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Why Republican governors are relocating migrants across US | Migration News

Washington, DC, – For months, the Republican governor of Texas has been sending asylum seekers on buses to Democratic-run states – without prior warning or coordination – to draw attention to the rising number of migrants crossing into the United States through its border with Mexico.

Arizona followed soon after, and more recently, the governor of Florida has joined the effort by sending some 50 migrants from Texas on planes to a wealthy island in Massachusetts. Officials say the migrants were promised jobs and financial assistance when there were none.

The Republican governors blame President Joe Biden’s immigration policies for the rise in arrivals at the border and say their campaign is necessary in order to share the burden of hosting the asylum seekers.

But with midterm elections coming up in November, migrant advocates say the move is a cruel political stunt to gain votes.

Al Jazeera looks at what is going on:

How many people have been bussed or flown across the US?

So far, more than 13,000 migrants have been affected by the Republican legislators’ campaign.

Texas says it has bussed more than 8,000 migrants to Washington, DC, and another 2,500 more to New York City since April. More than 600 migrants from Texas also have been sent to Chicago since late August, the state said.

Arizona has bussed 2,000 migrants to the nation’s capital, according to local media reports.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis also took credit for flying approximately 50 migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard earlier this month.

Where are the migrants from?

According to officials and volunteers, many of the migrants are from Venezuela, which has seen a mass exodus in recent years amid dire socioeconomic conditions and a rise in violence.

Others have been from Nicaragua, Colombia, Cuba, and Haiti, among other countries.

How do the Republican legislators justify their campaign?

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has said the Biden administration is to blame for the growing number of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border, and that northern, Democratic-run states should share the burden of hosting them.

Texas, which borders Mexico, is often the first state asylum seekers land in.

“The Biden-Harris Administration continues ignoring and denying the historic crisis at our southern border, which has endangered and overwhelmed Texas communities for almost two years,” Abbott said in a statement on September 15.

A group of mainly Venezuelan migrants was taken by bus from Texas to the home of US Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington, DC, this month [File: Marat Sadana/Reuters]

How are people being moved across the US?

Abbott and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey have been sending buses to transport the migrants and asylum seekers in more than 30-hour journeys to other parts of the country.

The campaign intensified this month, however, when Florida’s DeSantis put migrants on private planes to Martha’s Vineyard.

That has raised questions about the legality of these transfers of migrants, as US media have reported that the people sent to Massachusetts – most of whom were from Venezuela – were recruited by another migrant in Texas and misled into believing that upon reaching the island they would be given housing, work and other assistance.

So is this legal?

It remains unclear if any US or international laws were broken, but the effort is already being challenged in court.

Earlier this week, a county sheriff in Texas announced that he had opened a criminal investigation into the migrant flights to Martha’s Vineyard. Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar told reporters that the 48 migrants were “lured under false pretences” and “stranded unceremoniously in Martha’s Vineyard … for nothing other than a photo op”.

The following day, Alianza Americas, a coalition of 53 migrant-led organisations, and three migrants who were flown to Massachusetts filed a class action lawsuit against DeSantis and other Florida state officials for what they said was a “premeditated, fraudulent, and illegal scheme” that was aimed at “advancing their own personal, financial and political interests”.

But DeSantis has defended the flights. “Immigrants have been more than willing to leave Bexar County after being abandoned, homeless, and ‘left to fend for themselves.’ Florida gave them an opportunity to seek greener pastures in a sanctuary jurisdiction that offered greater resources for them, as we expected,” his office said in a statement.

Martha's Vineyard migrants
Migrants waiting outside the City of San Antonio Migrant Resource Center in San Antonio, Texas [Jordan Vonderhaar/Reuters]

How have receiving cities responded?

Washington, DC, New York and Chicago have struggled to cope with the arrivals. Local leaders have denounced the Republican governors and called on the Biden administration to provide federal assistance.

On Thursday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced that the city would open so-called “Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers” to support the migrants coming from Texas. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot set up a website for donations and volunteers.

Earlier this month, Muriel Bowser, the mayor of Washington, DC, declared a public health emergency over the arrivals and on September 20, the city council voted unanimously to set up a new $10m Office of Migrant Services.

Bowser said the new office will be charged with welcoming the migrants and giving them temporary shelter, food, medical support and transport to their final destinations. Earlier, she had made two requests for help from the National Guard, but both were denied by the Pentagon.

Why have those cities been singled out?

Washington, DC, New York City, and Chicago are run by Democratic Party leaders.

They also are so-called “Sanctuary Cities”, which means that city officials will not ask residents about their immigration status or deny them services on the basis of that status, nor will they share such information with federal immigration authorities.

Sanctuary cities were targeted by former US President Donald Trump, who threatened to pull funding over their immigration policy.

What has Biden said about the current Republican campaign?

Biden has blasted the effort, calling it “reckless” and “un-American”.

“Republicans are playing politics with human beings, using them as props,” he said on September 15. “What they’re doing is simply wrong … And we have a process in place to manage migrants at the border. We’re working to make sure it’s safe and orderly and humane.

