrant and immigrant farmworkers in the United States rose from just under 36 in 2006 to nearly 42 in 2017, according to the report, released last week by the USDA Economic Research Service.

"This is a pretty big concern," said Michael Langemeier, an agricultural economics professor at Purdue University. "If that group is aging, farmers are going to have more problems finding workers. Their bottom lines will be under pressure."

The issue mainly impacts fruit and vegetable growers and dairy farmers -- operations that require human labor to pick ripe produce and milk cows. Commodity crop growers require far fewer hands, as they can use machines to plant, tend and harvest their crops.

National farming organizations like the American Farm Bureau Federation warn that unless something is done to address the impending labor shortage, produce and dairy farms across the country will struggle to stay in business. As these farms cease operating, the United States instead will import produce, mostly from Mexico and other Latin American countries.

"We can import workers, or we can import food," said Will Rodger, a Farm Bureau spokesman. "It's really that simple."

But addressing the labor shortage is no simple matter.

It used to be that a substantial number of farm laborers were American citizens. Farmers who needed more hands could count on migrant workers from Mexico who arrived unprompted to fill the remaining positions.

That no longer is the case. Besides losing many migrant workers to tighter border security, farmers say it is nearly impossible to find Americans willing to take the jobs.

"There used to be a bigger local force to pull from," said Michael Hirakata, the co-owner of Hirakata Farms in Colorado, which produces melons. "It's hard to find labor now."

One of the reasons, farm groups say, is many Americans are no longer interested in the hot, backbreaking work of harvesting.

The only option farmers have to fill the void is the migrant visa program, H-2A. That program enables the farmers to apply (and pay) for a certain number of visas to bring in workers from Mexico and other Latin American countries each year.

But the program does not offer enough visas to fill the demand for workers, the Farm Bureau has said. And it has other issues. The paperwork is slow, and sometimes delayed to the point that farmers are unable to harvest their crops on time -- leaving produce rotting in the fields.

What's more, only seasonal crops are eligible, leaving dairy farms unable to legally import migrant workers.

The farm bureau and other farming groups support an overhaul of the H-2A program that would make the visas more flexible and easier to obtain. They also want such legislation to include a way for their current undocumented workers to obtain legal status.

A bill that would address the latter (H.R. 641, the Agricultural Worker Program Act of 2019) was introduced in the House in January. It was referred to the subcommittee on immigration and citizenship March 4.



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Restrictive Mexican visas keep Central American migrants away from U.S. border
Patrick Timmons
MAY 9, 2019

Brayan Rosales Hidalgo from Honduras holds his and his son Antony's regional visitor visa cards -- valid only for southern Mexico -- near a makeshift detention center in Mapastepec, Mexico, on Tuesday. Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI | License Photo

MAPASTEPEC, Mexico, May 9 (UPI) -- Mexico has released hundreds of Central American migrants from a makeshift migrant detention center near Guatemala's border, giving them restrictive visas that keep them far away from the United States.

Mexico's government formerly permitted caravans of undocumented migrants to pass virtually unimpeded on their way to the U.S-Mexico border. But that migrant-friendly approach angered President Donald Trump, who criticized Mexico's laxity in March and threatened to close the border if the flow did not stop.

In response, Mexico's president said he did not want a confrontation with the Trump administration. The result has been stricter immigration enforcement, characterized by mass detentions of migrants in camps like the one just closed in Mapastepec.

The government closed the makeshift detention center at the city's municipal sports complex after it issued the migrants regional visitor visas. They also received $200 in Mexican pesos for basic needs.

Migrants must wait in detention for Mexican immigration documents. Without them, they risk deportation to their home countries. Those who remained outside the camp Tuesday said they left their countries because of threats, persecution and violence.
"The gangs took my house and threatened my family, so we fled," said Brayan Rosales Hidalgo, 34, from Honduras, who had been traveling in a caravan with 11-year-old son Anthony.

Rosales, who wants to join his brother in Tijuana, a city on the U.S.-Mexico border, said they had been in the camp since it opened in early April after federal police rounded up the caravan's members on a highway.

But for Rosales, strict immigration enforcement and regional visitor visas do not allow him to reach his brother. The regional visas are valid for only four southern states: Chiapas, Campeche, Tabasco and Quintano Roo. To reach the U.S. border, a migrant would have to travel at least 950 miles illegally, all the time facing the threat of capture and deportation.

"I'm grateful for the money," Rosales said. "We've been able to rent a small house here in Mapastepec. But the regional visas don't help us get any closer to Tijuana. If we try to leave southern Mexico, immigration agents can deport us. I can't go back to Honduras. The gangs tried to recruit my son and threatened me."

Another Central American migrant also detained in Mapastepec, Byron Herrera, 39, from Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, expressed frustration over the regional visitor visa. Herrera said the visa wouldn't help him get to his chosen destination, Monterrey, in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo León.

"I used to be a taxi driver in Guatemala and the gangs extorted me for 400 quetzales [about $50] each week," Herrera said.

"I couldn't deal with the gang's threats anymore, so I had to leave. Otherwise, something bad was going to happen. I took my mother to a safer place and sold my house," he said. "When I heard Mexico's president say last year migrants who wanted to work are welcome here, I thought it was time to leave Guatemala."

But Herrera said he felt betrayed by Mexico's government because he cannot live in or travel to Monterrey without being deported.

"I don't want to make my new life in southern Mexico," Herrera said. "Monterrey is a perfect city for me. If the government would just let me live and work in the north, I know my life would be better. I don't want to go to the United States, but I don't want to live in southern Mexico. It's too much like Guatemala."

Mapastepec is about 100 miles from Guatemala's border. The region is hot, humid, lush with vegetation and a center of tropical fruit production. From the highway, mango, papaya and banana plantations come into view. Laborers on fruit plantations earn about $8 per day, but the work is seasonal and not steady, relying on each crop's harvest.

The effects of climate change in northern Chiapas also have weakened the state's labor market, forcing many former coffee workers into the coastal area around Mapastepec's fruit plantations.

When Mapastepec's makeshift detention center was fully operational, it held mostly Central American migrants. But some detained migrants were from Cuba. Mexico also has been enforcing strict immigration control against Cuban migrants, trying to stop them from reaching the U.S-Mexico border.

Unlike Central Americans, Cuban migrants are not eligible for regional visitor visas. Instead, they must apply for either humanitarian or exit visas if they want to continue north to the U.S.-Mexico border. Immigration officials have been slow to grant Cubans visas, stranding hundreds in southern Mexico and deporting those they find without documents.

"I've been here more than a month, and I'm still waiting for some type of document that will allow me to travel on to the United States," said Miguel Ángel González, 47, from Artemisa, Cuba, and whose brother lives in Miami.

