US Releases Some Haitian Migrants in Texas

U.S. immigration officials released a few dozen Haitians from detention Monday in Del Rio, Texas, a small border town making headlines because of an influx of migrants hoping to enter the United States.    

“Thank God we’re here!” Micheline Baptiste told VOA Creole. “I’m thrilled — it’s a blessing. We fought hard to get here.” She had been living in Chile before heading to the United States and said the journey on foot took 2½ months.  

“A lot of misery. Many people died. We were walking over dead bodies. Some people drowned. Others were trying to escape robbers when they fell into the water and drowned,” she said. “Children were left motherless, fatherless. It was really tough.”  

Baptiste is one of the lucky few to gain entry into the U.S., where she will have to appear in court with a lawyer to petition for asylum.

According to Guerline Jozef of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, about 300 people were released from deportation and not all were Haitians. They were considered vulnerable and had to give authorities a U.S. address where they would be living with a relative who is a legal U.S. resident. And they had to commit to returning to court with a lawyer to petition for U.S. residency. 

The Biden administration announced Saturday it would deport migrants massed in a makeshift camp under the Del Rio International Bridge, on the Texas border with Mexico. Three deportation flights carrying hundreds of Haitian migrants traveled back to Port-au-Prince on Sunday, and three more left Monday.

WATCH: More than 12,000 Migrants Look for Asylum in Texas 

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas reiterated his message to migrants.  

“We are communicating, as we have now for months, loudly and clearly, that irregular migration, the perilous journey, is not the journey to take,” Mayorkas said Monday during a visit to Del Rio. “We have been, we are and we will continue to exercise the public health authority of the Centers for Disease Control in light of the fact that this country and this world is confronting a pandemic.”  

U.S. officials say 2,000 migrants were transferred out of Del Rio on Friday to various locations where they will be processed and deported. Officials plan to ramp up deportation flights this week to as many as 10 per day.    

Jozef is a Haitian American immigration activist and the president of Haitian Bridge Alliance, an advocacy group for Haitian immigrants. She told VOA that Haitian migrants should not try to cross the border. Her alliance is the only Black and Haitian group working on the border.    

“For now, the deportations will continue even though we are fighting that. There are a lucky few who have been released from detention, and we have welcomed them, but most of those people gave birth two or three days ago, so they are extremely vulnerable,” Jozef said from Del Rio.  

“I tell everyone that the border is closed. If someone tells you the border is open, it’s a lie. That’s why you see all this happening here,” she added.    

In Port-au-Prince, Prime Minister Ariel Henry addressed the situation of Haitian migrants in a national speech.  

“It’s been painful to watch on social media, on television and to listen on the radio the trials and tribulations our brothers and sisters are enduring on the Mexico-U.S. border,” Henry said. “Their images trouble our hearts and impact the dignity of all Haitians, no matter what their beliefs are or where they are currently living.”

The prime minister pledged his full support to all organizations working to help the migrants.     

“After an earthquake and hurricane, people in the south are suffering,” said Serge Bonhomme, head of Providence International Ministries, a human rights organization in Orlando, Florida. “To the American government, especially the Department of State, you should consider that a humanitarian reason exists not to continue to deport these Haitians,” he told VOA.  

White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended the administration’s immigration policy Monday.  

“One, our immigration policy is not about one country or discriminating against one country over another,” Psaki said during the daily press briefing. “We want to end that and put, and hopefully put, an end to what we saw over the last four years.”  

The U.S. continues to deport those who illegally cross the border under Title 42, a 1944 health statute invoked under the Trump administration by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the coronavirus outbreak and continued by Biden. The law prevents migrants from gaining entry into the U.S. for public health reasons.    

“There are a range of programs that people who are in the country can apply for or may be eligible for, including TPS (Temporary Protected Status) for Haiti, which is something that we still are continuing to look at and review,” Psaki said. 

The Department of Homeland Security said in August that Haitians who had been living in the U.S. since July 29, 2021, would be eligible to apply for TPS. Haitians have 18 months to apply for benefits that include legal residency and permission to work in the United States.   

At the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, three Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) flights landed Monday afternoon. The migrants aboard were angry about how they had been treated while in U.S. custody after a long, arduous voyage.  

