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US ends Trump-era policy of blocking asylum seekers on Covid grounds – live

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US ends Trump-era policy of blocking asylum seekers on Covid grounds – live

12: 49

US ends Trump-era Covid immigration policy

The Donald Trump-era immigration policy blocking asylum seekers at the US southern border because of the Covid-19 pandemic is officially ending, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Friday.

The long-expected termination of Title 42 will take effect on 23 May, a CDC statement said:

Early Newspaper

After considering current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight Covid-19 (such as highly effective vaccines and therapeutics), the CDC director has determined that an order suspending the right to introduce migrants into the United States is no longer necessary.

The use of public health powers had been widely criticized by Democrats and immigration advocates as an excuse for the US to shirk its obligations to provide haven to people fleeing persecution, AP reported.

The policy was actioned in March 2020 when Trump was president. Since then, more than 1.7m migrants seeking admission have been turned away, the AP said.

Earlier this week, the White House insisted that its termination was a decision for public health officials, and not the Biden administration.

Read more about Title 42 here:

15: 46

Psaki confirmed that the US was supplying equipment to Ukraine in advance of any possible chemical or biological attack by Russian forces.

The US and international partners, she said, “have, of course, repeatedly warned about the potential for Russia to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine and that Moscow was possibly planning a false flag operation.

“The US government is providing the government of Ukraine with life-saving equipment and supplies that could be deployed in the event of Russian use of a chemical and biological weapon against Ukraine. It does not compromise our domestic preparedness in any way, shape or form.”

Press secretary Jen Psaki briefs reporters at the White House on Friday.
Press secretary Jen Psaki briefs reporters at the White House on Friday. Photograph: Shawn Thew/EPA

Asked about Biden’s stance on video of an apparent Ukraine helicopter attack on a fuel depot in Russia, Psaki noted that the incident had not been confirmed.

But, she said: “We do know is that this is not going how President Putin had planned, that his intention of winning a quick war, defeating the Ukrainians quickly, is not how it has played out.

“We have seen troops be demoralized. We have seen troops run out of equipment that they need on the Russian side, and that is clearly not what he had planned. There is one aggressor here and that is President Putin and the Russian military at his direction.”

15: 35

The White House press secretary Jen Psaki has just wrapped up a wide-ranging briefing, at which the toughest questions were about her own future.

As well as covering events in the Russia-Ukraine war, the ending of the Title 42 immigration policy, gas prices and Covid-19, Psaki was pressed about reports she would soon be leaving the Biden administration to join MSNBC as a host.

Psaki, back in the briefing room after a 12-day absence for testing positive for Covid, appeared awkward as reporters asked if it was ethical for her to be negotiating terms with a media company while still representing the White House from the podium.

“Anyone who is having conversations about future employment does so through consultation with the White House counsel’s office and ensuring they abide by any ethics and legal requirements,” she said.

“Those are conversations that I have taken very seriously and abided by every component of. I’ve complied with all ethics requirements and gone beyond and taken steps to recuse myself from decisions as appropriate.”

14: 55

The House of Representatives has voted to decriminalize marijuana, three Republicans joining Democrats to nudge the measure through by 220-204.

The elements of the bill sponsored by the New York Democrat Jerry Nadler include federal authorities no longer being able to deny security clearances for marijuana use; the Veterans Association being able to provide marijuana for veterans with stress disorders; and the authorization of a sales tax on marijuana sales for the first time.

Florida Republicans Matt Gaetz and Brian Mast, both fierce critics of president Joe Biden, joined Tom McClintock of California in voting for the bill.

A similar pro-marijuana bill is under discussion in the US Senate, but neither version is likely to win the 60 votes needed in that chamber for it to be sent for Biden’s signature.

14: 22

Martin Pengelly

Martin Pengelly

The White House has just announced that press secretary Jen Psaki, who has been absent from the briefing room after testing positive for Covid-19, will return to the podium imminently for today’s conference scheduled for 2.30pm.

She is certain to be asked about reports that she is about to quit the Biden administration to become a host at MSNBC.

