Congress is lurching toward a government shutdown as Republicans failed to reach agreement on a bill that would keep federal agencies funded past a Friday deadline. Much of the debate centered around the fate of 700,000 so-called DREAMers—immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. Many Democrats have said they won’t vote for a spending bill unless it includes protections for DREAMers, while Republican leaders have instead focused on a short-term bill that would keep the government open for one month. This is White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaking Wednesday.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “The president certainly doesn’t want a shutdown. And if one happens, I think you only have one place to look, and that’s to the Democrats, who are holding our military and our national security hostage by trying to push through other policies that have nothing to do with the budget. We would like to, again, get a budget deal done—a two-year budget deal, a clean budget deal—and then focus on negotiations, following that, that deal with finding a permanent solution to DACA and responsible immigration reform.”
Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s remarks came as White House Chief of Staff John Kelly met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, reportedly telling them that Trump’s harsh anti-immigrant positions during the campaign were “uninformed.” The Washington Post reports Kelly acknowledged to lawmakers that the U.S. would never be able to construct a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. This is Illinois Democratic Congressmember Luis Gutiérrez speaking after Wednesday’s meeting with John Kelly.
Rep. Luis Gutiérrez: “I would have liked to have had a proposal that we could consider to move forward and to break the logjam. That isn’t what happened today. We reiterated, time and time again, how deeply we feel about the future of our DREAMers and how that is a non-negotiating point for us. They’re either in the proposal or there isn’t a proposal.”
Chief of Staff John Kelly also reportedly said, “The president is committed to a permanent solution to DACA“— the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. But the president has struck a different tone. On Twitter this morning, Trump wrote, “The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it.”
The migrant support group No More Deaths says U.S. Border Patrol agents routinely vandalize or confiscate humanitarian aid left by activists near the U.S. border with Mexico, condemning border crossers to die of exposure or dehydration in the harsh Sonoran Desert. In a report released Wednesday, the group found that between 2012 and 2016, Border Patrol agents emptied nearly 4,000 gallons of water left for migrants in the desert, while confiscating food, emergency medical blankets and other aid. No More Deaths also says Border Patrol agents frequently target the group’s volunteer activists for harassment.
In Detroit, Michigan, officials with ICE have deported longtime resident and immigrant rights activist Jorge Garcia. Video filmed by the immigrant rights group Michigan United shows Jorge Garcia sobbing as he hugs his wife Cindy and two children during an emotional goodbye on Monday, as Garcia prepares to board a one-way flight to Mexico. Supporters of the Garcia family silently look on, holding signs reading “Stop Separating Families.” Jorge Garcia was brought to the U.S. as a 10-year-old child in 1981, making him too old to qualify for a deferment under DACA.
Federal immigration officials agreed Wednesday to move immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir to a New York immigration jail from the Krome Detention Center in Florida, where he’s been held since he was detained last week following a check-in with ICE. Ravi Ragbir is executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City. His detention sparked a peaceful protest ahead of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend that saw police violently arrest 18 people, including members of the New York City Council. Community members continue to call for Ravi Ragbir’s release. Click here to see our interview about his case, with his wife, immigrant rights attorney Amy Gottlieb, yesterday.
In Youngstown, Ohio, a Palestinian-American immigrants’ rights activist is on hunger strike, after he was detained by ICE and told he would be deported. Amer Othman Adi was arrested Tuesday at an ICE check-in, even though the agency granted him a last-minute stay 10 days prior, when Congressmember Tim Ryan intervened on his behalf. Adi’s case centers around a dispute about the validity of his first marriage to an American citizen in 1979. Since Palestinians remain stateless, Adi faces possible deportation to Jordan. He’s a longtime activist who has successfully fought deportations for some two decades.
On Capitol Hill, Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake warned yesterday that President Trump’s attacks on the media were threatening American democracy. Speaking from the Senate floor Wednesday, Flake blasted Trump’s declaration in 2017 that the U.S. media are the “enemy of the people”.
