In a breakthrough that could shield 800,000 undocumented immigrants from deportation, top congressional Democrats said Wednesday they’ve reached a deal with President Trump to protect immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. The deal came after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi met with President Trump over a dinner of Chinese food at the White House. In a joint statement, the Democratic leaders said Trump agreed to support legislation that would enshrine the protections of DACA into law. DACA is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gives legal protection to young undocumented immigrants to live and work in the United States. But early Thursday, President Trump cast doubt over any agreement, tweeting, “No deal was made last night on DACA. Massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent. Would be subject to vote.” The reported agreement enraged many Republicans, including Iowa anti-immigrant Congressmember Steve King, who retweeted an Associated Press report on the deal, adding, “If AP is correct, Trump base is blown up, destroyed, irreparable, and disillusioned beyond repair. No promise is credible.”
In the Caribbean, aid groups are struggling to bring food and water to increasingly desperate residents, as the overall death toll from Hurricane Irma rose to at least 77. French officials said they’ve launched one of the biggest airlifts since World War II in order to bring relief to the island of Saint Martin, where 90 percent of buildings were damaged when Irma made landfall with Category 5 winds. On Saint John, part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, where at least four people have been reported dead, FEMA recovery workers are searching for 30 people missing amid the island’s rubble. The devastation in the Caribbean is so severe, it can be seen from space. Before-and-after satellite photos released by NASA’s Earth Observatory show Barbuda and Saint Barthélemy turned from green to brown after Hurricane Irma stripped vegetation from the islands.
In the continental U.S., Hurricane Irma’s death toll rose to 31, after eight elderly residents of a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida, were found dead after they languished without air conditioning in sweltering conditions. The discovery of the deaths prompted a local hospital—which is just down the street from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills—to send in more than 50 medical workers under a mass casualty protocol. One hundred fifty-eight people were evacuated, many with severe dehydration and other heat-related symptoms. An administrator at the nursing home said temperatures spiked Tuesday night after air conditioners went down due to damage from Hurricane Irma. Hollywood Police Chief Tomas Sanchez says his department is investigating the incident as a crime.
Police Chief Tomas Sanchez: “This is very tragic. It’s very sad. Many of us have loved ones in assisted living facilities, and we expect that care to be there for those people. … We immediately started a criminal investigation into this matter and made sure that everyone was evacuated. And we took control of the entire building immediately thereafter.”
In the Western U.S., arid conditions continue to fuel massive wildfires. The National Interagency Fire Center reports at least 62 large fires were burning this week in California, Montana, Oregon and six other Western states. At least 8 million acres of forest and grassland have burned so far this year.
Increasing climate chaos has driven a number of celebrities to warn of the dangers of global warming. At Tuesday night’s “Hand in Hand” hurricane relief telethon, music legend Beyoncé warned that devastation from hurricanes Harvey and Irma—and massive flooding in South Asia—is due to climate change. The telethon kicked off with a message from Stevie Wonder, who called out climate deniers ahead of a rendition of the classic song “Stand by Me.”
Stevie Wonder: “As we should begin to love and value our planet, and anyone who believes that there is no such thing as global warming must be blind or unintelligent.”
On Capitol Hill, Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a bill Wednesday that would provide universal healthcare by expanding Medicare to include every American. Sanders introduced the bill flanked by doctors, nurses and some of the bill’s 15 Democratic co-sponsors.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “Today, we begin the debate, vital to the future of our economy, as to why it is that in the United States we spend almost twice as much per capita on healthcare as any other nation on Earth, and yet we have 28 million people without any health insurance and even more who are underinsured, with high deductibles and copayments.”
Sanders unveiled his Medicare-for-all bill as Senate Republicans launched another attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act—after the party’s two previous efforts ended in humiliating defeat.
The White House called Wednesday for an African-American host of ESPN’s “SportsCenter” to be fired, after she called President Trump a “white supremacist” on Twitter. On Monday, “SportsCenter” anchor Jemele Hill tweeted, “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.” The comments drew a public reprimand from ESPN and outrage from conservatives. It also drew the support of anti-racist activists, including NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called on ESPN to fire Jemele Hill.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “I think that’s one of the more outrageous comments that anyone could make, and certainly something that I think is a fireable offense by ESPN.”
Jemele Hill later deleted her tweets critical of President Trump; she issued an apology late Wednesday saying they painted ESPN in an unfair light.
Congress has sent President Trump a resolution condemning violence at a march of white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month. The measure came after Trump claimed “both sides” were to blame, and said there were “very fine people” among far-right protesters. The White House says Trump will sign the resolution, which passed unanimously.
The resolution came as Trump met at the White House with South Carolina Senator Tim Scott—the only black Republican currently serving in the Senate—who has criticized the president over his comments on Charlottesville. Following a closed-door meeting with the president, Senator Scott indicated Trump had not expressed regret over his comments. The White House circulated a photo of Trump’s meeting with the senator, mislabeling his name as “Tom Scott” instead of “Tim Scott.”
In Afghanistan, ISIS is claiming responsibility for a suicide bomb blast Wednesday that killed three people at a checkpoint in the capital Kabul. The explosion wounded five others and rattled players and hundreds of fans at a cricket match in a nearby stadium.
And the United Nations Security Council called Wednesday for Burma to end violence against its minority Rohingya community, as the number of refugees who’ve fled to neighboring Bangladesh reached 380,000. The U.N. has called a campaign of violence by Burma’s military—which has seen men, women and children killed and homes set on fire—a “textbook” case of ethnic cleansing. At the United Nations, Secretary-General António Guterres was questioned Wednesday by reporters.
James Bays: “Given the situation has got so much worse in the last week, do you believe this is ethnic cleansing?”
Secretary-General António Guterres: “Well, I would answer your question with another question: When one-third of the Rohingya population had to flee the country, can you find a better word to describe it?”
Guterres’s comments came as the Burmese government said leader Aung San Suu Kyi will not attend the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York next week. More than 300,000 people have signed a petition calling on the Nobel Committee to revoke Suu Kyi’s Nobel Peace Prize.