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Trump’s immigration crackdown starts to gain traction

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WASHINGTON, DC, United States (AFP) — With a little help from the Supreme Court and Mexico, US President Donald Trump’s fitful crackdown on immigration is finally gaining traction.

Trump has spent his entire presidency promising to stop illegal immigration, shut out asylum seekers and wall off the Mexican border.

The far-reaching policies sparked an avalanche of court challenges, complaints from human rights organisations and derision from opposition Democrats ahead of next year’s elections.

Undeterred, Trump has hammered away, making construction of a US-Mexican border wall one of his presidency’s centrepieces — and a key part of his 2020 re-election platform.

And this week he celebrated a string of victories.

The latest boost came Wednesday when the Supreme Court said he could enact severe restrictions on asylum seekers.

The ruling requires would-be refugees to ask for asylum in the first country they visit and only then — if they are rejected — can they attempt to apply in the United States.

The ruling — which has temporary effect while challenges play out in lower courts — shuts out large numbers of people fleeing violence and poverty in Central America. They will now have to apply for asylum in Mexico, rather than head directly to the United States.

Trump’s opponents, as well as dissenting Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, say the change upends decades of tradition in which the US, itself founded by waves of often poor immigrants, has welcomed refugees.

But Trump, who argues that economic migrants abuse the system with fraudulent asylum claims, went on Twitter to herald the “BIG United States Supreme Court WIN for the Border on Asylum!”

“The Southern Border is becoming very strong despite the obstruction by Democrats,” he tweeted.

That’s far from all.

In July, the Supreme Court backed Trump’s move to divert billions of dollars in Pentagon funds to pay for extending or rebuilding stretches of wall on the Mexican border. This lets him circumvent fierce resistance to funding in a divided Congress.

The Pentagon also said this Tuesday that the deployment of 5,500 troops on the border — something that was initially highly controversial — was being extended for the coming year.

While Trump exaggerates the amount of wall-building activity there’s no question that momentum is gradually shifting his way.

“The Wall is going up very fast despite total obstruction by Democrats in Congress, and elsewhere!” he tweeted Wednesday.

Perhaps the most significant shift has happened on the other side of the long, rugged frontier, where the Mexican Government has set aside previous hostility to cooperate with Trump.

The change in mood follows threats by Trump to impose trade tariffs on Mexico, even though the two countries are in a free trade agreement together with Canada.

Not that Mexico is entirely happy. Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard called the new US asylum restrictions, which could mean a torrent of new cases for his country, “unprecedented”.

“Of course, we disagree,” he said.

But Mexico appears to have accepted it has no choice but to play by Trump’s rules.

On Monday, Mark Morgan, head of the US border patrol service, welcomed “unprecedented support” from Mexico, which he said has deployed 10,000 troops on its own southern border with Central America and 15,000 on the US border.

Proof that the joint crackdown is having an effect is in the numbers, US officials say.

August detentions of undocumented migrants numbered 64,000, down from 82,000 the previous month and 144,000 in May, Morgan said. Mexico, he said, has apprehended 134,000 people so far this year, compared to 83,000 in all of 2018.

Democrats use the immigration issue to paint Trump as heartless, even racist. But the president feels he’s on the right track.

On Monday, as streams of Bahamians tried to exit islands ravaged by Hurricane Dorian, Trump made clear the United States would eye this latest group of asylum seekers sceptically.

“I don’t want to allow people that weren’t supposed to be in The Bahamas to come into the United States, including some very bad people and some very bad gang members and some very, very bad drug dealers,” he said.

The language echoed his long-term characterisation of Central American migrants as potential rapists and gang members.

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Today’s horoscope — September 18

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Today’s horoscope — September 18

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY for Wednesday, September 18, 2019: This year could be unusually dynamic, with you constantly making adjustments for changing situations. You have a lot of energy to put into whatever you deem worthy. If single, you draw a score of admirers. Ask yourself who suits you best. Time and dating will help you decide. If attached, the two of you often discuss travelling or opening a new frontier in your life. When involved in such projects, you become very close. TAURUS seems to be around you always. They have a style that often feels judgmental to you, even if it might not be!