Sen. Jeff Flake: “Mr. President, it is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies. It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase 'enemy of the people' that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of, quote, 'annihilating such individuals,' unquote, who disagreed with the supreme leader. This alone should be the source of great shame for us in this body, especially for those of us in the president’s party, for they are shameful, repulsive statements.”
On Capitol Hill, Democrats are preparing a bill that would formally censure Donald Trump over racist comments in which the president reportedly called African nations, El Salvador and Haiti “shithole countries.” The effort is being led by New York Congressmember Jerrold Nadler and Representative Cedric Richmond, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. It comes as several Democratic lawmakers have announced they will skip the State of the Union address on January 30 over Trump’s racist remarks. Among them are Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Frederica Wilson of Florida, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, Maxine Waters of California and John Lewis of Georgia.
In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Israeli forces say they shot and killed a young Palestinian man overnight in the town of Jenin, after a firefight that left another Palestinian injured along with two Israeli soldiers. The man was identified as Ahmed Jarrar, a Hamas fighter and son of a Palestinian man killed by Israel in 2002. Jarrar’s family said today he escaped, and that two other Palestinians were killed in the attack.
Meanwhile, the head of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees made an urgent appeal for funds Wednesday, after the Trump administration canceled $65 million in annual contributions to the agency, known as UNRWA. In Gaza, residents say they could soon starve unless international donors step up to fill the funding gap left by President Trump.
Fathiya Abed al-Jawad: “We will be lost. It will be a catastrophe. People will be stealing from each other. We will live in a catastrophe. We will suffer to provide food and wheat. People will kill each other.”
Naim Hamad: “What should I do? Should I go sell one of my kids or sell my kidney? What should I do? Should I go and steal or work as a spy? I need cooking oil, yogurt, eggs and bread.”
Meanwhile, an Israeli military judge has ordered a 16-year-old Palestinian girl to remain jailed while she awaits trial on 12 charges, including assaulting a soldier and incitement to violence. Ahed Tamimi was arrested in December after viral video showed her slapping a soldier near her home in the occupied West Bank. The incident came just after Ahed Tamimi learned her 15-year-old cousin, Mohammed Tamimi, had been shot in the head by an Israeli soldier with a rubber-coated steel bullet at close range. The shooting shattered the boy’s skull and jawbone, forcing doctors to put him into a medically induced coma and leaving him permanently disfigured after extensive surgeries. On Wednesday, defense lawyer Gaby Lasky said Israel’s military had determined that Ahed Tamimi was too dangerous to be released.
Gaby Lasky: “Regretfully, the court didn’t accept any of the arguments brought by the defense regarding the fact that there are two different sets of laws in the Occupied Territories, depending if you’re Israeli or a Palestinian, and the fact that the Convention on the Rights of the Child should be applied in the Occupied Territories, as well.”
In Russia, the office of a human rights group in the North Caucasus region of Ingushetia was burned in an arson attack on Wednesday. Surveillance video shows masked men climbing a ladder and setting fire to the offices of the group Memorial, which has angered Russian officials by reporting on torture, disappearances and punitive house burnings in neighboring Chechnya. The arson came as a court in Chechnya ordered the head of Memorial to be jailed for two months while he faces drug charges that could see him imprisoned for up to 10 years. Oyub Titiev says police planted marijuana in his car in order to manufacture his arrest. Titiev’s predecessor, Natalia Estemirova, was kidnapped and murdered in 2009—a crime for which no one has been arrested.
In Ethiopia, authorities released a senior opposition leader from the Oromo community Wednesday, fulfilling part of its pledge to release political prisoners. Merera Gudina was jailed in 2015 after speaking to the European Parliament in Brussels about human rights abuses against the Oromo people. This is Gudina addressing a large crowd of supporters outside a prison in Addis Ababa where he’d just been released.
Merera Gudina: “As far as we can and as far as we know, let’s continue our people’s struggle through all the peaceful and legal means available. And we demand the government free the remaining political prisoners, so that they can also be free like us.”
