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The House of Representatives passed a short-term spending bill on Thursday, setting up a high-stakes debate in the Senate ahead of a midnight deadline tonight to reach a deal or face a government shutdown. Congressmembers voted 230 to 197, mostly along party lines, in favor of a Republican-led continuing resolution to fund the government through February 16. In the Senate, many Democrats have said they’ll vote against a bill that fails to protect DACA recipients—undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. This is House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Speaker Paul Ryan: “Senator Schumer, do not shut down the federal government. … Senate Democrats do not oppose anything that is in this bill. They’re just holding this critical funding hostage for a deal on a completely unrelated immigration issue. Yes, we need to address the DACA program, and we are engaged in good-faith negotiations as we speak. But that deadline is weeks away.”
It’s not clear whether Senate Democrats will support another stopgap spending bill. Speaking from the Senate floor Thursday, Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer noted this is the fourth continuing resolution, or CR, before Congress in recent months.
Sen. Chuck Schumer: “There is no promise and no likelihood that another kicking of the can down the road will get something done. We have to sit down together and solve this—with the president or without. Until that happens, no amount of CRs will get this done.”
The looming government shutdown came as protesters continued to flood lawmakers’ offices on Capitol Hill demanding passage of a so-called clean DREAM Act that would grant legal status to DACA recipients without concessions for funding for the border wall or enhanced border security. On Thursday, members of the group United We Dream—many of them DACA recipients—chanted “Undocumented and unafraid” outside the office of Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner. A hundred DACA recipients lose their status each day. As the deadline looms tonight, President Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago to play golf and celebrate the first anniversary of his inauguration.
In Northern California, immigrant communities are bracing for a crackdown by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, following reports that ICE agents are planning raids with a goal of arresting over 1,500 people. The San Francisco Chronicle reports the crackdown will be centered in the Bay Area and that the ICE raids will be the largest yet under President Trump. News of the looming crackdown comes days after the agency’s acting director, Thomas Homan, said he would target California after it formally declared itself a “sanctuary state” for immigrants at the start of the new year. Homan has also said he wants to arrest politicians who resist the Trump administration’s immigration policies. On Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told a Senate committee she was looking into charges.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen: “The Department of Justice is reviewing what avenues might be available. The context of this is, of course, not only putting my ICE officers at risk, but also finding an efficient and effective way to enforce our immigration laws.”
In Carbondale, Colorado, immigrant rights activists joining nationwide Women’s Marches on Saturday will rally to the defense of Sandra Lopez, an undocumented immigrant and mother of three who’s taken sanctuary with a local church to avoid being deported to Mexico. Lopez is a leader with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. She has fought removal proceedings since she was arrested in 2010 after, she says, one of her children mistakenly dialed 911. Charges in the case were dropped, but she’s faced the prospect of deportation ever since. This is Sanda Lopez, speaking recently with Democracy Now! from inside the parsonage of a Unitarian church where she’s taken sanctuary with her 2-year-old daughter.
Sandra Lopez: “We need to be organized. We need to leave behind the fear and the shadows, and continue raising our voices. There’s the quote that 'divided, we fall.' We’re going to stay strong and united. And we’re going to continue defending our dignity and defending sanctuary.”
The Trump administration has removed Haitians from eligibility under a pair of U.S. visa programs that offer immigrants a chance to work in low-wage jobs. In a regulatory filing, the Department of Homeland Security said this week Haitians will no longer be allowed to obtain H-2A agricultural and H-2B non-agricultural temporary work permits. In explaining its move, the DHS cited what it called “high levels of fraud and abuse” committed by Haitians. In November, President Trump ended temporary protected status—or TPS—for nearly 60,000 Haitians, many of whom came to the United States after the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
In Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, demonstrators gathered Thursday outside the U.S. Embassy to protest President Trump’s policies—and to condemn his recent remarks in which he called Haiti, El Salvador and African Nations “shithole countries.” This is David Oxygène of the Movement for Liberty and Equality of Haitians.
David Oxygène: “We’re saying that Donald Trump is a racist, criminal president. We are declaring him persona non grata. He can’t step foot on this land, the land of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the father of the nation. He shouldn’t come to any country in the Caribbean, nor any in Africa, because he treats those countries like shit.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has frozen a lower court ruling striking down North Carolina’s congressional district map as unconstitutional. The high court’s 7-2 ruling was submitted without explanation, with Justices Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissenting. Last week’s lower court ruling marked the first time a federal court has struck down a congressional map because of political gerrymandering. Thursday’s freeze by the Supreme Court is likely to keep in place North Carolina’s long, winding and oddly shaped congressional districts through November’s midterm elections, in a delay that will likely benefit Republicans.
