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Federal Judge Orders the Trump Administration to Stop Expelling Unaccompanied Migrant Children

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  • On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered the Trump administration to end its practice of expelling unaccompanied migrant children at the southern border.
  • That practice was part of a larger policy blocking all southern-border migrants from claiming asylum and entering the United States in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The expulsion of single adults and families are not affected by this order, but Sullivan did seem to express a willingness to cast aside that aspect of the policy, as well. 
  • The Trump administration has indicated that it will appeal Sullivan’s decision, but for now, his ruling remains in effect. 

Trump Admin. Adopts “Public Health” Expulsion Policy

A federal judge on Wednesday ruled that the Trump administration cannot turn away unaccompanied migrant children seeking asylum at the United States southern border.

The practice has been employed by the administration since March, the same time much of the United States first began going into coronavirus lockdowns. In fact, this practice is part of a larger policy the administration adopted after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an emergency order related to the coronavirus on March 20. 

That order, signed by CDC Director Robert Redfield, stated that the U.S. government is allowed to temporarily block noncitizens from entering the US “when doing so is required in the interest of public health.”

Chad Wolf, the acting Homeland Security secretary, then announced three new measures he cited as necessary through the CDC’s order.

First, the U.S. would begin sending anyone who illegally crossed the border back to their home countries without the ability to claim asylum. Second, the country would suspend processing undocumented migrants at legal ports of entry. Third, it would close the legal entry points along the Mexican and Canadian borders to tourism. 

From March through the end of September, the administration used that policy to turn away nearly 200,000 migrants. That includes more than 13,000 children who were traveling alone, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, one of four organizations that brought a lawsuit against the administration.

Judge Pauses “Public Health” Expulsions

District Judge Emmet Sullivan’s Wednesday decision was largely a win for the ACLU and immigrant rights groups. 

In his ruling, Sullivan said while the CDC’s emergency order does allow the Trump administration to prohibit noncitizens from entering the country, that doesn’t then give the administration the legal standing to expel migrant children.

Under existing U.S. law, unaccompanied migrant children must be treated differently than adults or even families. In fact, they’re given special protections that require them to be placed in shelters and provided an opportunity to voice their asylum claims.

Sullivan’s ruling only applies to unaccompanied children. The Trump administration will still be able to turn away adults and families by citing COVID concerns outlined in the CDC’s order. 

Nonetheless, Sullivan did seem to question the legality of the administration’s policy in full. While he said that the administration had been granted “extraordinary” authority by the CDC, he also said that authority is still “distinguishable” from the claim that it gives the administration full rights to turn away migrants. 

Immigration Advocate Cheer, Trump Admin. Appeals

“Today’s ruling is a critical step in halting the Trump administration’s unprecedented and illegal attempt to expel children under the thin guise of public health,” ACLU Lawyer Lee Gelernt said of Sullivan’s decision in a statement on Wednesday. 

Karla Marisol Vargas, a lawyer for the Texas Civil Rights Project, which was also represented in the suit, commended the ruling in a similar statement, noting that the case could carry over into a Biden administration.

“The Trump administration cannot weaponize a pandemic to destroy long-established protections for children with a shadow system of zero accountability,” she said. “We will continue to keep this administration and the next, in check.”

For their part, other immigrant advocates have argued that the U.S. has the ability to safely give protection to vulnerable immigrants while also addressing public health concerns. For example, the shelters unaccompanied migrant children will now go to are capable of adopting social distancing guidelines. Likewise, the number of migrants in border facilities has fallen dramatically since spring of last year.

Late Wednesday night, the Trump administration signaled that it would appeal Sullivan’s ruling, according to AZ Central. 

Following that decision, Homeland Security spokesperson Chase Jennings painted Sullivan as an “activist judge.” 

“[Sullivan] has demanded that illegal aliens be introduced into the United States in the tens of thousands, spread across the country on planes and busses, and cause the overflow of community hospitals, particularly at the border,” Jennings said. 

Immigration advocates have argued that the Trump administration’s policy actually put Border Patrol agents more at risk because, under the policy, those agents needed to make arrangements so that migrant children would be able to fly back to their home countries. 

