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President Obama has unveiled his plan to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation in the face of congressional inaction. Some four million people could be eligible for the new policy, which allows the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to stay in the country with work permits, if they have lived in the United States for at least five years and pass a background check.
President Obama: “So we’re going to offer the following deal. If you’ve been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes, you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily, without fear of deportation.”
The new plan will not provide relief to the parents of undocumented children, even those who qualified for deferred action in 2012. It also ends the controversial Secure Communities program, which swept up immigrants with minor offenses such as traffic tickets. The newly created Priority Enforcement Program will carry out a similar role.
Tens of thousands of people have rallied in Mexico in a day of action over the apparent massacre of 43 students by police and a drug gang in the southern state of Guerrero. The students from Ayotzinapa teacher’s college have been missing for nearly two months after they were ambushed by police. On Thursday, a massive crowd turned out in Mexico City calling for action against government corruption and the resignation of President Enrique Peña Nieto.
The United Nations says violence in eastern Ukraine is worsening despite a more than two-month-old ceasefire. An average of 13 people a day have been killed since the Ukrainian government reached a truce with separatist rebels in early September. More than 4,300 people have been killed and nearly half a million internally displaced since fighting erupted in April. Speaking in Geneva, U.N. official Gianni Magazzeni said eastern Ukraine has seen a “total breakdown in the rule of law.”
Gianni Magazzeni: “Civilians continue to be killed, illegally detained, tortured. They are disappearing, and the number of internally displaced is growing, especially in the eastern part of Ukraine, where there is a total breakdown in the rule of law and there is very little, if we can talk about protection, very little protection, if any at all, no procedural guarantees, no respect of international human rights norms.”
The U.N.’s warning comes as Vice President Joe Biden is in Kiev to announce a new increase in non-lethal military aid to the Ukrainian military. The U.S. will supply its first shipment of Humvee vehicles after ruling out weapons for now. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had asked for lethal military aid during a visit to Washington in September.
The Obama administration is granting temporary protected status to travelers hailing from the three West African countries worst hit by Ebola. Individuals from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone who were in the U.S. before today can now apply for deportation protection and an 18-month work permit.
The U.S. has released five prisoners from Guantánamo Bay, including the first Yemeni detainee to be resettled in four years. Three of the prisoners have been sent to Georgia and the other two to Slovakia. The move reduces the Guantánamo Bay prison population to 143, the majority already cleared for release.
A Swedish court has rejected an appeal of the arrest warrant that’s kept WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange confined in Ecuador’s London Embassy for over two years. Assange is wanted in Sweden for questioning on allegations of sexual misconduct, though no charges have been filed. He has voiced fears he would ultimately be sent for prosecution in the United States if he were to return to Sweden. Assange’s attorneys had petitioned for the warrant to be withdrawn, arguing it cannot be enforced while Assange is in the embassy and Swedish prosecutors refuse to question him in London. But on Thursday, a Swedish appeals court rejected Assange’s challenge to a ruling against him earlier this year. In a statement, the court said it factored in that Assange is a flight risk, and that he is “suspected of crimes of a relatively serious nature.” But it also suggested prosecutors should consider questioning him in London, saying their refusal to do so “is not in line with their obligation — in the interests of everyone concerned — to move the preliminary investigation forward.”
LGBT couples in Montana and South Carolina have applied for marriage licenses for the first time after courts rejected their states’ bans on marriage equality. The Supreme Court rejected a request to block LGBT marriage in South Carolina on Thursday, one day after a federal judge overturned the state ban in Montana. Two couples in Montana and South Carolina spoke to reporters after requesting marriage licenses on Thursday.
Carolyn Jones: “It represents equal rights, that every American is treated the same.”
Ally Logan: “Yes, that we have equal rights, that we’re not less than, that we can’t be discriminated against, legally, any other fashion.”
Kayla Anderson: “We want our family and friends to be able to celebrate.”
Kristin Bennett: “But we’re the first couple in South Carolina, so we’ve got to do it. That’s awesome!”
After the new rulings, marriage equality will be legalized in 35 U.S. states.
The father of Michael Brown has issued an appeal for nonviolent protest in advance of the pending grand jury decision over his son’s killing. An announcement could come any day on whether the Ferguson police officer who killed Brown, Darren Wilson, will face criminal charges. In a video statement, Michael Brown Sr. asked demonstrators to remain peaceful.
Michael Brown Sr.: “My family and I are hurting. Our whole region is hurting. I thank you for lifting your voices to end racial profiling and police intimidation. But hurting others or destroying property is not the answer. No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son’s death to be in vain. I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone. We live here together. This is our home. We are stronger united.”
As he faces potential charges, Officer Wilson is reportedly in talks with city officials to resign. Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson had recently suggested Wilson could return to active duty if he is not indicted.
And a federal appeals court has upheld a lower court ruling ordering Louisiana to release Albert Woodfox, a former Black Panther who has spent more than 40 years in solitary confinement. Woodfox and the late Herman Wallace, another prisoner of the “Angola 3,” were convicted of murdering a guard at Angola Prison. The Angola 3 and their supporters say they were framed for their political activism. A federal judge ruled last year that Woodfox should be set free on the basis of racial discrimination in his retrial. It was the third time Woodfox’s conviction has been overturned, but prosecutors have negated the victories with a series of appeals. Thursday’s ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the order for Woodfox’s release in a unanimous three-to-nothing decision. But prosecutors could still delay its enforcement with more appeals to keep Woodfox behind bars. In a statement, the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 said: “Though the courts have finally ruled in the interest of justice, it may still be months or years before this innocent man is released from his solitary cell.”