"I can't leave Mapastepec without papers because if I do, I can be deported," González said. "I can't go back to Cuba. I sold everything I had and that wasn't very much. Before I got to Mexico, I was in Uruguay for 10 months trying to get more money together to get to Florida. I left Cuba because I can't stand the political system."

Undocumented Cuban migrants face detention if caught by immigration agents in Mexico. But unlike González, many refuse to wait for lengthy periods in detention for immigration documents, instead wanting to continue their journeys north to the United States.

Their frustration has caused them to attempt several escapes from Tapachula's migrant detention center and prompted mass roundups of Cubans stranded in the city. Last week, immigration agents caught hundreds of former escapees and deported them on planes from Tapachula back to Cuba.

A small group of Mexican immigration agents and a handful of federal police were the only officials at the almost-deserted sports complex in Mapastepec on Tuesday. When asked where all the migrants had gone, one immigration agent, who refused to give his name because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said they had been issued regional visitor visas and left town by themselves.

Herrera, the Guatemalan migrant who wants to begin living in Monterrey, said he thought Mexico could prosper if it let Central Americans live where they want in the country.

"I don't want to live in the United States, but I know it's a country of immigrants, and look how prosperous it is," Herrera said, dodging any questions about Trump's anti-immigrant agenda.

"Mexico needs to take its example from the United States and let us live and work wherever we want. Migrants can make Mexico prosperous, too."



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AP Finds 13,000 Asylum-Seekers on Border Wait Lists
May 09, 2019
Associated Press
FILE - A migrant in Matamoros, Mexico checks a typewritten list of more than 800 people seeking asylum in the US, April 30, 2019. Those marked with the word rio, Spanish for river, are believed to have crossed the Rio Grande to enter the US without authorization.

FILE - A migrant in Matamoros, Mexico checks a typewritten list of more than 800 people seeking asylum in the US, April 30, 2019. Those marked with the word "rio," Spanish for river, are believed to have crossed the Rio Grande to enter the US without authorization.

For thousands of desperate asylum-seekers, there are many ways to wait — and wait, and wait — at the threshold of the United States.
Parents and children sleep in tents next to bridges leading into Texas for weeks on end, desperately hoping their names and numbers are called so they can be let in.

Some immigrants complain of shakedowns and kidnappings by gangs and corrupt officials. Others pay bribes to get to the front of the line; the rest, determined to enter the country legally, wait patiently, even if it takes months.

This is what has happened since the Trump administration placed asylum in a chokehold.

The Associated Press visited eight cities along the U.S.-Mexico border and found 13,000 immigrants on waiting lists to get into the country — exposed to haphazard and often-dubious arrangements that vary sharply.

The lines began to swell in the last year when the administration limited the number of asylum cases it accepts each day at the main border crossings, leaving it to Mexican agencies, volunteers, nonprofit organizations and immigrants themselves to manage the lines.

In some cities, days pass without anyone being processed, the AP found. In San Diego, up to 80 are handled each day, but the line in Tijuana, across the border, is the longest anywhere — about 4,800 people.

Each day at each crossing, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials alert Mexican counterparts how many people they will take — a system the government calls metering. Then the keeper of the list lets immigrants know who can go into the U.S. for asylum interviews.

A federal lawsuit says the administration is violating U.S. and international law by refusing to take asylum-seekers when they show up at a crossing. U.S. authorities argue that processing capacity dictates how many people it can handle.

"It's not turning people away, it's asking them to wait," then-Customs and Border Protection Commissioner and current acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said in October.

But some feel they cannot. They try to enter illegally, sometimes with tragic consequences.

A Honduran family, arriving at Piedras Negras, Mexico, decided the line was too long. Crossing the Rio Grande, they were swept away; a father and three children, including a baby, are believed to have died.

Here is a snapshot of the wait list systems along the border:

Ciudad Juarez: Black ink, wristbands, and thousands in line
The sprawling industrial city began its waiting list in October when many Cuban asylum-seekers began sleeping on the narrow sidewalk of a busy international bridge. Mexican authorities decided they had to go.

Asylum-seekers were then registered and had numbers written on their arms in black ink to show their number in line. That was abandoned in favor of plastic wristbands, which were scrapped because so many people were selling or counterfeiting them. Now it's a digital-based system.
There are currently about 4,000 names on the list.

Reynosa: 'River owners' run the show
The challenges faced by asylum-seekers waiting in Reynosa, across from McAllen, Texas, are compounded by rampant violence. Gunfights between cartels and police occur daily, and the U.S. State Department has warned Americans not to travel there. Few Americans are willing to visit the shelter that controls the list or the other churches and hotels where asylum-seekers wait.

Jennifer Harbury, a longtime human rights advocate in Texas, spoke recently to a large group of asylum-seekers at the Senda de Vida shelter and met with people who had been kidnapped by cartels.

"The owners of the river, you know who they are," Harbury said. Several nodded.

Piedras Negras, Mexico: The WhatsApp List
When asylum-seekers arrive at a migrant shelter in Piedras Negras, they are given a phone number to text on the messaging service WhatsApp. They're supposed to send the names and photos of everyone in their group. Then they're told to wait.

Managing the list is a local restaurateur named Hector Menchaca, who also serves as the local government's liaison to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

About 360 people are on the list, with another 200 people waiting to join it because the government has closed it to new entrants for the time being, Menchaca said.

The list includes people from Central America, Mexico, Brazil, and countries an ocean away like Cameroon. They aren't told how close to the top they are, only that they might wait for two or three months.

But many people say they can't wait — among them the four who are believed to have drowned in the Rio Grande last week.

Nogales: A family affair
A woman whose family manages shelters in Nogales keeps the list of new arrivals in Nogales.

Before she was involved, Brenda Nieblas says hundreds of migrants would wait at the border crossing and many would try to rush in when U.S. authorities called people for processing.

When they first arrive, some of the migrants are sent to a Red Cross first aid station. They are then connected with Nieblas, who puts them on the list, assigns them to a shelter in Nogales and notifies them when their time comes.

Tijuana and Mexicali: A notebook, and waiting for the phone call
Tijuana is most experienced with a numbering system, having established one in 2016 when Haitians had to wait in Mexico for a chance at refuge in the United States. Its waiting list stands at about 4,800.

Grupos Beta, a unit of Mexico's immigration agency that provides food, transportation and aid to migrants, keeps guard at night over tattered notebooks and hands them over to volunteers during the day to register new arrivals. On a recent Saturday, there were nearly 100 people in line to get a spot in the notebook — almost exclusively Cameroonians who arrived the previous day.

In nearby Mexicali, Grupos Beta employees in bright orange shirts call out those whose numbers are up. Mexicali — a city of about 1 million across from Calexico, California — has about 800 names on its list.

