Saturday November 17, 2018
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Caravan migrants confused over next move at Mexico-U.S. border

Migrants without strong asylum cases were advised to remain in Mexico, although the Mexican government has not said whether it will allow them to stay.

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Members of a Central American migrant caravan that drew the wrath of President Donald Trump during its month-long journey through Mexico to the U.S. border faced hard choices on Sunday, as they decided whether to cross illegally into the United States, ask for asylum at the border or try to remain in Mexico.
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Members of a Central American migrant caravan that drew the wrath of President Donald Trump during its month-long journey through Mexico to the U.S. border faced hard choices on Sunday, as they decided whether to cross illegally into the United States, ask for asylum at the border or try to remain in Mexico.

U.S. border authorities said Saturday that some people associated with the caravan had already been caught trying to slip through the fence and encouraged the rest to hand themselves in to authorities.

“We are a very welcoming country but just like your own house, we expect everyone to enter through our front door, and answer questions honestly,” San Diego Chief Patrol Agent Rodney S. Scott said in a statement.

Many of the migrants who spoke at length with Reuters at various points during their trip through Mexico recounted detailed stories of facing death threats.
Donald Trump, wikimedia commons

The group of about 400 migrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador arrived in border city Tijuana on buses over the past couple of days, and most of them said Saturday they intended to legally seek asylum in San Diego on Sunday.

“I feel a little cold, I feel anxious,” said Jaime Alexander from El Salvador in the morning, shaking slightly. Later he and some other migrants will go to the border and attempt to request U.S. asylum. U.S. authorities have advised that there may be delays in their ability to process the migrants and that some “may need to wait in Mexico as [border officials] work to process those already within our facilities.”

A security guard back home, Alexander said he fled after a death threat. His feet are still swollen from days of walking as the group made its way to the border.

Legal advice

Lawyers advising the group warned the migrants on Saturday that not everyone will be successful. Asylum seekers must demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution at home and the overwhelming majority of those from Central America are denied refuge in the United States. Those denied asylum are generally deported to their home countries.

After the grueling journey, a somber mood took hold in Tijuana over the weekend as migrants faced an uncertain future in which they are likely to be detained and separated from friends and family.

“To anyone that is associated with this caravan, Think Before You Act,” Scott’s statement said, vowing to prosecute migrants entering the country illegally. “If anyone has encouraged you to illegally enter the United States, or make any false statements to U.S. government officials, they are giving you bad advice and they are placing you and your family at risk.”

At venues around Tijuana, volunteer U.S. immigration lawyers on Saturday listened to harrowing tales of life in the immigrants’ home countries.

Death threats from local gangs, the murder of family members, retaliatory rape, and political persecution back home prompted them to flee, the migrants told the lawyers.

Many of the migrants who spoke at length with Reuters at various points during their trip through Mexico recounted detailed stories of facing death threats.

Migrants without strong asylum cases were advised to remain in Mexico, although the Mexican government has not said whether it will allow them to stay.
Representational Image, wikimedia commons

‘Credible fear’ test

The lawyers advised which cases had a better chance of passing the “credible fear” test required to enter the long and often difficult U.S. asylum process, said immigrant rights organization Al Otro Lado, Spanish for On the Other Side.

Migrants without strong asylum cases were advised to remain in Mexico, although the Mexican government has not said whether it will allow them to stay.

“We’ll wait and see,” said Bryan Garcia, from Honduras, seated beside the four-year-old daughter of his new girlfriend as they waited for her mother to come out of a meeting with a lawyer.

Nicole and her mother are from El Salvador. They befriended Garcia along the caravan’s journey.

Garcia said he would not ask for asylum but would stay in Tijuana, having already been deported once from the U.S.

Also Read: Trump asks senator to resign over opposing veterans post’s nominee

“We’ll just have to try to stay connected,” he said as Nicole paused from eating her biscuit and blinked up at him.

Trump pressured Mexico to stop the migrants before they reached the border, linking the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to Mexican efforts to stem the flow of Central Americans.

The friction has coincided with high intensity efforts by U.S., Canadian and Mexican teams to renegotiate NAFTA at Trump’s bidding. Negotiators trying to hammer out a NAFTA deal said on Friday they will take a break until May 7.

