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Trump says border wall ‘has helped’ cut illegal immigration

President Trump said Tuesday morning that the border wall has helped cut the flow of illegal immigration to “just about a record-breaking low,” as he prepared to jet off to Yuma, Arizona, to mark more than 200 miles of construction since the start of his administration. “We’re celebrating — we have over 200 miles of…

Trump says border wall ‘has helped’ cut illegal immigration

President Trump said Tuesday morning that the border wall has helped cut the flow of illegal immigration to “just about a record-breaking low,” as he prepared to jet off to Yuma, Arizona, to mark more than 200 miles of construction since the start of his administration.

“We’re celebrating — we have over 200 miles of wall built,” the president said before boarding the presidential helicopter at the White House.

His trip will take him to San Luis, a border crossing between the U.S. and Mexico near where the Colorado River flows between the countries.

Yuma has seen 26 miles of old fencing replaced with the new border wall design.

Border-wide, Customs and Border Protection says of the 1,954-mile border, 657 miles are now protected by a barrier — three more than when Mr. Trump took office.

But the wall that now stands along much of that is a major improvement over the old designs built during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, which Homeland Security officials says justifies calling it “new” wall.

Mr. Trump on Tuesday credited the wall with cutting the flow of illegal immigrants from last year’s record-shattering family surge to the lowest numbers in a generation as of April.

“The wall has helped,” he said.

Border officials say the wall is part of it, but give more credit to the president’s diplomacy with Latin American countries, which roped those nations into doing more to block people from crossing their territory en route to the U.S.

And changes in U.S. policy have sped up deportations of new border crossers, removing some of the incentives for illegal immigrants to make the journey in the first place.

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Chinese border city lockdown after coronavirus found: Live news |NationalTribune.com

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur. The southwestern Chinese city of Riuli has been locked down, with all 200,000 residents to be tested for COVID-19 after two Myanmar nationals were diagnosed with the virus. More than 29 million people around the world have been diagnosed…

Chinese border city lockdown after coronavirus found: Live news |NationalTribune.com

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur.
The southwestern Chinese city of Riuli has been locked down, with all 200,000 residents to be tested for COVID-19 after two Myanmar nationals were diagnosed with the virus.
More than 29 million people around the world have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, and 926,307 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 20 million have recovered.
Here are the latest updates:
Tuesday, September 15
02:15 GMT – US official accused scientists of ‘sedition’: New York Times
The top communications official at the US department in charge of combating the coronavirus told his followers in a Facebook Live session that government scientists were engaging in “sedition” in their handling of the pandemic, according to the New York Times.
Michael Caputo, assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) claimed, without evidence, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was harbouring a “resistance unit” determined to undermine President Donald Trump, the newspaper said.
Caputo is a former adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign. 

Suggesting scientists are plotting ‘sedition’ is a little like claiming @FortniteGame is about to be taken over by otters
— Bill Hanage (@BillHanage) September 15, 2020

01:15 GMT – Test rate positivity down in California
Only 3.5 percent of COVID-19 tests came back positive in California over the last seven days, the lowest rate since the state began reporting the data in March, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. 
The newspaper says its analysis of the data also shows new confirmed cases at the lowest since mid-June and hospitalisations at the lowest since the start of April.  
00:15 GMT – Judge in US rules Pennsylvania restrictions ‘unconstitutional’
A federal judge in the United States state of Pennsylvania has ruled that lockdown measures imposed in March to curb the spread of COVID-19 are “unconstitutional”.
The measures, including the closure of businesses and a limit on the size of gatherings, were challenged in court by several Republican lawmakers and small business owners, who argued the restrictions put their enterprises at risk.
Judge William Stickman ruled in their favour, and said that even if the state’s governor acted with “good intention of addressing a public health emergency”, he did not have the right to infringe on citizens’ fundamental freedoms.
“There is no question that this country has faced, and will face, emergencies of every sort,” the judge wrote. “But the solution to a national crisis can never be permitted to supersede the commitment to individual liberty that stands as the foundation of the American experiment.”
00:00 GMT – Border city in China’s southwest to start mass testing  
The Chinese city of Ruili, which lies on the border with Myanmar, will begin nucleic acid testing of all residents after two people were discovered to have COVID-19 on Sunday. 
The two patients are both from Myanmar and entered China illegally, according to state broadcaster CGTN. They have been isolated in hospital along with five others. Some 190 close contacts of the two have also been put in isolation.
A citywide lockdown has been imposed in Ruili and all residents told to stay at home.
—-
Read all the updates from yesterday (September 14) here.
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Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho puts initiative on one ballot