San Luis: 'There really is no schedule'
Darwin Mora manages two giant white boards with hundreds of numbers in black marker, each one representing a family or single adult. When CBP tells Mexican authorities how many people it wants, it falls to Mora to have them ready. Each family that crosses or cancels is marked with an X.

Mora says U.S. officials can call any day from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. During those hours, he never strays far from the boards under a green canopy, which are divided in neat columns and rows. In the lower left corner of each box is a number to represent the number of people in the family.

"There really is no schedule," he said.

There are about 900 people on the list, assuming three people per family. Recent arrivals are expected to wait at least five months.

Matamoros: A long wait and 'no space' for families
At the foot of the bridge connecting Matamoros, Mexico, to Brownsville, Texas, more than 20 sheets of paper have been taped to a large board with the typewritten names of more than 800 people. The migrants waiting in Matamoros check the board daily to see whose names have been crossed off with a black marker.

Some of the names have a line next to them with the word "rio," Spanish for river — denoting that they were believed to have crossed the Rio Grande to enter the U.S. without authorization.

There are frequent allegations that Mexican government officials or security agents demand bribes to let people join the list or move up the list.
The people who wait in the tents by the bridge have formed their own enclosed community. One man climbed into the Rio Grande to bathe. The country he was waiting to enter was a short swim away, but he stayed close to the bank on the Mexican side.

And then he went back toward his tent. To wait.



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Defense Department chooses 13 companies for border construction work
By Ed Adamczyk
MAY 9, 2019

Two different types of border fences are under construction in Naco, Ariz., on February 14. The Defense Department chose 13 companies on Thursday to share $5 billion in contracts to build additional structures along the southern border. File Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI | License Photo

May 9 (UPI) -- The Defense Department announced the selection of 13 companies to compete for construction contracts along the United States' southern border.

The construction is in support of the Department of Homeland Security's San Diego, El Centro, Yuma and Tucson Border Patrol sectors, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' South-Western Division and South Pacific Division.

The firm fixed-price contracts are for design-build and design-bid-build projects of "horizontal construction task orders," a term that includes building of fences, walls, patrol roads and access roads, as well as installation of lights, access gates and other elements.

The announcement was made on Thursday.

BFBC of Bozeman, Mont.; Texas Sterling Construction Co. of Houston; Bristol Construction Services of Anchorage, Alaska; Burgos Group of Albuquerque, N.M.; Gibraltar-Caddell JV of Montgomery, Ala.; Fisher Sand & Gravel of Dickinson, N.D.; Southwest Valley Constructors of Albuquerque, N.M.; Randy Kinder Excavating of Dexter, Mo.; Martin Brothers Construction of Sacramento, Calif.; SLSCO Ltd. of Galveston, Texas; Posillico Civil Inc. of Farmingdale, N.Y.; Coastal Environmental Group of Central Islip, N.Y.; and CJW JV of Santa Ana, Calif., will bid on various sections and elements of the project.

Thirsty-eight bids were received. Work location and funding will be determined with each order, with a target completion date of May 2024.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Fort Worth, Texas, was the contracting agent.



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U.S. plans to send transportation security staff to U.S.-Mexico border
May 15, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration plans to redirect Transportation Security Administration staff to the U.S. southern border to assist with immigration duties and migrant flows, the TSA said on Wednesday.

A TSA spokesman said the agency was looking for volunteers to support efforts at the U.S. border with Mexico, where the government has said it is grappling with record numbers of people.

“TSA, like all DHS components, is supporting the DHS effort to address the humanitarian and security crisis at the southwest border. TSA is in the process of soliciting volunteers to support this effort while minimizing operational impact,” TSA spokesman James Gregory said in a statement.

The TSA border assignment will last at least 45 days and comes at the start of the busy summer travel season, which a U.S. official acknowledged carried “some risk,” according to CNN, which first reported the plan, citing an internal email it obtained.

TSA staff will include 175 law enforcement officials, including air marshals, and as many as 400 security staff drawn from six U.S. cities but will not include airport screeners, CNN said, citing two additional unnamed sources. The six cities were not immediately identified.

TSA law enforcement officials sent to the border will receive legal training and assist the Customs and Border Protection department as immigration officers, the report said.

Gil Kerlikowske, who led CBP during the Obama administration, compared the plan to earlier moves by the Trump administration to redeploy hundreds of officers at ports of entry to assist Border Patrol agents with migrants crossing the border illegally.

“All of these things have kind of been stopgap measures,” he said. “They have alleviated some of the problem but not stopped the problem.”

The decision comes as the airline and travel industry urge lawmakers to approve funding for more CBP officers, warning of excessive wait times for traveling and shipping as officers have been shifted to the border.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Travel Association, an industry group, said moving TSA agents to the border could disrupt the U.S. economy.

“Further stretching CBP and TSA resources, especially headed into the busiest time of year at our nation’s airports and points of entry, clearly could result in turmoil for business and leisure travel that supports millions of livelihoods all across the country,” said Tori Barnes, the group’s executive vice president of public affairs and policy.

The Department of Interior has also doubled the number of officers it is sending for three-week stints to the border, from 22 to 47, The Hill reported on Wednesday, citing an internal memorandum.

Alex Hinson, an Interior Department spokesman, said the agency “continues to support our federal partners in the effort to end the crisis at the southern border,” but declined to give further information.

The U.S. government reported earlier this month that border officers had apprehended nearly 99,000 people crossing the border with Mexico in April, the highest figure since 2007. More than two-thirds of those apprehended were children or people traveling as families.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Additional reporting by Makini Brice, Mica Rosenberg, and Valerie Volcovici; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Meredith Mazzilli



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U.S. lawmakers want to tighten visas for Chinese students, researchers
May 15, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group of President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress introduced legislation on Tuesday intended to prohibit anyone employed or sponsored by the Chinese military from receiving student or research visas to the United States.

The bill would require the U.S. government to create a list of scientific and engineering institutions affiliated with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, and prohibit anyone employed or sponsored by those institutions from receiving the visas.

The bill was introduced as the United States and China have escalated a trade war following difficult negotiations last week.

It also comes as some U.S. officials have expressed concern about the possibility of the theft of intellectual property or even espionage by Chinese nationals at U.S. universities and other institutions.

Many U.S. and university officials also warn about overreacting, however, arguing it is important to acknowledge the important role Chinese scholars and students play at U.S. institutions while being aware of security risks.