Mexico deports tens of thousands of Central Americans every year back across its southern border with Guatemala. (VOA)

 

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions Steps Down As Asked By Donald Trump

It remains to be seen whether Trump will tap Whitaker for the job permanently and send his name to the Senate for confirmation.

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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions attends a news conference on the arrest of a suspect in the sending of at least a dozen parcel bombs to Democratic politicians and high-profile critics of President Trump. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump forced his controversial Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign Wednesday, setting up a possible showdown with newly energized congressional Democrats over the investigation of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election.

Sessions, in a resignation letter to Trump, wrote that he was stepping down at “your request,” accepting a fait accompli he’d long sought to avert despite Trump’s repeated public humiliations of the attorney general over his recusal from oversight of the Russia probe.

The forced departure of Sessions, a former Republican senator and early supporter of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, capped a turbulent tenure that hit a rough patch in early 2017 when he stepped aside from the Russia investigation shortly after taking office.

Trump blamed Sessions’ recusal for the speedy appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and, over the course of the attorney general’s 20-month tenure, repeatedly castigated Sessions for failing to rein in what he called a “witch hunt” being led by Mueller and “17 Angry Democrats.”

While undertaking a wholesale repeal of Obama-era policies and implementing Trump’s tough-on-crime and immigration agenda, Sessions was increasingly shunned by the president, to the point that Trump told an interviewer earlier this year, “I don’t have an attorney general.”

In a pair of tweets Wednesday afternoon announcing Sessions’ resignation, Trump thanked the attorney general for his service and said Matt Whitaker, Sessions’ chief of staff and a former U.S. attorney under former President George W. Bush, would take over as acting attorney general. A permanent replacement would be announced later, Trump said.

Though long expected, Sessions’ departure fueled Democratic fears that Trump may be maneuvering to assert control over the Mueller investigation through a trusted appointee or possibly shut down it all together.

Donald Trump, democrats
U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledges supporters as he arrives for a campaign rally at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana. VOA

Congressional probe urged

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House oversight committee and a frequent Trump critic, urged Congress to investigate “the real reason” for the attorney general’s “termination.”

At a testy White House news conference earlier Wednesday, Trump said he could end the Mueller investigation “right now,” but “I stay away from it … I let it just go on.”

Other Democratic congressional leaders, including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senate Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Mark Warner issued nearly identical tweets urging Whitaker to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, citing his vocal criticism of the probe.

 

“Given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation, Mr. Whitaker should recuse himself from its oversight for the duration of his time as acting attorney general,” Schumer tweeted.

 

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Then-Iowa Republican senatorial candidate and former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker is pictured before a televised debate in Johnston, Iowa. VOA

 

Whitaker served as U.S. attorney for the southern district of Iowa from 2004 to 2009. According to his LinkedIn profile, he headed Foundations for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), a self-described ethics watchdog, until September 2017, shortly before joining the Justice Department.

In an opinion piece for CNN.com in July 2017, two months after Mueller’s appointment, Whitaker wrote that he agreed with Trump that investigating the president’s finances fell outside Mueller’s mandate, and he urged Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to limit the special counsel’s authority.

‘In charge of all matters’

Asked whether Whitaker would take control of the Russia probe, Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said, “The acting attorney general is in charge of all matters under the purview of the Department of Justice.”

Flores did not directly answer questions about whether Whitaker had consulted or planned to consult Justice Department ethics experts on whether he should recuse himself from the Russia probe.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., departs Capitol Hill, Oct. 6, 2018, in Washington. VOA

“We’re following regular order here,” she wrote via email.

John Malcolm, a former federal prosecutor now with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group, said he saw no reason for Whitaker to step aside.

“He is the acting attorney general. He has no reason to recuse himself,” Malcolm told VOA.

Malcolm said Sessions did “a solid job of implementing the president’s law enforcement priorities,” and he praised the attorney general for “protecting the integrity of the department and trying to keep it above politics.”

It remains to be seen whether Trump will tap Whitaker for the job permanently and send his name to the Senate for confirmation.

Also Read: U.S. Midterm Elections See Muslim American Women Making History

Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and close Trump ally, tweeted that he looked “forward to working with President Trump to find a confirmable, worthy successor. (VOA)