Rural Oregonians are ready to bolt for Idaho after nearly two months of daily protests and rioting in Portland. Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho, a group that seeks to take eastern and rural counties out of Oregon and put them into Idaho, reached a milestone Saturday. It announced that volunteers have collected enough…

Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho puts initiative on one ballot

Rural Oregonians are ready to bolt for Idaho after nearly two months of daily protests and rioting in Portland.

Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho, a group that seeks to take eastern and rural counties out of Oregon and put them into Idaho, reached a milestone Saturday. It announced that volunteers have collected enough signatures to place the initiative on the November ballot in Wallowa County, Oregon.

Fueling the separatist effort: Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s coronavirus shutdown and the escalating protest violence in Portland. Police declared a riot Saturday night after hundreds of activists attacked the North Precinct and ignited a fire inside the Portland Police Association office.

“We want to move the border because the political atmosphere in Oregon is getting too intense,” Michael McCarter, president of Greater Idaho, said in a release. “We’ve seen political violence in Portland and Eugene this year and it could get worse. Instead of fighting, Oregon could let citizens in each region of the state choose which state’s governance is more suitable to them.”

Such border-shifting movements are long shots at best — no state has done so since West Virginia left Virginia in 1863 — but the inability or unwillingness of Portland authorities to quell the unrest has created a political climate in which the old rules no longer appear to apply.

The Department of Homeland Security sent in officers last week to protect federal buildings such as the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse, which has been covered repeatedly with graffiti and vandalized, but Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has made it clear that the Trump administration’s help is unwelcome.

“What they are doing is, they’re sharply escalating the situation,” Mr. Wheeler said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Their presence here is actually leading to more violence and more vandalism. And it’s not helping the situation at all. They’re not wanted here.”

The mayor, who faces reelection in November against a pro-Antifa candidate, has directed police to keep federal officers out of the Portland incident command. He said protesters “are literally being scooped off the streets in unmarked vans” by federal agents.

“We haven’t asked them here. In fact, we want them to leave,” Mr. Wheeler said.

Even so, he has been rebuked by elected officials such as Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. On Saturday, she blasted the “federal occupying force” and the police bureau’s “aggressive clampdown of peaceful protest.”

“I demand action right now,” Ms. Hardesty said in a statement. “Mayor Wheeler, if you can’t control the police, give me the Portland Police Bureau.”

Meanwhile, President Trump kept up the pressure Sunday on officials in the city, which has become the center of national protest violence since the dismantling two weeks ago of Seattle’s occupied autonomous zone.

“We are trying to help Portland, not hurt it,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “Their leadership has, for months, lost control of the anarchists and agitators. They are missing in action. We must protect Federal property, AND OUR PEOPLE. These were not merely protesters, these are the real deal!”

That said, the protests are making inroads. Since they began, Portland Police Chief Jami Resch has stepped down, clearing the way for a Black successor, and the Portland City Council voted to slash police funding by $15 million in response to calls to “defund the police.”

At a Friday rally and vigil outside the federal courthouse, activist Lilith Sinclair drew cheers from the crowd of about 200 and other speakers, including clergy, when they said she was “organizing for the abolition not just of the militarized police state, but also the United States as we know it.”