The bill was sponsored by Republicans Senators Chuck Grassley, Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, Marsha Blackburn and Josh Hawley. A companion bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Mike Gallagher.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall



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The Latest: Judge halts plan to build parts of border wall
an hour ago
25 May 2019

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Latest on U.S. judge blocking President Donald Trump from building sections of a border wall with money secured under his declaration of a national emergency (all times local):

6:30 p.m.
A federal judge in California has blocked President Donald Trump from building sections of his long-sought border wall with money secured under his declaration of a national emergency.

U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. on Friday immediately halted the administration’s efforts to redirect military-designated funds to build sections of wall on the Mexican border. His order applies to two planned projects to add 51 miles of fence in two areas.

Gilliam issued the ruling after hearing arguments last week in two cases. California and 19 other states brought one lawsuit; the Sierra Club and a coalition of communities along the border brought the other.
At stake is billions of dollars that would allow Trump to make progress on a signature campaign promise heading into his campaign for a second term.
11 a.m.
A federal judge is expected to decide Friday whether to block the White House from spending billions of dollars to build a wall on the Mexican border with money secured under President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency.

The judge is weighing two cases that challenged the maneuver to redirect mostly military-designated funding for wall construction.

California and 19 other states, along with environmentalists, civil liberties groups and communities along the border, are seeking a temporary injunction to halt construction plans.

At stake is billions of dollars that Trump wants for the wall, his signature campaign promise, heading into his campaign for a second term. He declared the emergency in February after losing a fight over fully paying for it that led to a 35-day government shutdown.



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Trump asks Citizenship and Immigration Services head to quit
25 May 2019


In this May 8, 2019, file photo, Lee Francis Cissna, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, sits for a photo in Laguna Niguel, Calif. President Donald Trump has asked Cisna to resign, leaving yet another vacancy within the Department of Homeland Security. Cissna told staff on Friday, May 24, that his last day would be June 1 (AP Photo/Amy Taxin, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump asked the head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to resign, leaving yet another vacancy within the Department of Homeland Security.

Lee Francis Cissna told staff on Friday that his last day would be June 1, according to a copy of the email obtained by The Associated Press.

Cissna leads the agency responsible for legal immigration, including benefits and visas. With his departure, there are more than a dozen vacancies of top leadership positions at the sprawling, 240,000-employee department. Some are being temporarily filled, including secretary and inspector general. Cissna’s position, like others, requires Senate confirmation.

Cissna had been on the chopping block last month amid a White House-orchestrated bloodbath that led to the resignation of Secretary Kirstjen (KEER’-sten) Nielsen, in part because aides felt he wasn’t moving quickly enough to tighten immigration rules and push through complicated regulation changes.

But his job was saved, temporarily, after high-ranking Republicans spoke out about his record, particularly Sen. Chuck Grassley , who worked with Cissna for years. And it appeared he was back to business.

He told The Associated Press just two weeks ago that his agency was training dozens of U.S. border patrol agents to start screening immigrants arriving on the southwest border for asylum amid a surge in the number of families seeking the protection.

Asylum officers conduct initial interviews of immigrants arriving on the border to determine whether they have a credible fear of returning to their countries or should be sent back. Those who pass the interviews are allowed to seek asylum before an immigration judge, but their cases may take years to wind through the backlogged immigration courts.

But Trump is dealing with a growing crisis as tens of thousands of Central American migrants cross the border each month, overwhelming the system, and he has been unable to deliver on his signature issue of reduced immigration and tighter border security.

Cissna told his staff in the email that he was grateful for their support and service, but offered no information on what was ahead.

“During the past 20 months, every day, I have passionately worked to carry out USCIS’ mission to faithfully administer the nation’s lawful immigration system,” Cissna wrote to staff.

Earlier this week, administration officials said Ken Cuccinelli, the former attorney general of Virginia, would be taking a job at the department, but it wasn’t clear what his role would be. A person familiar with the matter said Cuccinelli was being considered for Cissna’s job, but it was unclear how that would work because the position requires Senate confirmation. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters within the administration.

Cuccinelli’s name has been tossed around for months. He had also been considered for a position as an immigration czar, a job possibly housed within the White House, but officials said this week he would not be taking on that role.

Cuccinelli has in the past advocated for denying citizenship to the American-born children of parents living in the U.S. illegally, and limiting in-state tuition at public universities only to those who are citizens or legal residents.

A message sent to Cuccinelli wasn’t immediately returned Friday.



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GOP conservative temporarily blocks $19B disaster bill
25 May 2019

Nancy Pelosi, Chip Roy

FILE - In this Jan. 3, 20-19, file photo, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., left, poses during a ceremonial swearing-in with Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, right, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Roy, complaining of Washington's free-spending ways has blocked a long-overdue $19 billion disaster aid bill. That extends a battle over hurricane and flood relief. Roy objected to speeding the measure through a nearly-empty chamber on Friday (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A House GOP conservative blocked a long-overdue $19 billion disaster aid bill Friday, complaining it leaves out money needed to address the migrant crisis at the border and extending a tempest over hurricane and flood relief that has left the measure meandering for months.

The move came a day after the measure flew through the Senate despite a Democratic power move to strip out President Donald Trump’s $4.5 billion request for dealing with a migrant crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Texas Rep. Chip Roy, a former aide to Texas firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz, complained that it does not contain any money to address increasingly urgent border needs. “It is a bill that includes nothing to address the international emergency and humanitarian crisis we face at our southern border,” Roy said.

He also objected to speeding the measure through a nearly empty chamber, saying it was important for lawmakers to actually vote on a bill that “spends a significant amount of taxpayer money.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., a key force behind the measure which moved through the Senate with the enthusiastic embrace of Roy’s two GOP senators, said the delays have gone on too long. Senate action came after Trump surrendered in his fight with powerful Democrats over aid to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

“Now, after the President and Senate Republicans disrupted and delayed disaster relief for more than four months, House Republicans have decided to wage their own sabotage,” Pelosi said. “Every day of Republican obstruction, more disasters have struck, more damage has piled up and more families have been left in the cold.”

Democrats said the House might try to again pass the measure next week during a session, like Friday’s, that would otherwise be pro forma. If that doesn’t succeed, a quick bipartisan vote would come after Congress returns next month from its Memorial Day recess.

Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., said she was upset at Roy’s action. “The fact that one person from a state that is directly affected could object, it’s just irresponsible,” she said. Texas was slammed by record floods in 2017, though not Roy’s San Antonio-area district.

GOP leaders and Trump support the bill, as do some lawmakers who are otherwise some of the chamber’s staunchest conservatives, such as Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga.

“This is a rotten thing to do. This is going to pass,” said Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass.

Hours after Roy blocked the measure, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched a digital ad in his district criticizing his move. It depicted a submerged Roy and said he’s “keeping Texas families underwater.”

Roy won his 2018 election by less than three percentage points. House Democrats’ campaign committee considers him a prime target for next year’s elections.