“Republican officials should not interfere with that process by waging these political stunts,” Biden added.

Migrants
Migrants boarding a Border Patrol van after being processed in Eagle Pass, Texas [File: Brandon Bell/Getty Images via AFP]

How have the migrants been treated?

Local organisations, charities and volunteer groups have stepped in to provide food, shelter, transportation and other forms of assistance to the migrants and asylum seekers. Many people have also donated items and money or volunteered to host migrants in their homes.

But the journey, especially for young children and the elderly, has been gruelling, and several people have required hospitalisation upon their arrival. Most migrants are travelling with very few belongings and little money, which makes them reliant on aid.

How have migrant rights groups responded?

Advocacy groups have blasted the Republican governors – as well as the Florida-funded flights, in particular – for a campaign they say is cynical and cruel.

“This is nothing but a cruel political stunt. Seeking asylum is a human right and legal under US and international law,” Paul R Chavez, the senior supervising lawyer for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) Immigrant Justice Project, said in a September 16 statement.

“The abuse of desperate children and families as political pawns is a failure of leadership and not in keeping with our nation’s values.”

America’s Voice, a pro-immigration advocacy group, also called the effort a deliberate attack on people of colour. “Shipping vulnerable migrants, including children, across the US is a calculated systematic attack on a targeted population – here immigrants of color, many of whom are lawfully in the U.S. as asylum applicants,” David Leopold, a legal adviser with the group, said in a statement.

Abbott
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has defended the bussing campaign [File: LM Otero/AP Photo]

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Mexico’s $10bn lawsuit against US gun makers dismissed by judge | News

Mexico estimates that 2.2 percent of the nearly 40 million guns made annually in the US are smuggled across its border.

A US judge has dismissed Mexico’s $10bn lawsuit that sought to hold US gun manufacturers responsible for facilitating the flood of weapons that are smuggled across the US-Mexico border to drug cartels.

In its August 2021 complaint, Mexico estimated that 2.2 percent of the nearly 40 million guns made annually in the United States are smuggled into Mexico, including as many as 597,000 guns made by defendants named in the lawsuit.

Mexico said that in 2019 alone, at least 17,000 homicides were linked to trafficked weapons from the US.

“While the court has considerable sympathy for the people of Mexico, and none whatsoever for those who traffic guns to Mexican criminal organizations, it is duty-bound to follow the law,” Chief Judge F Dennis Saylor said in a 44-page decision announced in federal court in Boston on Friday.

Saylor said federal law “unequivocally” bars lawsuits seeking to hold gun manufacturers responsible when people use guns for their intended purpose. He said the law contained several narrow exceptions, but none applied.

The decision is a victory for gun makers Smith & Wesson Brands, Sturm, Ruger & Co, Barrett Firearms Manufacturing Inc, Colt’s Manufacturing Company LLC, Glock Inc, and others who were accused of undermining Mexico’s strict gun laws by designing, marketing, and selling military-style assault weapons that drug cartels use.

Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said it would appeal the decision “and continue insisting that the sale of guns be responsible, transparent and accountable, and that the negligent way in which they are sold in the United States facilitates criminals’ access to them”.

“This suit by the Mexican government has received worldwide recognition and has been considered a turning point in the discussion around the gun industry’s responsibility for the violence experience in Mexico and the region,” the ministry said.

Shielding gun makers from lawsuits

Mexico was seeking at least $10bn in compensation, but legal experts had viewed the lawsuit as a long shot.

The Mexican government had argued that the companies know their practices contribute to the trafficking of guns into Mexico and facilitate it. Mexico wanted compensation for the havoc the guns have wrought on its people.

A lawyer for Smith & Wesson declined to comment. Lawyers for Sturm, Ruger did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mexico said gun smuggling has been a key factor in its ranking third worldwide in the number of gun-related deaths each year. It also claimed to suffer many other harms, including declining investment and economic activity and a need to spend more on law enforcement and public safety.

But the judge said Mexico could not overcome a provision in a US law – the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act – that shields gun makers from lawsuits over “the harm solely caused by the criminal or unlawful misuse of firearm products … by others when the product functioned as designed and intended”.

Mexico argued the US protection act did not apply when an injury occurred outside the United States.

Saylor did not agree.

“Mexico is seeking to hold defendants liable for practices that occurred within the United States and only resulted in harm in Mexico,” he wrote. “This case thus represents a valid domestic application of the PLCAA, and the presumption against extraterritoriality does not apply.”

The sale of firearms is severely restricted in Mexico and controlled by the Defence Department. But thousands of guns are smuggled into Mexico each year by the country’s powerful drug cartels.

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Small protests appear in Havana over islandwide blackout

HAVANA — The widespread power outage caused by Hurricane Ian prompted several hundred people to protest in Havana, and a monitoring group said the island’s internet service shut down again Friday in what appeared to be an attempt to curb information about the demonstrations from spreading.

An Associated Press journalist saw about 400 people gathered Thursday night in at least two spots in the Cerro neighborhood shouting, “We want light, we want light,” and banging pots and pans.