Axios first reported the move on Friday, citing anonymous sources “close to the matter”. CNN then said it had confirmed the news, and that Psaki was expected to remain in her role through the end of April.

Karine Jean-Pierre, the deputy White House press secretary, and Kate Bedingfield, the communications director who has led the briefings in Psaki’s absence, were among names touted as possible successors.

Axios said Psaki, 43, had been “treading carefully on the ethics and legal aspects of her plans” and had not yet signed a deal, but was in line to host a show on the Peacock streaming service and feature as a guest commentator elsewhere.

Read the full story here:

14: 16

The end of the Title 42 policy has, predictably, drawn strong reaction from politicians on both sides of the immigration debate.

Pramila Jayapal, Democratic congresswoman for Washington and chair of the House progressive caucus, hailed the move.

“This is a momentous day for immigrant rights activists, immigrants, and refugees everywhere. Title 42 was a cruel and discriminatory policy that circumvented US law, preventing people from accessing protections,” she said in a tweet.

🧵My reaction to the Administration’s Title 42 announcement:

This is a momentous day for immigrant rights activists, immigrants, and refugees everywhere. Title 42 was a cruel and discriminatory policy that circumvented U.S. law, preventing people from accessing protections.

— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) April 1, 2022

“I’m thrilled to see the Biden Admin do the right and moral thing by ending this extremely harmful, xenophobic, and shortsighted policy that disproportionately impacted Black and Brown migrants.”

The California Republican congressman Clay Higgins, meanwhile, branded the move “insane,” warning in a tweet that “The ending of Title 42 is a grave mistake. This is the worst border crisis in our nation’s history, and the Biden administration is about to make it even worse by doubling down on their failed policies.”

And the Republican senator for Florida Rick Scott said the decision was “unconscionable.”

Joe Biden’s failed policies of open borders & amnesty have overwhelmed our brave @CBP agents & allowed 62,000+ migrants to escape into the U.S. with no consequences. The Biden admin’s unconscionable plan to end Title 42 will only make this crisis worse.

SECURE THE BORDER NOW. https://t.co/IEwtgPvsRy

— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) April 1, 2022

“Joe Biden’s failed policies of open borders & amnesty have overwhelmed our brave @CBP agents & allowed 62,000+ migrants to escape into the U.S. with no consequences. The Biden admin’s unconscionable plan to end Title 42 will only make this crisis worse,” Scott wrote in a tweet.

Scott was the lead author of 13 Republican senators who wrote to the department of homeland security last week demanding to know the Biden administration’s plans for ending Title 42.

14: 12

The secretary of homeland security Alejandro Mayorkas has issued a statement welcoming the CDC decision to end Title 42, promising that the Biden administration “is committed to pursuing every avenue within our authority to secure our borders, enforce our laws, and stay true to our values.”

He sought to ease concern over warnings, including from his own department as well as the Biden administration’s political opponents, that up to 18,000 migrants a day were preparing to show up at the border seeking admission.

“Once the Title 42 Order is no longer in place, DHS will process individuals encountered at the border pursuant to Title 8, which is the standard procedure we use to place individuals in removal proceedings,” Mayorkas wrote.

“Nonetheless, we know that smugglers will spread misinformation to take advantage of vulnerable migrants. Let me be clear: those unable to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States will be removed.”

13: 18

An update on the Amazon unionization vote: workers in Staten Island, New York, have voted to form the company’s first labor union.

The “historic victory” is likely to sweep in a new era of labor relations at Amazon, which has long been criticized for low pay and harsh working conditions, and which has fought attempts by its workers to unionize for many years.

The final vote tally announced Friday was 2,654 in favor of the union versus 2,131 opposed.

Seth Goldstein, a pro bono attorney who has represented the Amazon Labor Union in Staten Island through their election proceedings, said: “Worker engagement has been the key to this historic victory and can be attributed to increased nationwide union organizing in digital, tech, non-profit, and Starbucks. Gen Z and Millennial workers are leading the charge in union organizing.”

Meanwhile, Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, appear to have rejected a union bid, but outstanding challenged ballots could change the outcome. The votes were 993-to-875 against the union.