 

ARIES (March 21-April 19): You experience a plethora of emotions, which triggers an unusually creative approach to a situation. Finances could easily be involved. You feel that today’s discussions and events are somehow a replay. Tonight: Loosen up your energy. Throw yourself 100 per cent into plans.

 

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): You want to pull back from a hot situation, but what actually occurs is the reverse. You alternate between a well-oiled, conventional approach to a situation and a profound, transformational idea. Only you know what is acceptable. Tonight: Beam in all you want.

 

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Know when to call it a day or when to stop banging your head against the same obstacle over and over. You could discover that a more understanding approach is more workable. Respond to a call from someone you might put on a pedestal. Tonight: On top of your game.

 

CANCER (June 21-July 22): Emphasise your friendships, your direction and what you depend on. Think in terms of using your energy in a more positive vein. You will see quick results, especially involving the support of several key friends. Tonight: Find a reason to celebrate.

 

LEO (July 23-Aug 22): You might be putting someone on a pedestal while actually unsure of how this person thinks of you and what he or she expects from you. During this period of free floating, explore several different options involving a class and/or exercise. Tonight: Into the wee hours.

VIRGO (Aug 23-Sept 22): Do not hesitate to focus on a different approach to get the results you desire. You will do much better if you are spontaneous and tap into an immediate situation. Plug your energy appropriately. Tonight: Consider a mini trip in the near future.

 

LIBRA (Sept 23-Oct 22): One-on-one relating takes you down an intriguing path both intellectually and emotionally. You have an opportunity to get to know an associate more fully. Avoid expressing irritation at a situation that might be stymied. Tonight: Be discreet.

 

SCORPIO (Oct 23-Nov 21): Emphasise what is good in a friendship or specific relationship. You might be more flexible than you realise and able to make an easy adjustment to relate better at this time. Tonight: Go with a friend’s or loved one’s suggestion.

 

SAGITTARIUS (Nov 22-Dec 21): Stay focused on the task at hand. Distraction could cause a snafu, which could be costly in terms of finances or time. Your serious front draws results. Go with the flow. Tonight: Play the night away, if you’re not too tired.

 

CAPRICORN (Dec 22-Jan 19): You have a unique style that defines what you do. Approaching a creative project or interlude demands your libido, energy and imagination. Do not allow another person to push you into a corner. Tonight: As you wish.

 

AQUARIUS (Jan 20-Feb 18): A loved one or partner encourages you to take a leap of faith. You do that easily, but you also want to become more recognisable. Express your concerns in a way that allows others to get it. A boss or admirer makes unexpected, heavy demands. Tonight: A force to be reckoned with.

 

PISCES (Feb 19-March 20): This period encourages you to express yourself more openly. Your words not only favour more open self-expression, but also encourage a novel approach. Take a risk if you feel it is right. Tonight: Use your psychic energy to help define which path will succeed.

 

(c) 2019 by King Features Syndicate Inc.

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Hong Kong activists take cause to US Congress Urge pressure on Beijing

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WASHINGTON, DC, United States (AFP) — Leaders of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement yesterday appealed directly to US lawmakers to exert pressure on Beijing, warning that an erosion of the city’s special status would embolden China’s leaders around the world.

In an appearance likely to infuriate Beijing, young people at the forefront of Hong Kong’s mass protests testified before a congressional commission in support of US legislation aimed at defending Hong Kongers’ civil rights.

“This is not a plea for so-called ‘foreign interference’ nor for Hong Kong independence,” said Cantopop star Denise Ho, whose music has been banned in mainland China for her activism.

“This is a plea for universal human rights. This is a plea for democracy. This is a plea for the freedom to choose,” she said.

Ho said China’s clampdown in Hong Kong marked a test for all who believe in a world that is “free, open and civil”.

Millions have taken to the streets of Hong Kong, initially against a now-dropped bid by its leaders to allow extraditions to the mainland. The movement has expanded into a broader pro-democracy push in the semi-autonomous financial hub where activists say freedom has been eroding.

“If Hong Kong falls, it would easily become the springboard for the totalitarian regime of China to push its rules and priorities overseas, utilising its economic powers to conform others to their communist values,” she said.