The relief measure would deliver money to Southern states suffering from last fall’s hurricanes, Midwestern states deluged with springtime floods and fire-ravaged rural California, among others. Puerto Rico would also get help for hurricane recovery, ending a months-long dispute between Trump and powerful Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Trump said Thursday that he will enthusiastically sign the bill, which delivers much-needed help to many areas in the country where he performs well with voters.

The House drama came less than 24 hours after the Senate passed the bill by a sweeping 85-8 vote that represented a brush-back pitch by a chamber weary of Trump’s theatrics and where some members are increasingly showing impatience with the lack of legislative action.

Trump said he favored the bill even though $4 billion-plus to deal with the humanitarian crisis involving Central American migrants border has been removed.

“I didn’t want to hold that up any longer,” Trump said. “I totally support it.”

Much of the money would go to Trump strongholds such as the Florida Panhandle, rural Georgia and North Carolina, and Iowa and Nebraska.

Several military facilities would receive money to rebuild, including Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, and Tyndall Air Force Base in Northwest Florida.

Disaster aid bills are always ultimately bipartisan, but this round bogged down. And a late-week breakdown on the appropriations panel left important must-do work for lawmakers when Congress returns next month.

After months of fighting, Democrats bested Trump and won further aid to Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory slammed by back-to-back hurricanes in 2017.

Talks over Trump’s border request broke down over conditions Democrats wanted to place on money to provide care and shelter for asylum-seeking Central American migrants. Talks were closely held and the opaque process sometimes left even veteran lawmakers in the dark.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accused Democrats of insisting on “poison pills” that made the talks collapse. But his office wouldn’t go on the record to specify what they were. Other Republicans, especially those trying to project a bipartisan image for next year’s campaign, were more circumspect.

“Right now the total dollar amounts are pretty close on border security. Democrats and Republicans are pretty much in agreement about it,” said Sen. David Perdue. “We’re just trying to work out some detailed language, but we didn’t think we could wait any longer to get this done.”

In fact, among the reasons for the late-week breakdown was a demand by Hispanic forces and House liberals such as Pelosi ally Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., to insist on a provision to tighten up existing language that tries to block the Homeland Security Department from getting information from the Department of Health and Human Services to help track immigrants residing in the U.S. illegally if they care for migrant refugee children arriving in huge numbers at the border.

All sides agree that another bill of more than $4 billion will be needed almost immediately to refill nearly empty agency accounts to care for migrants, though Democrats are fighting hard against the detention facilities requested by Trump.

Trump rushed to try to claim credit, too, though his budget office never submitted an official request for the disaster aid. But he talked up the aid in a recent trip to the timber-rich Florida Panhandle, his best region in a state without which it’s virtually impossible for him to win reelection.

“Well, we’re going to get the immigration money later, according to everybody,” Trump said. “I have to take care of my farmers with the disaster relief.”
Associated Press writers Matthew Daly and Alan Fram contributed to this report.



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Border Patrol struggles with migrant surge, lacks strategy
May 28, 2019
By Patrick Timmons

Migrants are shown being held for processing under the Paso del Norte Bridge in El Paso in March while U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan addressed the dramatic increase in illegal crossings overwhelming detention facilities. File photo by Justin Hamel/UPI | License Photo

EL PASO, Texas, May 28 (UPI) -- A continuing migrant surge on the southern border has overwhelmed detention facilities and left the U.S. Border Patrol scrambling to devise strategies about how to release asylum seekers.

As it seeks an elusive solution, the agency confronts a deteriorating situation, local officials, migrant advocates and policy analysts said.
"Our immigration system is full, and we are well beyond our capacity at every stage of the process," Kevin McAleenan, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, testified to a House committee last week.

In March and April, more than 200,000 migrants crossed the southern border illegally, many turning themselves in to the Border Patrol as asylum seekers. More than two-thirds of the arrivals crossed as unaccompanied children or adults traveling with children -- populations that cannot lawfully be placed for long periods in migrant detention facilities.

"The immigration enforcement system is shutting down in certain parts of the southern border because it doesn't have the capacity to handle the current inflow of asylum seeking migrants," said Sarah Pierce, policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, D.C.

Pierce said that before the surge, Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained asylum seekers, processed them for immigration court dates and released them to a border community's migrant shelter network so they could travel to stay with family and friends in the United States.

But because the agency lacks detention space, the Border Patrol has begun "direct releases" of large numbers of families into border communities.

"Much of the confusion and chaos at the border comes from this change in policy," Pierce said.

El Paso affected
Observers in El Paso, for example, report that the Border Patrol releases more migrants than the city's shelters can hold, and does so in unpredictable ways, with little communication to volunteer coordinators.

"The flow of releases from the Border Patrol can be very choppy, and there's no way to plan ahead," said Ashley Heidebrecht, a social work student and intern at the Borderlands Rainbow Coalition, one of the local nonprofits that provides meals to migrants housed by Annunciation House, coordinator of the city's migrant shelter network.

"After three nights, released migrants move out of the shelter set with travel plans," Heidebrecht said. "But then the Border Patrol sends us more" than are moving on and "it can be very confusing."

"Sometimes the agents tell us to expect 50 migrants, but we end up with 150. Other times, a bus filled with migrants will show up unannounced at a shelter."

The situation can become chaotic, local migrant policy analysts say. "The Border Patrol is not thinking strategically," said Dylan Corbett, director of El Paso's Hope Border Institute, a think tank that advocates for a humane response to immigration.

"The agency doesn't seem to have any goals and is just operating as things come up, day to day. I really don't know who is calling the shots," Corbett said.

More communities added
With El Paso's shelter network stretched beyond capacity, the Border Patrol began to look for other communities in which to release migrants. The agency began to transport them for release in Las Cruces, N.M., about 40 miles from El Paso.

But when the shelters in Las Cruces filled up with 5,000 migrants, the Border Patrol turned to the next, yet much smaller, city along Interstate 10: Deming. The fairgrounds the city used to shelter migrants filled within days, and Deming's city council declared a state of emergency.

Deming's situation alarmed Glenn Hamilton, the sheriff of Sierra County just to the north. "Look what happened to Deming. The Border Patrol said it would send 200 migrants there. But they sent many more."

Within two weeks of the Border Patrol starting direct releases in Deming, the town of 14,000 had received 2,400 migrants, sheltering up to 700 at a time in the fairgrounds.

"What they are doing worries me because we are a second-tier border county," Hamilton said, "meaning that we are one county away from the border. Since the Border Patrol's strategy has been like filling up a glass, first El Paso, then Las Cruces, then Deming, I am worried they will begin releasing migrants to Truth or Consequences," the county seat.