“I left Chile three months ago,” a woman, who declined to give her name, told VOA, holding back tears. “… It’s only by God’s grace that I arrived in Mexico (after getting lost on the road).”  

The woman told VOA that she had arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border on Saturday.  

“When I got there, they called my number and then sent me to a prison, where they took my fingerprints,” she said. “They took pictures of me and my family. They took pictures of my children. They made me sign papers. Why?” she asked. 

The woman said she had been transferred to another prison and then told Sunday night that they would be sent to a religious home, where they could talk to family members living in the U.S. who could purchase airline tickets for them to travel on to other cities. She said there were about 50 families with children held as a group. Instead of being sent to the religious home as promised, she and her family were put on a plane and sent back to Haiti. 

Psaki, the press secretary, acknowledged that migrants were being returned to Haiti at a time when the country was dealing with multiple challenges.    

“We certainly support and want to be good actors in supporting Haiti during a very difficult time,” she said, “with a government that is still working to get back to a point of stability with recovery from an earthquake.” 

 White House correspondent Anita Powell, Jimmy Jacques in Miami, Yves Monpremier in Orlando, and Yves Manuel in Port-au-Prince contributed to this report.

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Lawsuits Against Doctor to Test Constitutionality of Texas Abortion Law

A San Antonio physician who announced he gave an abortion to a woman in defiance of a new Texas law was sued in Texas state court on Monday by two plaintiffs from other states who want to test the law’s constitutionality. 

Alan Braid said in an opinion piece published in The Washington Post on Saturday that he had broken a new Texas law that banned abortions beyond the point where rhythmic contracting of fetal cardiac tissue could be detected. The law leaves enforcement of the ban to citizens, rewarding them at least $10,000 if they successfully sue anyone who helped provide such an abortion and paying their court costs. 

In the cases filed on Monday, the state would be paying the costs of testing the law. One of the plaintiffs who sued Braid, Oscar Stilley, said in a phone call with Reuters on Monday that he opposes the Texas law and wanted to be the first person to force a court to assess its legality. 

Texas’ new abortion restrictions violate women’s constitutional rights, Stilley said. 

“I think it’s a decision between her and her doctor,” he said when asked whether he supported giving women the right to choose abortion access. 

Stilley, a disbarred lawyer, is on home confinement serving the 12th year of a 15-year sentence for tax evasion and conspiracy. 

The other plaintiff, Felipe Gomez, a suspended lawyer from Illinois, alleged in his complaint that “the Act is illegal as written and as applied here.” Gomez did not immediately return a call for comment. 

Monday’s lawsuits are to date the most direct test of the legality of the Texas abortion ban, which is one of the most restrictive such laws in the United States. Abortion rights groups and the U.S. Justice Department have also sued Texas over the law in federal court, saying it violates a woman’s constitutional right to abortion before the fetus is viable. 

Braid’s office in San Antonio referred requests for comment to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which has pledged to represent Braid in any lawsuit. 

Asked for comment, the Center forwarded a statement from its senior counsel, Marc Hearron, who acknowledged that the law enables anyone to sue people who aid or abet abortions beyond the prescribed limit. “We are starting to see that happen, including by out-of-state claimants,” the statement read. 

Texas Right to Life, a state anti-abortion group, did not return a call for comment.

 

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US Supreme Court to Hear Case that Directly Challenges Abortion Rights

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday that it will hear arguments in December about a case that directly challenges Roe v. Wade, the decades-old ruling that gives women the right to an abortion.

The court scheduled oral arguments for December 1 to hear a case concerning a Mississippi state law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The case directly asks justices to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that allows women to have abortions in most circumstances. Roe v. Wade recognizes a constitutional right to abortion before a fetus is viable, typically around 24 weeks of pregnancy. 

The Supreme Court is being closely watched on issues of abortion after it decided earlier this month to allow a Texas state law banning most abortions after six weeks to remain in effect while it undergoes legal challenges.

The Republican-backed Texas law bars abortions once cardiac activity has been detected in an embryo, which typically happens at six weeks when most women are not aware they are pregnant. 

Last week, the Biden administration formally asked a federal judge to block enforcement of that law until legal challenges to it are resolved.