Since 2015, the Oromo have staged massive nationwide protests against the Ethiopian government. The protests were initially sparked by the government’s plan to lease a forest to private developers. Ethiopian forces have responded with a brutal crackdown against the Oromo protesters, killing hundreds of people.
In Nigeria, a suicide bomb attack struck a crowded market in the northeastern city of Maiduguri on Wednesday, killing at least 12 people and leaving dozens of others injured. Authorities said as many as four female suicide bombers were involved in the attack. Previous similar attacks have been blamed on Boko Haram, which is known for kidnapping women and girls and forcing some of them to carry out attacks.
North and South Korea said Wednesday that athletes from the two countries will march together under a single “unified flag” at the opening of next month’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The two countries also said women’s ice hockey players would compete together on a single Korean team. The thaw in relations came as President Donald Trump blamed Russia for helping North Korea skirt international sanctions, telling Reuters in a wide-ranging interview that he was ordering more defensive and offensive missiles to be deployed to the region.
In South Asia, authorities in Burma and Bangladesh say they’ve agreed to a plan that would see some 650,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees repatriated to Burma over the next two years. Since last August, vigilantes backed by Burmese soldiers have staged attacks on Rohingya, unleashing rape and murder while burning hundreds of villages to the ground, in what the U.N. high commissioner for human rights has called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” At a sprawling refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on Wednesday, many residents said they will only return to Burma if they receive justice for crimes committed against their community.
Noor Hossain: “They must give us compensation for those Muslims they killed, for looting and destroying our fields and cattle. They must return our houses. And if they show justice to us, then we can go back. We, Muslims, all are ready to go back to that country, but they must give us our Rohingya rights.”
Back in the United States, a former photographer with the Department of Energy is seeking whistleblower protection, saying he was fired for documenting collusion between the Trump administration and a coal company executive. Simon Edelman says he was fired after he leaked photographs of a March 29 meeting between Energy Secretary Rick Perry and coal magnate Robert Murray, showing the two embracing at a meeting at the Department of Energy headquarters in Washington, D.C. Murray has said he played no role in drafting a Department of Energy rule subsidizing coal and nuclear power plants. But a photo clearly shows a letter drafted by Murray and addressed to Energy Secretary Rick Perry touting an “action plan.”
Medical experts said Wednesday that results from Donald Trump’s recent physical exam show the president has high levels of cholesterol and is at serious risk of a heart attack. The assessment came a day after White House doctor Ronny Jackson declared Trump to be in “excellent” mental and physical health. Asked by The New York Times whether President Trump is in perfect health, Stanford University cardiologist Dr. David Maron replied, “God, no.”
And Woody Allen’s adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, is speaking out, saying she’s hurt and angry that her claims of childhood sexual assault by Allen have been disbelieved for years. Farrow says Allen molested her in 1992, when she was just 7 years old. This is Dylan Farrow, speaking with host Gayle King of ”CBS This Morning.”
Gayle King: “Someone said this to me, 'She wants to bring Woody Allen down. She's caught up in the #MeToo, #TimesUp movement. And this is really what she’s trying to do, is bring him down.’”
Dylan Farrow: “Why shouldn’t I want to bring him down? Why shouldn’t I be angry? Why shouldn’t I be hurt? Why shouldn’t I feel some sort of outrage after all these years being ignored and disbelieved and tossed aside?”
Farrow’s appearance on CBS came a week after actor Mira Sorvino publicly apologized to Dylan Farrow in an open letter, saying that she will never work with Woody Allen again and regrets her past roles. She joins a growing list of actors who’ve appeared in Woody Allen’s films who are now publicly supporting Farrow—including Greta Gerwig, Rebecca Hall and Timothée Chalamet. In a statement, Woody Allen denied the allegations, writing, “[E]ven though the Farrow family is cynically using the opportunity afforded by the Time’s Up movement to repeat this discredited allegation, that doesn’t make it any more true today than it was in the past. I never molested my daughter.” Dylan Farrow is the sister of Ronan Farrow, who was the journalist who helped to bring down Harvey Weinstein.