Sierra County is 42,000 square miles and has 12,500 residents, about half of whom live in Truth or Consequences, about 75 miles from Las Cruces on Interstate 25.

Hamilton said Truth or Consequences does not have a bus station or bus stop, so migrants would be "stuck" and have no way ... to continue their journeys."

"So I got my staff together and we did a table-top emergency planning exercise based around the release of 150 migrants," Hamilton said. "We figured out that all our resources would be exhausted within two days. Sierra County is New Mexico's second poorest county. We don't have the resources to deal with a humanitarian crisis."

Hamilton said he contacted the Border Patrol in El Paso to learn about its release strategy.

"The Border Patrol is so overwhelmed, whatever it is doing is out of desperation," Hamilton said. "The agents did tell me they wouldn't release migrants to Sierra County because it is not a transportation hub, but they also said they couldn't rule anything out and everything is on the table."

One federal approach has been to try to move migrants farther from the border to communities with better transportation hubs. New Mexico's Democratic Gov. Luján Grisham decided to pay for buses to transport migrants from southern New Mexico to Denver, Colo., about 650 miles away.

The first buses of 150 migrants arrived in Denver last week, and they are staying in shelters before heading to the homes of family and friends.

Florida considered
To relieve El Paso and nearby cities, the Border Patrol has considered flying migrants to South Florida. The agency recently sent an official to Palm Beach and Broward counties on the east coast to assess sending 270 migrants there from El Paso. His two visits provoked panic among local officials.

"We don't know how or why they picked South Florida," Palm Beach County Mayor Mack Bernard said in a telephone interview. "We are not equipped to deal with a humanitarian crisis. We are not prepared to feed, house or help arrange travel for migrants sent to South Florida."

Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen said he and other local officials spent a day trying to confirm the information about migrant releases with the Department of Homeland Security.

"Nothing was managed. The dissemination of information was just horrible," Bogen said in a telephone interview. "Nobody in the federal government would pick up a phone to call any local officials. They told the sheriff, but he's a law enforcement officer. The sheriff isn't in charge of finding shelter for the migrants."

To express opposition, Palm Beach County commissioners quickly released a statement criticizing the plan to send migrants from Texas to South Florida.

"Details regarding this immigrant placement strategy from the federal government have not been provided to the county, nor is there any evidence of a federal plan to address the basic needs of food, shelter and security for the arriving families and the impact on our community," the statement read.

The local officials contacted Florida's legislators and the state's Republican Gov. Rick DeSantis, who also opposed the move. DeSantis said he contacted President Donald Trump and later confirmed in a tweet the plans to move migrants to Florida had been shelved.

County officials could not say whether the decision to leave South Florida out of the planning was definite.

"We don't have anything concrete on paper," Palm Beach County's Bernard said. "What we heard is that Border Patrol is not seeking to release migrants in South Florida currently or at this time. Do those words give me pause? Yes, they do.

"This is how the Trump administration operates, through chaos and confusion. But I cannot operate a county with 1.5 million residents on chaos and out of control."

Broward County's Bogen echoed his counterpart's sentiment. He plans to visit El Paso on a fact-finding mission.

"I don't know what will happen in the future concerning migrants," he said.

"It's tough to run a government when there is no communication. If there's no communication, it is prepare for the worst and hope for the best. "



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O’Rourke’s immigration plan calls for pathway to citizenship
2 hours ago
29 May 2019

In this April 27, 2019, photo, Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke speaks at a Service Employees International Union forum on labor issues in Las Vegas. O’Rourke has unveiled a sweeping immigration plan to seek a pathway to U.S. citizenship for 11 million people in the country illegally, deploy immigration lawyers to the southern border and earmark $5 billion to bolster the rule of law in Central America. (AP Photo/John Locher)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke on Wednesday unveiled a sweeping immigration plan to seek a pathway to U.S. citizenship for 11 million people in the country illegally, deploy thousands of immigration lawyers to the southern border to help with asylum cases and earmark $5 billion to bolster the rule of law in Central America.

The former Texas congressman becomes just the second major candidate in the packed field of Democratic presidential hopefuls to offer a comprehensive immigration proposal, even though the U.S.-Mexico border and the thousands of people streaming across it illegally have dominated headlines and U.S. policy discussions for months.

Other policy goals — including plans to slash carbon emissions nationwide to combat climate change and extend universal health care coverage — have overshadowed immigration, despite President Donald Trump fixating on calls for tightening border security and extending a wall along the border, seeing both as winning issues for himself and the Republican Party heading into 2020.

The only other Democratic White House contender to offer a full immigration plan is former Obama administration housing chief Julián Castro, who called in April for ending criminalization of illegal border crossings entirely.

O’Rourke’s plan doesn’t go that far, but he pledges to use executive orders to mandate that only people with criminal records be detained for crossing the border illegally. He also would end the separation of immigrant families at the border, remove federal immigration courts from their current jurisdiction under the Justice Department, stop all funding for what he calls “private, for-profit prison operators” and send 2,000 lawyers to the border to help those immigrants seeking U.S. asylum, often because they are fleeing drug or gang violence back home in Central America.
O’Rourke said he’d work with Congress to legalize 11 million people in the country illegally during his first 100 days as president, fast-tracking “Dreamers,” those people brought to the U.S. illegally as children. And he’s promising to invest $5 billion to combat violence and poverty in the three Central American countries that currently send the most immigrants to the U.S. illegally: Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

The plan “overcomes a generation of inaction to finally rewrite our immigration laws in our own image reflecting our values, the reality of the border, the best interests of our communities, and the longstanding traditions of a country comprised of families from the world over,” O’Rourke said in a statement.

O’Rourke, a fluent Spanish speaker, served three terms in Congress representing El Paso, across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. While campaigning, he reminds audiences multiple times a day that immigrants comprised more than a quarter of the people in his district and declares that his hometown and Juárez are part of the world’s largest “binational community.” He’s fond of saying that El Paso is among the safest cities per capita in the nation “not because of walls but in spite of walls” along the border.

O’Rourke’s plan also seeks to better track and prevent immigrant deaths by creating an independent border oversight office and expanded training and contact with surrounding communities for federal personnel. A nine-page fact sheet O’Rourke released with his proposal accuses the Trump administration of “pursuing cruel and cynical policies that aim to sow needless chaos and confusion at our borders.”

“It is manufacturing crises in our communities. And it is seeking to turn us against each other,” the fact sheet says. “When this is done in our name, with our tax dollars, and to our neighbors, we not only undermine our laws, hold back our economy, and damage our security — we risk losing ourselves.”

Trump has said his immigration policies are meant to keep the country safe.