It appeared to be the first public display over the electricity problems that spread from western Cuba, where Ian hit on Tuesday, to the entire island, leaving the country’s 11 million people in the dark. The storm also left three people dead and caused still unquantified damage.

Power was restored to much of the island within a day after the storm’s blast. But there still areas without service, including in the capital.

Internet service was interrupted Thursday, then returned by Friday morning, at least in some areas. But it went out again later in the day, groups that monitor internet access reported.

Alp Toker, director of London-based Netblocks, said the blackout in internet service on Thursday and Friday appeared different from an internet outage that occurred soon after Ian hit.

“Internet has been cut again in Cuba, at around the same time as yesterday,” Toker said in an email to AP on Friday night. “The timings provide another indicator that the shutdowns are a measure to suppress coverage of the protests.”

Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at Kentik Inc., a network intelligence company, earlier described Thursday’s event as a “total internet blackout.”

Repeated blackouts on Cuba’s already fragile grid were among the causes of the island’s largest social protests in decades in July 2021. Thousands of people, weary of power failures and shortages of goods exacerbated by the pandemic and U.S. sanctions, turned out in cities across the island to vent their anger and some also lashed out at the government. Hundreds were arrested and prosecuted, prompting harsh criticism of the administration of President Miguel Diaz-Canel.

The government has not said what percentage of the overall population remained without electricity as of early Friday, but electrical authorities said only 10% of Havana’s 2 million people had power Thursday.

Experts said the total blackout showed the vulnerability of Cuba’s power grid and warned that it will require time and sources — things the country doesn’t have — to fix the problem.

Authorities have promised to work without rest to address the issue.

Calls by AP to a dozen people in Cuba’s main cities — Holguín, Guantánamo, Matanzas, Ciego de Ávila, Camagüey and Santiago — found problems similar to those in Havana, with most reporting their neighborhoods were still without electricity.

Authorities say the total blackout happened because of a failure in the connections between Cuba’s three regions — west, center and east — caused by Ian’s winds.

Cuba’s power grid “was already in a critical and immunocompromised state as a result of the deterioration of the thermoelectric plants. The patient is now on life support,” said Jorge Piñon, director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy’s Latin America and Caribbean program at the University of Texas.

Cuba has 13 power generation plants, eight of which are traditional thermoelectric plants, and five floating power plants rented from Turkey since 2019. There is also a group of small plants distributed throughout the country since an energy reform in 2006.

But the plants are poorly maintained, a phenomenon the government attributed to the lack of funds and U.S. sanctions. Complications in obtaining fuel is also a problem.

———

Andrea Rodríguez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP

———

Associated Press writer E. Eduardo Castillo contributed to this report from Mexico City.



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North Korea fires ballistic missiles in latest tests amid tension | News

Japanese official reported that the missiles travelled 400kms (250 miles) and at a maximum altitude of 50km (30 miles).

North Korea has fired two short-range ballistic missiles from the Pyongyang area towards the country’s east coast, according to South Korean and Japanese officials, marking Pyongyang’s fourth missile test launches in a week.

Japan’s NHK national television said multiple missiles were fired from North Korea on Saturday morning and were believed to have landed in the Sea of Japan though outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

“What appears to be a ballistic missile was launched from North Korea,” the Japanese coast guard said in a statement issued at 6:47 am (21:47 GMT) local time on Saturday.

In a second statement issued about 15 minutes later, the coast guard said another apparent ballistic missile was launched.

NHK said the projectiles seemed to have fallen outside Japan’s exclusive economic zones, citing government sources.

The office of Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida tweeted that the latest missile launch was being analysed and instructions issued for the safety of people, aircraft and vessels.

North Korea fired short-range ballistic missiles into the sea on Wednesday and Thursday in the hours before and after a visit by US Vice President Kamala Harris to South Korea during which she emphasised the “ironclad” US commitment to the security of its Asian allies.

The latest launch also follows after the navies of South Korea, the United States and Japan staged trilateral anti-submarine exercises on Friday for the first time in five years.

Japan’s Vice Defence Minister Toshiro Ino said North Korea’s repeated missile firings are “persistently escalating provocations”.

“North Korea’s actions threaten the peace and safety not only for Japan but also the region and the international community, and are absolutely impermissible,” Ino said, calling the four launches in one week “unprecedented”.

The missiles rose to a maximum altitude of 50km (30 miles) and flew as far as 400km (250 miles) before landing in the Sea of Japan in areas outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Ino said.

The missiles may have been on “irregular” trajectory, which makes tracking more difficult.

North Korea has conducted a record number of weapons tests this year and analysts see the increased pace of testing as an effort to build its ballistic weapons capacity, as well as to take advantage of a world distracted by the Ukraine conflict and other crises.

Nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches by North Korea have long been banned by the United Nations Security Council.

“Despite North Korea’s internal weaknesses and international isolation, it is rapidly modernising weapons and taking advantage of a world divided by US-China rivalry and Russia’s annexation of more Ukrainian territory,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

A South Korean legislator said on Wednesday that the North has completed preparations for a nuclear test, and a window for such a test could open between China’s party congress in October and the US mid-term elections in November.



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