The hearing examined legislation that would end Hong Kong’s special trading status with the United States unless the State Department each year certifies that the city’s authorities are respecting human rights and rule of law.

“Beijing shouldn’t have it both ways, reaping all the economic benefits of Hong Kong’s standing in the world while eradicating our sociopolitical identity,” said 22-year-old Joshua Wong, one of the most prominent figures in an otherwise leaderless and faceless movement.

“As I speak, Hong Kong is standing at a critical juncture. The stakes have never been higher,” he said.

He warned that Chinese President Xi Jinping may take harsher action before next month’s 70th anniversary of communist China.

“Sending in the tanks remains irrational, though not impossible,” Wong said.

He also said that Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing chief executive, could take draconian measures that include shutting down the Internet or the public transportation system.

Wong warned that a baby born today would be 28 in 2047 — the date when China’s promise with colonial ruler Britain to allow “one country, two systems” expires.

“That deadline is closer to us than it appears; there’s no return,” Wong said.

“I hope that historians will celebrate the United States Congress for having stood on the side of Hong Kongers, the side of human rights and democracy,” he said.

Hong Kong protesters have rallied outside the US consulate in a bid to gain international support.

President Donald Trump’s Administration, however, has taken a low profile, with some analysts saying that a vocal US stance could feed Beijing’s attempts to brand the protesters as foreign agitators.

Beijing and Lam have already accused the United States of interference and China summoned Germany’s ambassador after Wong visited the European power.

“Blaming the US Government — and this Congress — for the protests is cowardly propaganda and not befitting a nation with aspirations of global leadership,” Representative Chris Smith said at the hearing.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which enjoys wide support in Congress, would also open the way for sanctions on anyone involved in eroding Hong Kong’s status.

A related bill under consideration would ban the sale of tear gas, rubber bullets and other crowd control equipment to the Hong Kong police after concerns that Western imports abetted their crackdown.

Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican ally of Trump, hailed the Hong Kong protests as “one of the greatest people-power movements we have witnessed in recent memory”.

“It is my belief that it’s long overdue for the United States and the free world to respond,” said Rubio, co-chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China which held the hearing.

Representative Jim McGovern, a liberal Democrat who also heads the commission, said that the protesters have “inspired the world”.

“Thank you for your courage and bravery. We stand in solidarity with you,” he told them.

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Macron signals tougher line on immigration

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Macron signals tougher line on immigration

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

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PARIS, France (AFP) — With an eye on re-election, France’s Emmanuel Macron has signalled a tougher line on immigration, arguing that the Government must end its “lax” approach to prevent voters from drifting to the far right.

Setting out his priorities for the second half of his mandate on Monday evening, Macron said that his centrist Republic on the Move (LREM) party risked being seen as “bourgeois” unless it tackled the issue of immigration.

“By claiming to be humanist we are sometimes too lax,” he told a meeting of his ministers and ruling party representatives, claiming that France’s asylum laws were being “misused” by people-smuggling networks and “people who manipulate” the system.

The question for his three-year-old party, which has struggled to establish a presence in small-town and rural France, was “whether we want to be a bourgeois party or not”, Macron was quoted by party members as telling the meeting.

“The bourgeois have no problem with this (immigration). They don’t come up against it. The working classes live with it. For decades the left didn’t want to deal with this problem so the working class migrated to the far right.”

“We’re like the three little monkeys; we don’t want to see,” he said, referring to the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” dictum represented by three monkeys with their hands over their eyes, ears and mouth.

On Tuesday, 15 lawmakers from Macron’s party appealed against “creating hysteria” about migration and in an open letter to the prime minister and interior minister urged that state medical aid benefitting “some 300,000 foreigners without papers or living precariously” be maintained.

An Ispos/Sopra Steria poll on divisions in French society published Tuesday showed that 63 per cent of respondents felt there were “too many foreigners in France”.

Anti-foreigner sentiment was strongest among working-class respondents, with 88 per cent saying there were too many immigrants.

Sixty-six per cent also said they felt that immigrants did not try hard enough to integrate.

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