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Trump vows rapid, high tariffs on Mexico unless illegal immigration ends
May 30, 2019 / Updated 3 hours ago
Steve Holland, Frank Jack Daniel

WASHINGTON/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump, responding to a surge of illegal immigrants across the southern border, vowed on Thursday to impose a tariff on all goods coming from Mexico, starting at 5% and ratcheting much higher until the flow of people ceases.

Trump’s move dramatically escalates his battle to control a wave of tens of thousands of asylum seekers, including many Central American families fleeing poverty and violence, that has swelled alongside his promises to make it harder to get U.S. refuge and his efforts to build a wall on the Mexican border.

The announcement rattled investors who feared that worsening trade friction could hurt the global economy. The Mexican peso, U.S. stock index futures and Asian stock markets tumbled on the news, including the shares of Japanese automakers who ship cars from Mexico to the United States.

The president’s decision, announced on Twitter and in a subsequent statement, was a direct challenge to Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and took the Mexican government by surprise on a day when it had started a formal process to ratify a trade deal with the United States and Canada (USMCA).

It raised the risk of devastating economic relations with the biggest U.S. trade partner for goods. Mexico, heavily dependent on cross-border trade, rose to that ranking as a result of Trump’s trade war with China.

The measures against Mexico open up a new front on trade and if implemented are bound to trigger retaliation that would hit heartland, Trump-supporting farming and industrial states.

Higher tariffs will start at 5% on June 10 and increase monthly up to 25% on Oct. 1, unless Mexico takes immediate action, he said.

“If the illegal migration crisis is alleviated through effective actions taken by Mexico, to be determined in our sole discretion and judgment, the tariffs will be removed,” Trump said.

Lopez Obrador responded in a letter he posted on Twitter, calling Trump’s policy of America First “a fallacy” and accusing him of turning the United States into a “ghetto,” that stigmatized and mistreated migrants.

“President Trump, social problems are not resolved with taxes or coercive measures,” he wrote, adding that a delegation led by Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard would travel to Washington on Friday. He did not threaten to retaliate, saying he wanted to avoid confrontation.

Lopez Obrador pushed back against Trump’s assertion that Mexico let immigration happen through “passive cooperation,” saying: “you know we are fulfilling our responsibility to stop (migrants) moving through our country, as much as possible and without violating human rights.”

Determined to avoid a break down in Mexico’s most important bilateral relationship, since Trump threatened to close the world’s busiest land border over the migrant surge, Lopez Obrador’s government has drastically tightened controls on the movement of migrants, detaining and deporting thousands in recent months, while calling for U.S. aid to tackle root causes.

“We’re in a good moment building a good relationship (with the United States) and this comes like a cold shower,” said Mexico’s deputy foreign minister for North America, Jesus Seade, who had been in Mexico’s Senate delivering the USMCA trade deal for ratification shortly before the news broke.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang expressed sympathy with Mexico.

“The United States has repeatedly taken trade bullying action. China is not the only victim,” Geng told reporters.

Cross border trade between Mexico and the United States:

Despite Trump’s assertion that Mexico could easily end Central American immigration, its relatively small security forces, also struggling with a record level of gang violence and homicide, are having a hard time controlling the flows.

In the biggest migrant surge on the U.S-Mexican border in a decade, U.S. officials say 80,000 people are being held in custody with an average of 4,500 mostly Central American migrants arriving daily, overwhelming the ability of border patrol officials to handle them.A senior White House official said Trump was particularly concerned that U.S. border agents apprehended a group of 1,036 migrants as they illegally crossed the border from Mexico on Wednesday. Officials said it was the largest single group since October. Before unveiling the tariff threat, Trump posted a video purporting to be of the crossing on his Twitter feed.

A source close to Trump said there had been a debate inside the White House over whether to go forward with the new policy, with immigration hawks fighting for it and others urging a more diplomatic approach. Trump sided with the hawks.

“The last thing he wants is to look weak,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Trump’s directive also spelled the potential for chaos for his efforts to get the U.S. Congress to approve the USMCA deal, which he negotiated as a replacement to the North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Doug Ducey, the governor of Arizona, which shares a 370-mile (595-km) border with Mexico, said on Twitter that he spoke to the White House and it was time for Congress to act on border security and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Slideshow (3 Images)
“Everyone knows I am opposed to tariffs and deeply value Arizona’s relationship with Mexico. I prioritize national security and a solution to our humanitarian crisis at the border above commerce,” he said on Twitter.

Trump said he was acting under the powers granted to him by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. He campaigned for election in 2016 on a vow to crack down on immigration.

Jaime Serra, Mexico’s former trade minister who negotiated the original NAFTA, told Reuters the announcement was unacceptable and “in total violation of NAFTA.” Another negotiator said Trump risked violating World Trade Organization rules.

White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, asked in a conference call with reporters which products from Mexico could be affected by the tariffs, said: “All of them.”

Mulvaney added, “We are interested in seeing the Mexican government act tonight, tomorrow.”

Shares in Toyota Motor Corp, Nissan Motor Co and Honda Motor Co all fell around 3% or more, while Mazda Motor Co fell nearly 7%. All four operate vehicle assembly plants in Mexico.

“Mexico is the U.S.’s largest trading partner and a flare-up in trade tensions was definitely not on the market radar,” said Sean Callow, a senior currency analyst at Westpac.

The benchmark S&P 500 e-mini futures dropped 0.82% to the lowest the contract has traded since early March. Investors scooped up safe assets, driving the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note to 2.18%, the lowest since September 2017.

The dollar surged more than 2.5 percent against the Mexican peso.

Reporting by Steve Holland, Eric Beech and Mohammed Zargham; additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York,Noe Torres and Anthony Esposito in Mexico City, and Cate Cadell in Beijing; Editing by Grant McCool and Clarence Fernandez



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Mexico draws asylum red line ahead of talks about Trump's tariffs
June 3, 2019
Alexandra Alper, Frank Jack Daniel

WASHINGTON/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico on Monday said it would reject a U.S. idea to take in all Central American asylum seekers if it is raised at talks this week with Trump administration, which has threatened to impose tariffs if Mexico does not crack down on illegal immigration.

President Donald Trump last week said he will impose a blanket tariff on Mexican imports from June 10 to try to pressure Mexico to tackle large flows of mostly Central American migrants passing through on the way to the United States.

The threat was a shock last week to global markets, which are already suffering from a trade war between the United States and China.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said the country is committed to continuing to work to keep illegal immigrants from Central America from reaching the U.S. border.

However, he said a more radical proposal favored by some U.S. officials to designate Mexico a “safe third country,” which would force Central Americans seeking asylum in the United States to instead seek that status in Mexico, is not an option.

“An agreement about a safe third country would not be acceptable for Mexico,” Ebrard told reporters in Washington. “They have not yet proposed it to me. But it would not be acceptable and they know it.”