12: 49

US ends Trump-era Covid immigration policy

The Donald Trump-era immigration policy blocking asylum seekers at the US southern border because of the Covid-19 pandemic is officially ending, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Friday.

The long-expected termination of Title 42 will take effect on 23 May, a CDC statement said:

After considering current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight Covid-19 (such as highly effective vaccines and therapeutics), the CDC director has determined that an order suspending the right to introduce migrants into the United States is no longer necessary.

The use of public health powers had been widely criticized by Democrats and immigration advocates as an excuse for the US to shirk its obligations to provide haven to people fleeing persecution, AP reported.

The policy was actioned in March 2020 when Trump was president. Since then, more than 1.7m migrants seeking admission have been turned away, the AP said.

Earlier this week, the White House insisted that its termination was a decision for public health officials, and not the Biden administration.

Read more about Title 42 here:

12: 43

US navy honours RBG

The late supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is to be honoured by having a US navy ship named after her.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Photograph: Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images

The yet-to-be-built fuel tanker will join a fleet of John Lewis-class “replenishment oilers” named for historical figures in human and civil rights. The navy took delivery of the first of the fleet, a tribute to the former Democratic congressman, last summer.

In announcing the move to honour Ginsburg, who died in 2020 after 27 years on the supreme court, the navy secretary, Carlos Del Toro, noted her advocacy for women’s rights and gender equality.

“She is instrumental to why we now have women of all backgrounds, experiences and talents serving within our ranks, side by side with their male sailor and marine counterparts,” he said in a statement.

“As secretary of the navy, it is my aim to ensure equality and eliminate gender discrimination across the Department of the Navy.”

The statement notes that Ginsburg issued the majority opinion in a landmark 1996 ruling that struck down the male-only admissions policy at the Virginia military institute.

No expected launch date for the USNS Ruth Bader Ginsburg was given.

11: 58

The United States has slapped a new round of sanctions on North Korea after it test-launched two new ballistic missiles in recent weeks, Reuters reported.

“The DPRK’s [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s] provocative ballistic missile tests represent a clear threat to regional and global security and are in blatant violation of UN Security Council resolutions,” the treasury secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement confirming the move.

North Korea launched the missiles on 26 February and 4 March, testing a new intercontinental ballistic missile system for the first time since 2017, Reuters reported.

The sanctions target the ministry of rocket industry, “a research and development organization that is directly linked to the development of new ICBMs,” according to the treasury department, and four of its “revenue-generating subsidiaries”.

“The US is committed to using our sanctions authorities to respond to the DPRK’s continued development of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles,” Yellen said.

11: 43

Martin Pengelly

Martin Pengelly

The reggae singer Eddy Grant may succeed where the attorney general of New York state and other powerful figures have struggled – by forcing Donald Trump to answer questions under oath in a legal proceeding.

Eddy Grant.
Eddy Grant. Photograph: Jean-Christophe Bott/AP

Grant sued the former president and his campaign over the use of the song Electric Avenue in an ad in 2020.

In the ad, Grant’s song plays over an animation of Joe Biden traveling slowly on a handcar, after a Trump campaign train passes at high speed. Remarks from Biden are also heard.

According to Grant’s lawsuit: “As of 1 September 2020, the video had been viewed more than 13.7m times; the tweet containing the video had been ‘liked’ more than 350,000 times, re-tweeted more than 139,000 times, and had received nearly 50,000 comments.”

Grant claims copyright infringement and seeks $300,000 in damages. Trump has failed to have the suit dismissed.

Lawyers for the former president have claimed fair use, saying the ad was satire, exempt from copyright law, and used footage reposted without knowing its origin. They have also said Trump cannot be sued because of “presidential absolute immunity”.

Last September, Judge John Koeltl wrote: “Defendants have offered no justification for their extensive borrowing.”

This week, in a letter to the judge reported by Business Insider, a lawyer for Grant said he wrote “with consent from defendants Donald J Trump and Donald J Trump for President, Inc … to request a 60-day extension for the parties to complete discovery”.

Exchange of documents had been completed, the letter said, but “additional time is needed to schedule and take the depositions of both parties”.

If the case is not settled and the new schedule is agreed, Trump and Grant will be deposed by 21 June.