New data from NASA and the United Nations show 2017 was among the hottest years in recorded history, second only to 2016—as global carbon dioxide levels soared to a new record level and global surface temperatures rose by 2 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels. This is Omar Baddour, senior scientist with the World Meteorological Organization.
Omar Baddour: “Today we can announce that 2017 year is equally second warmest, along with 2015. And we can also say that it’s part of the three warmest years on record. The three warmest years on record are, namely, 2015, 2016 and 2017.”
2017’s near-record heat came without El Niño weather patterns that historically drive global temperatures higher—suggesting that human activity has dwarfed natural variability as the largest driver of climate change.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has announced U.S. troops will remain indefinitely in Syria.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: “But let us be clear: The United States will maintain a military presence in Syria focused on ensuring ISIS cannot re-emerge.”
Tillerson said the troops are needed to counter the government of President Bashar al-Assad and Iranian influence. This comes as the monitoring group Airwars has revealed as many 6,100 civilians were killed in U.S.-backed airstrikes in Syria and Iraq last year, three times higher than the previous year. Meanwhile, tension is rising on the northern border of Syria as Turkey is preparing for what looks like an assault in the Kurdish enclave of Afrin.
The Trump administration acknowledged Thursday it is withholding $45 million in emergency food aid pledged to Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. This is State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert speaking on Thursday.
Heather Nauert: “That was something that we had planned to make, a contribution, in early 2018, for that $45 million for the West Bank/Gaza emergency appeal, and that was simply for food aid. We routinely provide them with that type of forecasting. At the time, though, when we provided that note, that information, to UNRWA, we made clear that it was a pledge, it was not a guarantee, and that it would need to be confirmed later.”
The move to withhold food aid came as the Trump administration cut off a further $65 million in annual U.S. funding for UNRWA—the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees. Meanwhile, the Trump administration said Thursday it would relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by the end of the year—a move condemned by Palestinians, who say negotiations over the final status of the city are critical to any future peace agreement.
In Egypt, media activists have launched a new archive holding hundreds of hours of footage shot and collected around the 2011 revolution that toppled longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak. The archive, named 858: An Archive of Resistance, was compiled by the Egyptian media collective Mosireen and is accessible online at 858.ma.
Back in the United States, President Trump’s appointee to the federal agency that runs AmeriCorps and other service programs has resigned, after CNN aired a series of comments he made disparaging women, Muslims, blacks, immigrants, gays, lesbians and trans people. Carl Higbie is heard in remarks to radio shows—as recently as 2016—saying black people suffer from “lax morality” and that they “think that breeding is a form of employment.” Higbie is also heard saying that U.S. citizens should have the right to shoot migrants “in the face” at the U.S.-Mexico border. Higbie led the pro-Trump Great America PAC and served as a surrogate for then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016, when he defended Trump’s proposed registry of Muslims by citing World War II Japanese-American internment camps.
The Trump administration cleared the way Thursday for healthcare workers to refuse to provide services—including abortions, gender affirming surgery and contraception—that run counter to their stated moral or religious convictions. This is Roger Severino, head of the Office of Civil Rights inside the Health and Human Services Department.
Roger Severino: “And we are saying, with this launch of a new division, that you do not need to shed your religious identity, you do not need to shed your moral convictions, to be part of the public square. Everyone is entitled to an equal seat.”
NARAL Pro-Choice America blasted the move, tweeting, “Despite the name, this division isn’t *actually* here to enforce religious freedom–it’s designed to protect providers who discriminate against women & LGBTQ people.” The new department is supposedly called the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division. That’s of the HHS.
Women employees of the United Nations say the organization is rife with sexual harassment and assault, with accusers largely ignored and perpetrators free to act with impunity. The Guardian interviewed dozens of current and former United Nations employees, who described a worldwide “culture of silence” across the U.N. and a grievance system that is stacked against victims.
Meanwhile, former colleagues of Los Angeles Times CEO Ross Levinsohn have accused the newspaper’s executive of creating a “frat house environment” rife with sexual harassment. NPR reports Levinsohn has been a defendant in two sexual harassment lawsuits and is known for publicly ranking the so-called hotness of female co-workers. The report comes as the L.A. Times focuses much of its coverage on the growing #MeToo movement and the “Time’s Up” campaign against sexual abuse in Hollywood.
And Paul Booth, longtime labor leader and antiwar activist, has died at the age of 74. In 1965, Booth helped lead the first major march against the Vietnam War in Washington, D.C. Through much of the 1960s, Paul Booth was a spokesperson for Students for a Democratic Society, the campus-based civil rights and antiwar group. Booth went on to organize on behalf of working people for more than four decades with AFSCME, the country’s largest public employees union. Paul Booth died Wednesday of complications from leukemia in Washington, D.C.