Meanwhile, the Portland Police Association executive board issued a vote of no confidence July 8 against the City Council, saying “our officers have endured weeks of rocks, bricks, bottles, mortars, and other objects hurled at them with hate.”

‘Let our people go!’

Against such a backdrop, the idea of 17 counties breaking off from Oregon and joining Idaho seems a lot less radical than it once did.

After launching last year, Greater Idaho is collecting signatures in 15 of those counties for ballot measures that direct local officials to participate in negotiations on redrawing Idaho’s state line, a process that has been hampered by the statewide shutdown by Ms. Brown, a Democrat.

The organization filed a lawsuit June 30 in federal court to reduce the number of required valid signatures, arguing that the stay-at-home order has hampered the ability of volunteers to meet the Aug. 5 petition deadline on county ballot measures. A hearing is scheduled for Monday.

“This lockdown has hurt our ability to collect signatures,” Mr. McCarter said. “We’ve got volunteers in every single county that has our petition. We would have filed this suit earlier, but we were hoping the lockdown wouldn’t last this long.”

He has reason for optimism. Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane ordered the state to reduce by 50% the signature threshold for Politicians Not People, a statewide ballot campaign, and extend the deadline from July 2 to Aug. 17, citing the state lockdown.

Oregon Attorney General Bev Clarno filed Wednesday for an emergency stay on his order.

In three counties — Jefferson, Union and Douglas — he said volunteers have collected more than half of the required signatures but need an extension to meet the deadline. Other counties lag further behind.

Then there’s Sherman County, which requires only 60 valid signatures to qualify. “We hope some volunteer will knock that one out,” Mr. McCarter said.

Greater Idaho is nothing if not grassroots. Although he estimates that the movement has 9,000 volunteers, Mr. McCarter said nobody is paid, and the campaign has none of the “corporate money necessary to send mass mailings of petitions to citizens.”

The effort does have the support of some Oregon Republican legislators. Idaho Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, has said he would welcome any would-be Idahoans from Oregon, although he said the movement has a long way to go given that both state legislatures and Congress would need to sign off on redrawing the state lines.

For Mr. McCarter and others, however, the attempt is worth the trouble. They say the concerns of rural Oregon have been ignored or dismissed as political power concentrates in the increasingly left-wing population centers of Portland and Eugene.

“Our message to Oregon’s state political leadership is: let our people go!” Greater Idaho said in a statement on its website. “Your counties have different goals, different values, and different economies. Your primary voters will be glad to get rid of ‘Trump-voting low-income counties.’ Let us be governed by a state that understands us. Please negotiate a deal with Idaho.”

⦁ Alex Swoyer contributed to this report.

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Border rescues ignored by media that hypes ‘haunting’ deaths

Their death pose was captured in a haunting photo: A 2-year-old girl tucked inside her father’s arm, both of them washed ashore on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande, drowned after a failed attempt to jump the border. The image splashed across front pages a year ago this week, including The Washington Times and…

Border rescues ignored by media that hypes ‘haunting’ deaths

Their death pose was captured in a haunting photo: A 2-year-old girl tucked inside her father’s arm, both of them washed ashore on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande, drowned after a failed attempt to jump the border.

The image splashed across front pages a year ago this week, including The Washington Times and The New York Times, and dominated the airwaves. NBC labeled the father and daughter the “new faces of the border crisis.” CBS called the photos “a haunting image of desperation” as it devoted 42 seconds to panning across the photos in its June 26 newscast. ABC showed the photos for 34 seconds.

A day later, the Border Patrol released another image: agents patrolling another section of the Rio Grande and spotting a drowning 13-year-old Honduran boy. They swooped in on their boat, pulled the teen out of the water and performed CPR on the deck to save his life.

That rescue was caught in a dramatic video — with just seconds of coverage on CBS and NBC and no time at all on ABC, according to Newsbusters, a media watchdog.

Such is the grim math of the border.