Full story:

11: 30

Biden went on to address the inflation crisis, which has depressed his approval ratings, and threatens the Democratic party’s prospects in the midterm elections later this year.

“Even though we created a record number of jobs, we know, I know, that this job has not finished,” the president said.

“We need to do more to get prices under control. [Russian president Vladimir] Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has driven up gas prices and food prices all over the world. To help deal with that yesterday I authorized the release of 1m barrels per day for the next six months from our strategic petroleum reserves.

Joe Biden addresses reporters about the March jobs report at the White House on Friday.
Joe Biden addresses reporters about the March jobs report at the White House on Friday. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

“I’ve also made it a priority to get America’s fiscal house in order. Last year, in 2021, we cut the federal deficit by more than $350bn and this year we’re on track to cut the deficit by more than $1.3tn. That would be a largest one-year reduction in a deficit in US history.

“That’s particularly important now as we work to reduce pressures on inflation. That’s what happens when you reduce the deficit.”

Biden concluded the press conference with a broadside on billionaires and big companies he perceives to be shirking taxes.

“We have to be willing to do something previous administrations and Republicans today refused to do, we need to make sure corporations and the super wealthy begin to pay their fair share,” he said, citing his 2023 budget proposal including tax hikes on billionaires.

The president ignored reporters’ questions as he left the briefing room, insisting there would be “plenty of time to answer questions about other items next week.”

Read more about Biden’s budget plans here:

11: 11

‘America is back to work,’ Biden declares after upbeat jobs figures

“America is back to work,” Joe Biden has declared after an upbeat jobs report showed sustained gains in employment as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to wane.

The president is speaking at the White House after the US added 431,000 jobs in March, the 11th successive month of gains above 400,000, and saw the unemployment rate drop to 3.6%, the lowest level since the pandemic began.

“What is very clear is America back to work. And that’s good news for millions of families who have a little more breathing room. We’re building a recovery worthy of American workers, strong and resilient,” Biden said.

“We’re going to be able to overcome the headwinds of Delta and Omicron and even more in Europe. Our policies are working and we’re getting results for the American people, which is what it’s all about. Record job creation, record unemployment declines, record wage gains.

“Jobs and unemployment are not just another statistic. They go directly to the core of what the economy represents, the ability for hard working Americans to live with dignity, support their families and build a better life for their children.

“People are making more money. They’re finding better jobs and after decades of being mistreated.”

The figures were are actually slightly below expectations, despite Biden’s rosy take.

The largest gains were in leisure and hospitality which added 112,000 new jobs in March. But other sectors including professional and business services, which added 102,000 jobs, also showed strong growth.

Read more here:

10: 44

Joe Biden’s administration has secured the release of an American-Afghan humanitarian worker and naval reservist held in captivity in Afghanistan by the Taliban, CNN is reporting.

Safi Rauf, 27, was arrested along with his brother Anees Khalil, a green card holder, in December. The two had formed an aid group called the Human First Coalition, helping those trying to flee Afghanistan following the US withdrawal last summer following a 20-year war.

Their release follows “100 days of intense negotiations between the Biden administration and their captors,” CNN reported, stating that the Democratic Connecticut senator Richard Blumenthal and national security adviser Jake Sullivan were among those involved.

A statement from Safi Rauf was released by the Human First Coalition, in which he thanked those who worked for his freedom.

“We were released due to the efforts of the US government (most especially political officer JP Feldmayer, Special Representative Tom West, and Lt. Col. Jason Hock), our family and loved ones, the Qatari government, the British government, our team at Human First Coalition, and countless friends in country, in the region, and all over the world.” the statement said.

10: 20

Democrats angered by pared-down Covid relief deal

Ed Pilkington

Ed Pilkington

The US Senate is coming close to reaching agreement on a pared-down $10bn emergency aid package for Covid response, amid anger that the deal looks likely to ditch most funding for critical global vaccine efforts.

Senate leaders were indicating to reporters on Friday that a deal was within reach, with a possible vote over the next week. But the package is a pale reflection of the original White House request for $22bn, cutting deep into even the most recent proposal set at $15.6bn.