Still, top border officials have argued that because of the pandemic, public health law needs to be prioritized over immigration laws.

For now, however, they must abide by Sullivan’s ruling. While the Justice Department did ask for Sullivan to stay the order pending an appeal, that request has been denied. 

See what others are saying: (AZ Central) (The New York Times) (Axios)

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Biden Pledges To Cut U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Half by 2030

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  • President Biden vowed Thursday that the U.S. will curb its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% from 2005 levels by 2030.
  • The new goal, announced during an international climate summit, doubles the previous aim under the Obama administration, which pledged to cut emissions by at least 26% of 2005 levels by 2025. 
  • The plan, which will require the U.S. to significantly cut its fossil fuel and likely prompt pushback from Republicans, signals a renewed commitment to both domestic and international efforts on climate change after the Trump administration withdrew the U.S. from the Paris agreement in 2017.
  • “No nation can solve this crisis on our own,” Biden said in his remarks at the summit. “All of us, and particularly those of us that represent the world’s largest economies, we have to step up.”

Biden Raises U.S. Emissions Target

While speaking at the international climate summit Thursday, President Joe Biden pledged that the U.S. would cut greenhouse gas emissions at least in half from 2005 levels by 2030.

The new goal more than doubles America’s previous commitment laid out by the Obama administration under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which aimed to cut emissions 26 to 28% of 2005 levels by 2025. 

It also marks a sharp reversal from the Trump administration, which pulled out of the Paris agreement and went to great lengths to undermine scientific evidence regarding climate change.

The promise, however, is also very ambitious: more than halfway through the decade-long target set by Obama, the U.S. has barely achieved 50% of the original aim. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2019, the most recent year where complete data is available, U.S. emissions were just 13% below 2005 levels.

In order to achieve Biden’s new goal, the U.S. will have to drastically reduce its use of fossil fuels in basically every economic sector. Any such policy in this area will almost certainly receive political backlash from Republicans in Congress, despite the fact that Biden’s decision is in line with hundreds of executives at major companies. Apple and Walmart have even explicitly endorsed the 50% target.

This latest commitment brings the U.S. more in step with other countries like the U.K., which had previously pledged to cut its emissions by 68% in the same timeframe. During Wednesday’s summit, Canada promised to reduce its emissions to 40% of 2005 levels by 2030, and Japan also vowed to cut 46% below their 2013 levels by the end of the decade — a major show of solidarity with the U.S.

A Global Effort

While perhaps over-optimistic, experts have said that these climate goals are needed to offset the aims of other more developing countries, many of which have argued they should be allowed to emit more because other countries were allowed to do the same unchecked for decades when they were industrializing.  

China, which is the world’s biggest emitter, has not set a goal to cut emissions, but rather to reach peak emissions by 2030. Neither China nor India — another top emitter — made any new promises during the first day of the two-day summit.

In his remarks at the event, Biden encouraged other world leaders to ramp up their efforts and emphasized the need for international cooperation.

“No nation can solve this crisis on our own. All of us, and particularly those of us that represent the world’s largest economies, we have to step up,” he said. “This is the decisive decade. This is the decade that we must make decisions to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis.”

However, as experts and officials have noted, without any new regulations or laws in place, many countries will be hard-pressed to actually trust America’s pledge due to the last decade-plus of sharp policy changes between Republican and Democrat administrations.

After taking office, George W. Bush abandoned the 1997 Kyoto Protocol signed by Bill Clinton, and Trump immediately withdrew from the Paris climate deal that Obama played a key role in negotiating.

This pattern of a Democratic president making a commitment only for a Republican president to later renege has not only hurt international confidence in the U.S. regarding climate, but also undermined America’s authority when it comes to calls for cooperation in the global arena.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNBC) (The Wall Street Journal)

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House Panel Approves Commission To Study Reparations

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  • In a 25 to 17 vote along party lines, the House Judiciary Committee approved legislation Wednesday that would establish a commission to study slavery reparations for Black Americans.
  • Republicans objected to the plan, arguing that it will cost too much money and that it is unfair to make all American taxpayers responsible for the consequences of slavery.
  • Democrats pushed back, claiming the modern oppression of Black people still holds roots in slavery, and noting that the bill just creates a commission to study reparations, not implement them.
  • While the proposal faces steep odds in the Senate, Wednesday’s historic vote will move the measure to the House floor for a full vote for the first time since it was introduced over three decades ago. 