The Supreme Court became more conservative under President Donald Trump, who appointed three justices to the nine-seat bench. Conservatives now hold a 6-3 majority. 

The high court agreed in May to hear the Mississippi case, but its recent decision to allow the highly restrictive Texas law to take effect fueled speculation that a majority of the justices are inclined to formally curtail abortion rights.

The court’s next term begins in October. 

 

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US Eases Foreign Coronavirus Travel Restrictions

The United States said Monday that starting in early November it will ease its coronavirus restrictions for foreign travelers arriving in the country. 

Foreign travel to the U.S. had been largely curbed during the 18-month pandemic, even as European nations in recent months eased restrictions on American travelers ahead of the summertime vacation season. 

Under the new U.S. policy, White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said foreign travelers will again be allowed into the country if they can demonstrate proof of being fully vaccinated before they board a flight and show proof of a negative COVID-19 test administered within three days of their flight. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson applauded the U.S. action, saying foreign travelers will be able to get to the U.S. before its annual Thanksgiving holiday, celebrated this year on November 25. 

“That’s a great thing,” Johnson said. “I thank the president (Joe Biden) for progress we have been able to make.” 

The U.S. Travel Association trade group also welcomed the move, saying it will “help revive the American economy.” 

“This is a major turning point in the management of the virus and will accelerate the recovery of the millions of travel-related jobs that have been lost due to international travel restrictions,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement Monday. 

Fully vaccinated travelers to the U.S. will not be required to be quarantined, as has been the case in some foreign countries. 

But Biden’s administration, in its effort to push millions more Americans to get inoculated, said unvaccinated Americans returning from overseas will need to be tested within a day of their flight and again after they return home. 

More than 181 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, according to government health officials, but it is estimated that 70 million people eligible for the vaccine have so far declined, for one reason or another, to get vaccinated. 

The new policy replaces a patchwork of restrictions first instituted by former President Donald Trump last year and tightened by Biden earlier this year that restricted travel by foreigners who in the prior 14 days had been in Britain, the European Union, China, India, Iran, Brazil or South Africa. 

Zients said the new policy “is based on individuals rather than a country-based approach, so it’s a stronger system.” 

He said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will also require airlines to collect contact information from international travelers to facilitate contact tracing if there is a coronavirus outbreak related to foreigners arriving in the U.S. 

It is uncertain under the new policy which vaccines would be acceptable to U.S. authorities, with Zients saying that would be left up to the CDC. Vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are used in the U.S. 

Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.​ Some information also came from Reuters and The Associated Press. 

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LA School District to Require Students Over 12 to Get Vaccinated by January

The Los Angeles Unified School District will require all students over the age of 12 to be fully vaccinated by January if they want to attend school, making it the largest school district in the nation to issue such a mandate. Angelina Bagdasaryan talked to experts and residents about the mandate. Anna Rice narrates her story.

Camera: Vazgen Varzhabetian       

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Mississippi Governor: Biden’s Mask Mandate is an ‘Attack’ on Federal Workers

The governor of the U.S. state with the highest COVID deaths per capita rate said he sees President Joe Biden’s mask mandate for all federal workers as “an attack,” not a preventive measure meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus. 

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves told CNN’s State of the Union Sunday the mandate is “an attack by the president on hardworking Americans and hardworking Mississippians who he wants to choose between getting a jab in their arm and their ability to feed their families.” 

According to data compiled by The New York Times, Mississippi has a COVID death rate of 306 deaths per 100,000 people.  

Britain’s COVID vaccination campaign for children between the ages of 12 to 15 begins Monday at schools around the country. 

Meanwhile, some private hospitals in Kolkata, bracing for a possible surge in pediatric COVID cases, have enhanced their facilities and provided additional training for their healthcare professionals. 

A new study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that roughly 1 in 3 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 still reported symptoms two months later. 

The study, done in Long Beach, California, found that one-third of those who tested positive for COVID-19 reported at least one symptom of the disease caused by the coronavirus four or more weeks after testing positive. 

The CDC reported that rates were even higher in women, Black people, those older than 40, and those with pre-existing conditions. The CDC describes “long COVID” as experiencing symptoms four or more weeks since testing positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. 