A large slice of the savings will probably be made at the expense of efforts to support vaccination drives around the world. The Biden administration had asked for $5bn, but as final talks continued it appeared that the amount for global aid could be slashed to as little as $1bn.

Leading Democrats have expressed dismay at the reduction in planned global vaccine efforts. Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House, called the latest proposal “shameful”, pointing out that low vaccination rates in parts of the world run the risk of new Covid variants arising.

“We have said, we have pronounced, everyone knows: none of us is safe, unless all of us are safe,” Pelosi said.

Full story here:

10: 04

Labor organizers say they see hope in the early results from unionization votes among Amazon workers in New York and Alabama.

In Staten Island, New York, 1,518 warehouse workers have so far voted yes to forming a union while 1,154 have voted no, according to a Thursday evening tally by the national labor relations board, which is overseeing both elections. Ballots will continue to be counted on Friday.

Meanwhile, Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, appear to have rejected a union bid, but outstanding challenged ballots could change the outcome. The votes were 993-to-875 against the union.

Organizers have faced an uphill battle against the nation’s second-largest private employer. Amazon workers voting yes in either election would mark the first successful US organizing effort in the company’s history.

Read more here:

09: 44

Disney’s opposition to gender identity law angers DeSantis

Florida’s tetchy Republican governor Ron DeSantis is threatening retaliation against the state’s largest private employer Disney after it pledged to work to overturn the state’s controversial new “don’t say gay” law banning gender identity discussions in schools.

DeSantis has received massive blowback, and mockery, over the law that critics say marginalizes the LGBTQ+ community, including a hard-hitting statement from the theme park giant supporting groups seeking its repeal.

In return, DeSantis says Disney “crossed a line” and is now threatening to strip the company of the self-governing status it has enjoyed for almost 50 years, and which has allowed it to expand operations across central Florida almost unchecked.

“Disney has alienated a lot of people now,” DeSantis said at a West Palm Beach press conference, reported Friday by CNN.

“And so the political influence they’re used to wielding, I think has dissipated. And so the question is, why would you want to have special privileges in the law at all? And I don’t think that we should.”

His comments followed a tweet earlier this week by Republican state congressman Spencer Roach saying discussions were under way to revoke the 1967 Reedy Creek Improvement Act, which gave Disney autonomy over its own affairs.

Yesterday was the 2nd meeting in a week w/fellow legislators to discuss a repeal of the 1967 Reedy Creek Improvement Act, which allows Disney to act as its own government. If Disney wants to embrace woke ideology, it seems fitting that they should be regulated by Orange County. pic.twitter.com/6sj29Gj6Wz

— SpencerRoach (@SpencerRoachFL) March 30, 2022

As for Disney, which employs about 80,000 “cast members” in Florida, its opposition reflects something of a reversal after it initially refused to condemn the bill. Some Disney workers in California and Florida walked out in protest.

Equality advocates point to DeSantis’s history of perceived opposition to the transgender community, and on Thursday filed a lawsuit challenging the law.

Read more about the Florida law here:

09: 12

Good morning everyone. We’ve made it to Friday, but a busy week in US politics isn’t over just yet and we’ve got lots to look at in today’s live blog. In Florida, the Republican governor Ron DeSantis is threatening retaliation over Disney, the state’s largest private employer, for its opposition to the so-called “don’t say gay law” banning gender identity discussions in schools.

And on Capitol Hill, the House of Representatives turns its attention to the legalization of marijuana after narrowly voting on Thursday to limit the price of insulin.

A reminder that you can follow developments in the Russia-Ukraine war on our main news blog here.

Here’s what else we’re watching in the US today:

  • The 6 January inquiry continues its work in the House after lengthy questioning on Thursday for Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
  • Joe Biden is scheduled to speak later this morning about the latest jobs figures, and possibly other topics if he chooses to take questions.
  • Close unionization votes by Amazon workers in New York and Alabama are nearing their conclusion, with early results trickling through.
  • White House communications director Kate Bedingfield will host her final press briefing of the week at 2.30pm.

Source:
US ends Trump-era policy of blocking asylum seekers on Covid grounds – live – The Guardian