Reparation Commission Achieves First Approval

The House Judiciary Committee voted for the first time on Wednesday to advance a bill that will create a commission to consider paying slavery reparations for Black Americans.

The legislation was first proposed over 30 years ago, and if signed into law, it would create a 13-member commission that would study the effects of slavery and racial discrimination in the U.S. and then give Congress a recommendation for “appropriate remedies” to best compensate Black Americans.

The measure passed the committee 25 to 17 along party lines, as expected, with objections from Republicans, who claimed reparations will cost too much and that they are unfair to Americans who have no history of enslavers in their families.

Democrats pushed back against those assertions, arguing that the federal government does have enough money to take some kind of action. They also noted that the commission will not actually implement any reparations, but rather just look into the options and then make a non-binding recommendation.

There are a lot of different ideas for what reparations could look like. While some support direct cash payments of various sizes, others have argued there are different proposals that might be more realistic to put into law, like no-interest loans for Black homeowners or free college tuition.

“I ask my friends on the other side of the aisle, do not cancel us tonight. Do not ignore the pain, the history and the reasonableness of this commission,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tx.), the lead sponsor of the bill, said Wednesday.

Others also condemned the argument that some Americans, particularly those whose ancestors did not directly benefit from owning slaves, should not bear responsibility. They said that this line of thinking ignores both generational wealth, which vastly benefits white Americans over all others, as well as how Black Americans are hurt by modern-day discrimination and oppression that has roots in slavery.

“Slavery was indeed ended 150 years ago but racism never took a day off and is alive and well in America,” Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) said in committee Wednesday. 

“You can ask the family members of Daunte Wright, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery or George Floyd. Black folks in this country cannot keep living and dying like this. But we’ll be forced to do so if White folks in America continue to refuse to look back at history.”

Uphill Battle

While many have described the legislation as a flexible first step, any further congressional action will almost certainly be an uphill battle. The committee vote is just the very first step: the proposal still has to go to a vote by the full House, where it is unclear if it will even garner enough support among the House Democrats’ slim majority. 

If it were to pass the lower chamber, the bill faces almost insurmountable odds in the 50-50 split Senate, where ten Republicans would have to join all Democrats to break the legislative filibuster.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has said that he will start considering when to schedule the vote, though it is unlikely to be considered soon. Hoyer also urged President Joe Biden to use his executive power to create the commission if the legislation fails.

The White House has said that Biden supports the commission, but administration officials have not confirmed whether he would act unilaterally on the subject.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (USA Today) (Vox)

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Biden To Pull All U.S. Troops From Afghanistan by Sept. 11

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  • President Biden declared Wednesday that he will pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11, which also marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
  • The Afghanistan war is the longest war the U.S. has ever been in. It has resulted in the deaths of 2,400 American troops, injured and killed almost 100,000 civilians, and cost about $2 trillion.
  • Some praised the decision as a key step to address seemingly endless wars and promote diplomacy.
  • Many experts and defense officials, however, have warned the withdrawal could undermine American goals in the region and embolden the Taliban, which is currently the strongest it has been since the U.S. invasion removed the group from power in 2001.

Biden Announces Troop Removal Amid Growing Violence

President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he will withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks that drew the U.S. into its longest war in history.

“We went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago. That cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021,” Biden said in an afternoon speech. “It’s time to end America’s longest war. It’s time for America’s troops to come home.’’

The decision comes as Biden nears the May 1 deadline set under a February 2020 peace deal by the administration of former President Donald Trump to bring the troops home from the war, which has killed nearly 2,400 troops, injured and killed nearly 100,000 civilians, and cost about $2 trillion.

Biden had previously said that it would be hard to meet the date after taking office, but even with the extended timeline, many experts and defense officials have warned against the move.