For the study, the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services spoke to 366 people, age 18 and older, chosen at random from two test groups after receiving a positive COVID-19 test between April 1 and December 10, 2020. 

The U.S. has more COVID-19 cases than any other country, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, with more than 42 million infections. 

Singapore reported more than 1,000 new cases of the virus Sunday, the highest rate for the country since April 2020. Even with 80% of its population fully vaccinated against the virus, Singapore has paused further reopening. 

The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center has recorded more than 228 million global COVID-19 cases and 4.7 million global deaths. Almost 6 billion vaccines have been administered, according to the center.  

Over the weekend, the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington D.C. revealed that some tigers and lions at the zoo tested positive for the virus. 

The zoo reported that six lions and three tigers were suffering decreased appetites, lethargy, and coughing and sneezing, but said in a press release that it was committed to the health and safety of both the animals and the human staff. ​

Some information for this report came from the Associated Press. 

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AP Interview: UN Chief Warns China, US to Avoid New Cold War

Warning of a potential new Cold War, the head of the United Nations implored China and the United States to repair their “completely dysfunctional” relationship before problems between the two large and deeply influential countries spill over even further into the rest of the planet. 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke to The Associated Press this weekend ahead of this week’s annual United Nations gathering of world leaders — a convening blemished by COVID, climate concerns and contentiousness across the planet. 

Guterres said the world’s two major economic powers should be cooperating on climate and negotiating more robustly on trade and technology even given persisting political fissures about human rights, economics, online security and sovereignty in the South China Sea. 

“Unfortunately, today we only have confrontation,” Guterres said Saturday in the AP interview. 

“We need to re-establish a functional relationship between the two powers,” he said, calling that “essential to address the problems of vaccination, the problems of climate change and many other global challenges that cannot be solved without constructive relations within the international community and mainly among the superpowers.” 

Two years ago, Guterres warned global leaders of the risk of the world splitting in two, with the United States and China creating rival internets, currency, trade, financial rules “and their own zero-sum geopolitical and military strategies.” 

He reiterated that warning in the AP interview, adding that two rival geopolitical and military strategies would pose “dangers” and divide the world. Thus, he said, the foundering relationship must be repaired — and soon.

“We need to avoid at all cost a Cold War that would be different from the past one, and probably more dangerous and more difficult to manage,” Guterres said. 

The so-called Cold War between the Soviet Union and its East bloc allies and the United States and its Western allies began immediately after World War II and ended with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. It was a clash of two nuclear-armed superpowers with rival ideologies — communism and authoritarianism on one side, capitalism and democracy on the other. 

The U.N. chief said a new Cold War could be more perilous because the Soviet-U.S. antipathy created clear rules, and both sides were conscious of the risk of nuclear destruction. That produced back channels and forums “to guarantee that things would not get out of control,” he said. 

“Now, today, everything is more fluid, and even the experience that existed in the past to manage crisis is no longer there,” Guterres said. 

He said the U.S.-Britain deal to give Australia nuclear-powered submarines so it could operate undetected in Asia “is just one small piece of a more complex puzzle … this completely dysfunctional relationship between China and the United States.” 

The secretly negotiated deal angered China and France, which had signed a contract with Australia worth at least $66 billion for a dozen French conventional diesel-electric submarines. 

In the wide-ranging AP interview, the secretary-general also addressed three major issues that world leaders will be confronting this week: the worsening climate crisis, the still-raging pandemic and Afghanistan’s uncertain future under its new Taliban rulers. They took power Aug. 15 without a fight from the government’s U.S.-trained army as American forces were in the final stage of withdrawing from the country after 20 years. 

What role will the United Nations have in the new Afghanistan? Guterres called it “a fantasy” to believe that U.N. involvement “will be able all of a sudden to produce an inclusive government, to guarantee that all human rights are respected, to guarantee that no terrorists will ever exist in Afghanistan, that drug trafficking will stop.” 

After all, he said, the United States and many other countries had thousands of soldiers in Afghanistan and spent trillions of dollars and weren’t able to solve the country’s problems — and, some say, made them worse. 

Though the United Nations has “limited capacity and limited leverage,” he said, it is playing a key role in leading efforts to provide humanitarian aid to Afghans. The U.N. is also drawing the Taliban’s attention to the importance of an inclusive government that respects human rights, especially for women and girls, he said. 