The Honduran boy is one of 4,900 people last year whom Customs and Border Protection agents and officers rescued. They dove into roiling waters, saved migrants abandoned in the desert by smugglers, and treated catastrophic injuries of some who fell off the border wall.

Few of those rescues drew any headlines.

Among the 4,900 rescued were a paraplegic and a double amputee. Smugglers brought them to the Rio Grande in late May 2019, tossed them into the water and left them to drown. Agents leapt into the water to pull both men to safety.

Then there were the 61 migrants, ages 7 months to 66 years, traveling as a group who had to be rescued from flash floods in southern Arizona. And the family of six — two adults and children ranging from 1 to 17 years old — who nearly drowned in the Salinity Canal in Yuma.

For an agency that faces calls to “defund CBP” and whose personnel are labeled murderers and white supremacists, the lack of attention to the rescues is a source of deep frustration, said Mark Morgan, acting head of CBP, who regularly pleads for more attention to rescues.

“I think this is one of those stories that just gets lost in the quagmire, and I also think it would go a long ways to address one of the false narratives out there of the type of character of the men and women of CBP,” he said.

It’s particularly disheartening for an agency that can rival the Coast Guard for most lives saved each year yet has been vilified amid the poisonous national debate over immigration policy.

“Somebody will be happy to give you a thumbs-up, but it’s usually the other finger,” said Border Patrol Agent Kyle Belzer, a member of the Border Patrol Search, Trauma and Rescue (BORSTAR) team in San Diego.

Deaths in custody

It’s usually the deaths that draw the headlines.

That was the case in December 2018 when two illegal immigrant children, 7-year-old Jakelin Caal and 8-year-old Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, died a couple of weeks apart after making the treacherous journey from Central America through Mexico and into the U.S. with parents hoping to take advantage of the “family loophole” in deportation policy.

Congressional Democrats said the Border Control neglected the children and demanded investigations into both deaths. Immigration rights activists said agents had blood on their hands, and news reporters called the deaths an “outrage.”

The Homeland Security Department’s inspector general quietly cleared the Border Patrol of culpability, saying it “found no misconduct or malfeasance” in either case. Jakelin died of streptococcal sepsis, and Felipe died of complications from the flu. Agents never even knew the boy was ill, the investigation concluded.

But the Southern Border Communities Coalition, an activist group, lists both children on its running tally of what it calls “Deaths by Border Patrol.”

The coalition has not responded to multiple requests for comment for this article, but it claims there were 10 “deaths by Border Patrol” in 2018 and 17 in 2019. So far this year, it lists one.

Debate over where to place blame for the deaths is heated.

Immigrant rights groups say federal policy and factors including the border wall are pushing migrants to take more risks, in harsher territory, to reach the U.S.Homeland Security officials say the blame lies with smugglers, who view the migrants as sources of cash and are all too willing to leave them in the desert if they are not able to keep up.

Of the 17 deaths the Southern Border Communities Coalition attributed to the Border Patrol in 2019, 11 were labeled health or medical related, one was labeled a suicide, two were shootings during encounters with border agents or port officers, and three were killed in crashes while attempting to flee agents.

Mr. Morgan said he takes those cases seriously.

“It’s a tough balance because one individual that dies is obviously one too many. That absolutely should take our attention. We’ve got to focus on that. But I don’t think, though, that that means that we don’t talk about the other stuff,” he said.

That other stuff, he said, are the rescues — the 4,900 migrants in 2019 who might have died had it not been for an agent or officer on the scene.

For those who lob the racism charge at his agency, he points out that the Border Patrol is majority Hispanic, and so are those it rescues. Mr. Morgan said no agent or officer ever stops to ask the identity, or even legal status, of a person they jump into the water to save.

“No matter where our patients are coming from, that’s never really a consideration,” said San Diego BORSTAR agent James Hiney. “Saving a life is always the top priority.”