The U.S. first entered the war to oust the Taliban government, which was harboring al-Qaeda militants involved in planning the 9/11 attacks. The Taliban was removed within months, but the group still had support in parts of the country and steadily regained territory and strength.

Now, almost two decades later, the group is the strongest it has been since the 2001 invasion, and according to reports, controls or has influence over half the country. The situation has also escalated in the months after Trump, during his last week in office, reduced the official number of troops in Afghanistan to 2,500, which is the lowest level since 2001.

As the U.S. has scaled down its operations, the Taliban has taken control of major highways and tried to cut off cities and towns in surges that have exhausted Afghan security forces. Violence has also ramped up in recent months.

According to a U.N. report released Wednesday, nearly 1,800 civilians were killed or wounded in the first three months of the year, a nearly 30% increase from the same period last year.

Notably, U.S. intelligence agencies have said that they do not believe Al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations present an immediate threat to strike the U.S. from Afghanistan, an assessment that reportedly played a big role in Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces.

However, many experts are more concerned about how the move will impact Afghanistan and its citizens. 

Concerns Over Withdrawal

The Pentagon has warned against removing American troops from the region until Afghan security forces can effectively fight back against the Taliban.

As a result, critics of the plan have argued that withdrawal will leave the forces  — which have limited capacities and until now have been funded and trained by the U.S. — entirely in the dust

Beyond that, many also worry that the move could undermine the entire goal of the 2001 invasion by empowering al-Qaeda operates that remains in the country and who could become emboldened once the U.S. troops left.

Some experts and Afghan politicians have said that withdrawing from the country without a solid peace deal in place could end in concentrating more power in the hands of the Taliban. After a long delay following the U.S. agreement in February of last year, peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban finally started up in September.

But those talks have since stalled, partly due to Biden’s win and the anticipation of a possible change in policy under the new administration.

While other countries have recently made moves to restart the talks, and there are a number of possible options on the table, nothing is set in stone. American commanders, who have long said a peace deal with the Taliban is the best security measure for the U.S., have argued that the U.S. will need to use the promise of withdrawing their forces as a condition for a good deal.

Now, the U.S. has taken a major bargaining chip off the table, causing concerns that if a deal is struck, the already weakened Afghan government will make key concessions to the Taliban. Many Afghan citizens who oppose the Taliban worry that if the group secures a role in a power-sharing agreement, it could eventually take over the government and re-impose the harsh rule it imposed before the U.S. removed it in 2001. The leadership was particularly tough on women, who were largely barred from public life.

Politicians Respond

Biden’s decision has sparked a divided front from both political parities, though Republicans have largely remained united against the move.

“It is insane to withdraw at this time given the conditions that exist on the ground in Afghanistan,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Tuesday. “A full withdrawal from Afghanistan is dumber than dirt and devilishly dangerous. President Biden will have, in essence, canceled an insurance policy against another 9/11.”

Many Democrats, however, have argued that U.S. presence in the region is not helping the U.S. achieve its foreign policy goals, and that if withdrawal is based on conditional approaches, the troops will never be able to leave. 

Others have also applauded the plan as a careful solution and will still emphasize diplomatic efforts in the region while simultaneously removing the U.S. from a highly unpopular and expensive war.

“The President doesn’t want endless wars. I don’t want endless wars. And neither do the American people. ” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday. “It’s refreshing to have a thought-out plan with a set timetable instead of the President waking up one morning getting out of bed, saying what just pops into his head and then having the generals having walked it back.”

In a series of tweets Wednesday, Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, said had spoken to Biden, and emphasized that the two nations would continue to work together.

“’Afghanistan’s proud security and defense forces are fully capable of defending its people and country, which they have been doing all along,” he wrote.

The Taliban, for its part, has focused more on the fact that the initial timeline had been delayed.

“We are not agreeing with delay after May 1,” a spokesperson said on television Tuesday. “Any delay after May 1 is not acceptable for us.”

It is currently unclear how that stance might affect the situation, especially when it comes to peace deal negotiations.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (TIME)

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