Ebrard will meet U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during the talks, which will also involve other senior officials.

The negotiations in Washington will be closely watched by financial markets concerned that import tariffs would ultimately hit the U.S. economy by adding to the cost of a wide range of goods in the United States, from Mexican-made cars and auto parts to televisions, beer and food.

U.S.-based Mexican-themed fast food chain Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc estimated a $15-million hit from the proposed tariffs and said it could cover that by raising its burrito prices by around 5 cents.

U.S. business groups have opposed the tariff plan and the influential U.S. Chamber of Commerce is looking at ways to challenge it, including legal options.

In a possible sign of U.S. priorities in the talks, which are due to run through at least Wednesday, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan said on Sunday that Mexico should deploy more personnel to stop illegal immigrants along a remote, jungly stretch of border with Guatemala.

McAleenan also said Mexico should bolster its own immigration screenings along that border, crack down on criminal networks transporting migrants and enable more migrants to wait in Mexico while they apply for asylum in the United States.

Since January, the government of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has ramped up detentions and deportations, but that has not been enough to stop the growing tide of families reaching the United States, mainly from Guatemala and Honduras. Many of them are trying to escape poverty and violent crime.

Trump and fellow Republicans say something needs to be done to stem the biggest migrant surge on the border in a decade.

U.S. officials say 80,000 people are being held in custody, and the more than 100,000 mostly Central American migrants that arrived in April are overwhelming the abilities of Border Patrol officials.

In its biggest concession to Trump so far, Mexico agreed in December to receive some Central Americans seeking asylum in the United States to await the resolution of their cases.

So far now 8,835 people, have been sent into Mexico under the program, commonly known as “Remain in Mexico.”

The Mexican economy which is heavily reliant on exports to the United States, shrank in the first quarter and would reel under U.S. levies that would start at 5% but could reach as high as 25% this year under Trump’s plan.

Goldman Sachs economists gave a 70% chance of the tariffs on Mexican imports coming into effect at 5% on June 10.

U.S. stock index futures fell on Monday as the multi-front trade war made investors increasingly risk averse and fueled worries of a recession. The market then went into the red after regulatory fears sent shares of internet giants Alphabet, Facebook and sharply lower.

Trump, who has embraced protectionism as part of an “America First” agenda aimed at reshaping global trade, said in a tweet last Thursday that he would ratchet up tariffs on Mexico “until the Illegal Immigration problem is remedied.”

Mexican officials in Washington on Monday warned that the tariffs could backfire, fanning further migration by hammering regional economies.

“Tariffs, along with the decision to cancel aid programs to the northern Central American countries, could have a counterproductive effect and would not reduce migration flows,” Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, Martha Barcena, told the news conference.

Approval of a deal to revamp the NAFTA free trade agreement between Mexico, the United States and Canada is also pending and could be hampered by the latest dispute over immigration, said Jesus Seade, Mexico’s deputy foreign minister for North America.

Goldman Sachs’ economists cut their chances that the new USMCA trade agreement — which needs to be passed by the three countries — will be ratified this year to 35% from 60% previously.

Trump will be out of the country on an extended trip to Europe during the talks in Washington. Several of his key advisers on immigration and trade issues are with him.
Reporting by Alexandra Alper and Makini Brice; Additional reporting by Dave Graham in Mexico City; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Alistair Bell



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U.S. judge denies Democrats' lawsuit to stop border wall funds
June 4, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. federal judge on Monday rejected a lawsuit by Democrats in the House of Representatives that sought to block President Donald Trump’s plan to divert funds to help build a border wall.

District Court Judge Trevor McFadden of the District of Columbia ruled that the House lacked legal standing to sue Trump for using money to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border that was appropriated by Congress for other purposes.

“While the Constitution bestows upon Members of the House many powers, it does not grant them standing to hale the Executive Branch into court claiming a dilution of Congress’s legislative authority. The Court therefore lacks jurisdiction to hear the House’s claims and will deny its motion,” McFadden wrote.

House Democrats had argued diverting the funds violated the separation of powers doctrine laid out in the U.S. Constitution.

The Justice Department applauded the ruling.

“The court rightly ruled that the House of Representatives cannot ask the judiciary to take its side in political disputes and cannot use federal courts to accomplish through litigation what it cannot achieve using the tools the Constitution gives to Congress,” a department spokesman said in a statement.

A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats were reviewing the ruling and evaluating whether to appeal.

The ruling is in contrast to a decision on May 24 by U.S. Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr., who issued a preliminary injunction blocking the use of $1 billion in Defense Department funds out of a total of $6.7 billion Trump wants to divert for the border wall.

Gilliam, in Oakland, California, on May 30 rejected the government’s efforts to start construction of the wall while it appeals to a higher court.

In February, after a protracted political battle and a government shutdown, Congress approved $1.38 billion for construction of “primary pedestrian fencing” along the border in southeastern Texas, well short of Trump’s demands.

To obtain the additional money, Trump declared a national emergency and his administration said it planned to divert $601 million from a Treasury Department forfeiture fund, $2.5 billion earmarked for Department of Defense counternarcotics programs and $3.6 billion from military construction projects.

Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Lisa Shumaker

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U.S. man killed in shoot out with CBP at southern border
June 5, 2019
By Darryl Coote

View attachment 7529
The San Ysidro Port of Entry is the busiest land port in the Western hemisphere, dealing with some 70,000 northbound vehicle passengers a day. Photo by Mani Albrecht/ U.S. Customs and Border Protection/UPI | License Photo

June 5 (UPI) -- A U.S. man was shot and killed in a firefight with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the California-Mexico border while trying to enter the country, San Diego police said.

The 23-year-old man died Monday at around 7:43 p.m. at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, the San Diego Police Department said in a press release Tuesday.

Police said the suspect had been identified but his name was being withheld until next of kin is notified.

The shooting occurred after the suspect, driving through the port of entry from Mexico into the United States, refused to stop for CBP officers and attempted to drive through the inspection area, the release said.

"Several CBP officers attempted to stop the suspect, whose vehicle was eventually blocked by another vehicle," police said. "The suspect began firing a gun out of his vehicle towards the officers, then exited his vehicle and continued firing at the officers."

The suspect was struck when CBP officers returned fire, the release said.

CBP officers and San Diego Fire-Rescue personnel were performing "life-saving measures" on the suspect when local police arrived at the scene, the release said, adding that "he, unfortunately, did not survive his injuries."

Seven CBP officers who were involved in the shooting were unharmed, Times of San Diego reported.

The San Ysidro Port of Entry is the busiest land border crossing in the Western hemisphere, averaging some 70,000 northbound vehicle passengers and 20,000 northbound pedestrians a day, according to U.S. General Services Administration.