Agents say rescues happen on a near-daily basis, particularly as summer heat creates harsh conditions along much of the 1,954-mile boundary between the U.S. and Mexico.

“This time of year, agents expect they’re going to find people in distress, and they take that real serious,” said Victor Manjarrez Jr., who served two decades in the Border Patrol and is now associate director of the Center for Law and Human Behavior at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Sometimes the rescues present special challenges.

During one three-day period last year, agents in Eagle Pass, Texas, encountered a 36-year-old migrant woman with a mental impairment that made approaching her difficult; a 41-year-old man who could neither hear nor speak; and a man in a wheelchair, stranded on an island in the Rio Grande en route to the U.S. The double-amputee insisted he had made it there on his own but was unable to continue on his own and had to be rescued.

“With compassion and heroism, the agents of the U.S. Border Patrol save illegal border crossers from the bone-dry heat of the Arizona deserts, the utter callousness of alien smugglers and bandits, the swift waters of the Rio Grande River, and all manner of dangers,” said Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott.

While the Rio Grande dominates the rescue list in Texas, it’s desert exposure that spurs the most calls in Arizona and New Mexico. California has a mix, including migrants falling off the border wall, heat exposure and hypothermia in the mountains.

It’s not just the Border Patrol. CBP’s Air and Marine Operations division and its Office of Field Operations, which mans ports of entry, account for some of the rescues.

CBP officers and agents spotted three teenagers jumping into a canal this month to swim into the U.S. One was swept under a water gate, but a CBP officer managed to reach down and pull him out. The other two were rescued with a safety line.

So others may live

Agents say rescuing people isn’t an afterthought; it’s ingrained in the culture of CBP.

In Texas, Border Patrol agents found there was so much demand for rescues that they needed a way to shorten the time to reach each target.

The answer was the Missing Migrants Project, which has placed thousands of signs in remote locations with instructions on how to call 911. Each sign has a unique identifying number, which helps the emergency dispatch center pinpoint where the rescue team needs to go.

The Border Patrol also runs the BORSTAR teams, with more than 250 agents specially trained for search and rescue. Their motto is “So others may live.”

BORSTAR agents in San Diego estimated that 90% of those they rescued were migrants. The rest were U.S. citizens or residents who got lost hiking or otherwise fell into distress.

Mexico helps, too. Oftentimes, it will be family members in Mexico who report someone in distress to their local authorities, who then pass on the information to the U.S. side.

Last weekend, Grupo Beto, a Mexican migration agency, got two distress calls from a group lost in the Southern California mountains and reported them to the Border Patrol. After four hours of searching, agents rescued both groups: a total of 10 adults and three juveniles.

Mr. Manjarrez said the number of rescues on the southern border makes sense when considering the smuggling operations. Wealthier migrants are driven right to the border, but poorer migrants likely have been walking for some time — in some cases, weeks, as they traversed Central America and Mexico — to reach the U.S.

Add to that the smugglers, who leave them in T-shirts and jeans with no water. They promise Tucson is just over the horizon, when it’s really 60 miles north.

“On many occasions, people pass away just after they cross the border because they were already in bad shape in Mexico,” Mr. Manjarrez said.

The northern border also has its share of rescues.

An agent in the Detroit region was approached this month by a woman who said her husband had stopped breathing. The agent began CPR to keep the man alive until an emergency medical team reached the scene and used a defibrillator to revive him. He was taken to a hospital and made a full recovery.

The agent declined to be named publicly because of threats against Border Patrol personnel and their families.

Yet there is also touching praise for agents.

A girl from Laredo, Texas, made a thank-you video for agent Ricardo Carrillo, a certified EMT, after he helped treat her for severe heat exhaustion while she was on a fishing outing with her family this month.

“I want to thank all the Laredo Border Patrols for helping me when I was almost going to pass out,” the girl says in the video. “Thank you, officer Carrillo — and for also the Gatorade.”

Her mother chimes in: “Thank you guys for everything you do. God bless you.”

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