“There is clearly a fight for power within different groups in the Taliban leadership. The situation is not yet clarified,” he said, calling it one more reason why the international community should engage with the Taliban. 

While former U.S. president Donald Trump was wedded to an “America First” policy, President Joe Biden — who will make his first appearance as chief executive at the General Assembly’s high-level meeting Tuesday — has reaffirmed U.S. commitment to multilateral institutions. 

Guterres said Biden’s commitment to global action on climate, including rejoining the 2015 Paris climate agreement that Trump withdrew from, is “probably the most important of them all.” 

He said there is “a completely different environment in the relationship” between the United Nations and the United States under Biden. But, Guterres said, “I did everything — and I’m proud of it — in order to make sure that we would keep a functional relationship with the United States in the past administration.” 

Guterres also lamented the failure of countries to work together to tackle global warming and ensure that people in every country are vaccinated. 

Of the past year of COVID-19 struggles, he said: “We were not able to make any real progress in relation to effective coordination of global efforts.” 

And of climate: “One year ago, we were seeing a more clear movement in the right direction, and that movement has slowed down in the recent past. So, we need to re-accelerate again if we are not going into disaster.” 

Guterres called it “totally unacceptable” that 80% of the population in his native Portugal has been vaccinated while in many African countries, less than 2% of the population is vaccinated. 

“It’s completely stupid from the point of view of defeating the virus, but if the virus goes on spreading like wildfire in the global south, there will be more mutations,” he said. “And we know that mutations are making it more transmissible, more dangerous.” 

He again urged the world’s 20 major economic powers in the G20, who failed to take united action against COVID-19 in early 2020, to create the conditions for a global vaccination plan. Such a plan, he said, must bring together vaccine-producing countries with international financial institutions and pharmaceutical companies to double production and ensure equitable distribution. 

“I think this is possible,” Guterres said. “It depends on political will.” 

The secretary-general said rich, developed countries are spending about 20% of their GDP (Gross Domestic Product) on recovery problems, middle income countries about 6% and the least developed countries 2% of a small GDP. That, he says, has produced frustration and mistrust in parts of the developing world that have received neither vaccines nor recovery assistance. 

The divide between developed countries in the north and developing countries in the south “is very dangerous for global security,” Guterres said, “and it’s very dangerous for the capacity to bring the world together to fight climate change.” 

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UK’s Johnson to Urge Climate Action During 4-day Trip to US

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was travelling to the United States on Sunday with senior Cabinet officials to urge world leaders attending the U.N. General Assembly to take urgent action on climate change ahead of this fall’s COP26 climate summit in Scotland.

Johnson is set to co-host a meeting on climate change with U.N. Secretary General António Guterres on Monday. The two will discuss the need to help developing countries mitigate the impact of climate change.

“This week, as world leaders arrive in New York for the biggest diplomatic event of the year, I will be pushing them to take concrete action on coal, climate, cars and trees so we can make a success of COP26 and keep our climate goals within reach,” Johnson said in a statement.

Britain is hosting the COP26 climate summit from October 31 to November 12 in Glasgow. The conference is billed as a pivotal moment to persuade governments, industry and investors to make binding commitments on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and to make progress on reducing global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The British government says 100 world leaders have confirmed they will attend the conference. But Alok Sharma, the British official serving as the conference’s president, was not able to confirm Sunday whether Chinese President Xi Jinping has committed to attending the talks, or whether China would definitely be sending a delegation.

“On the issue of whether Xi Jinping is going to come, that is not yet confirmed. Normally these things come a bit closer to summits. I am very, very hopeful that we will have a delegation from China,” Sharma told the BBC.

He told Sky News that Beijing, as the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, would have to be a key part of any climate change agreement.

“They have said to me they want the COP26 to be a success. The ball is in their court. We want them to come forward and make it a success together with the rest of the world,” he said.

Johnson, Sharma and newly appointed British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss arrive in New York on Sunday for a four-day visit to the U.S.

After the U.N. General Assembly, Johnson and Truss will visit the White House for talks on climate, the pandemic and international security. It will be Johnson’s first visit to the White House since President Joe Biden took office.

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