After outcry, Biden vows to lift Trump’s refugee cap by May
WASHINGTON — Facing swift blowback from allies and aid groups, the White House on Friday said President Joe Biden plans to lift his predecessor’s historically low cap on refugees by next month, after initially moving only to expand the eligibility criteria for resettlements.
In an emergency determination signed by Biden earlier in the day, he stated the admission of up to 15,000 refugees set by former President Donald Trump this year “remains justified by humanitarian concerns and is otherwise in the national interest.” But if the cap is reached before the end of the current budget year and the emergency refugee situation persists, then a presidential determination may be issued to raise the ceiling.
That set off a deluge of criticism from ranking Democratic members of Congress, including Senate Majority Whip and Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who called it “unacceptable.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said later that Biden has been consulting with his advisers to determine what number of refugees could realistically be admitted to the United States between now and Oct. 1, the end of the fiscal year.
She said “given the decimated refugee admissions program we inherited,” it’s now “unlikely” Biden will be able to boost that number to 62,500, as he had proposed in his plan to Congress two months ago.
But Biden, she said, was urged by advisers to “take immediate action to reverse the Trump policy that banned refugees from many key regions, to enable flights from those regions to begin within days; today’s order did that.”
The allocations provide more slots for refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Central America and lift Trump’s restrictions on resettlements from Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
The White House indicated the border situation was partly why Biden had not acted before now, even though migrants at the border do not go through the same vetting process as refugees.
“It is a factor,” said Psaki, noting that the Office of Refugee Resettlement “has personnel working on both issues and so we have to ensure that there is capacity and ability to manage both.” AG rescinds memo: Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday rescinded a Trumpera memo that curtailed the use of consent decrees that federal prosecutors have used in sweeping investigations of police departments.
Garland issued a new memorandum to all U.S. attorneys and other Justice Department leaders spelling out the new policies on civil agreements and consent decrees with state and local governments.
The memo comes as the Justice Department shifts its priorities to focus more on civil rights issues, criminal justice overhauls and policing policies in the wake of nationwide protests over the death of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement.
In easing restrictions placed on the use of consent decrees, the Justice Department is making it easier for its prosecutors to use the tool to force changes at police departments and other government agencies with widespread abuse and misconduct.
The memo in particular rescinds a previous memo issued by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions shortly before he resigned in November 2018. Cheating cadets: Most of the 73 West Point cadets accused in the biggest cheating scandal in decades at the U.S. Military Academy are being required to repeat a year, and eight were expelled, academy officials said Friday.
The cadets were accused of cheating on an online freshman calculus exam in May while students were studying remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic. An investigation was launched after instructors noticed irregularities in answers.
All but one were freshmen, or plebes, in a class of 1,200. The other was a sophomore.
Cadets at the centuriesold officer training academy are bound by an honor code that they “will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.” The cheating scandal is the biggest at West Point since 1976 and preceded the tightening of an academy policy that spared many cadets in this case from being kicked out.
West Point said that of the 73 cases investigated by the cadet honor committee, six cadets resigned during the investigation, four were acquitted by a board of their peers, and two cases were dropped due to insufficient evidence.
Prince Philip’s hearse: Prince Philip, who liked Land Rovers and drove them for much of his life, will make his last journey in one — a no-nonsense vehicle customized at his direction, down to its military green color.
The modified Land Rover TD5 130 will carry the royal consort’s coffin in a procession at Windsor Castle on Saturday as the queen and other members of the royal family follow before the funeral and interment in St. George’s Chapel.
Buckingham Palace said the prince’s hearse was built at the Land Rover factory in Solihull in 2003, when Philip turned 82, and modified over the years with an open-top rear section to hold his coffin, with final changes being made up until 2019.
Philip died April 9 at the age of 99.
Taiwan train crash: Taiwanese prosecutors on Friday formally charged the operator of a crane truck that slid down an embankment into the path of an oncoming express train, resulting in the island’s deadliest rail disaster in decades.
The operator of the truck, Lee Yi-hsiang, has been in detention in Hualien, a city in eastern Taiwan, since shortly after the April 2 crash. He had previously apologized and taken responsibility for causing the collision, which forced the eight-car Taroko Express to fly off the rails and slam into the walls of a tunnel, killing 49 people and injuring more than 200 others.
It also caused millions of dollars in economic losses, prosecutors said.
Navalny describes threats:
Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who has been on a hunger strike since March 31, on Friday described threats to force-feed him, using “straitjacket and other pleasures.”
In an Instagram post, Navalny said an official told him that a blood test indicated his health was deteriorating and threatened to force-feed him if he continues to refuse to eat.
“And then she detailed the joys of force-feeding to me. Straitjacket and other pleasures,” the politician said, adding that he urged the officials not to do it, “pointing to a clause in the law.”
Navalny, 44, is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critic.