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The Trump administration announced it is cutting off aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras in what it says is a bid to stem migration into the U.S. The move would cut over $500 million in funding from programs designed to curb immigration, such as those addressing education, employment and violence in Central America. Democratic lawmakers condemned Trump’s move, calling it “counterproductive” and warning it would exacerbate the humanitarian crisis at the border. It’s unclear whether Trump and the State Department can unilaterally redirect the funds designated for the Central American countries without congressional approval.
Trump also threatened to close the U.S.-Mexico border. He spoke to reporters Friday.
President Donald Trump: “We have right now two big caravans coming up from Guatemala, massive caravans, walking right through Mexico. So, Mexico is tough. They can stop them, but they chose not to. Now, are they going to stop them? And if they don’t stop them, we’re closing the border.”
Mexico’s Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard responded to the news by tweeting, “Mexico doesn’t act based on threats.” Residents and workers on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border have blasted Trump’s announcement, warning it would cause massive disruptions to trade and daily life.
Meanwhile, in El Paso, Border Patrol officials said they were overwhelmed by the number of families crossing to seek asylum. Video footage showed hundreds of migrants being held under a bridge, surrounded by chain-link fences as temperatures dipped into the 40s. Over the weekend, officials said they removed the families, but critics say they just relocated them to the other side of the bridge that is harder to see. Others called the images part of a Trump administration stunt to support the argument that the United States is over capacity at immigration detention centers and unable to hold new arrivals.
Autopsy results for Jakelin Caal Maquín, the 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who died while in U.S. custody, confirm she died of sepsis—a bacterial infection. Maquín, who entered the U.S. with her father in December, died just two days after she was detained by Customs and Border Protection in New Mexico. The medical examiner’s report shows the infection led to the failure of multiple vital organs. Doctors say Maquín would have been visibly unwell for hours before she received medical care and was eventually taken to an El Paso hospital.
In other immigration news, President Trump extended Deferred Enforced Departure status—or DED—for some 4,000 Liberians living in the U.S. The extension, announced Thursday, just days before it was set to expire, will last for one year and reverses previous statements by Trump. Earlier this month, lawyers representing DED holders filed a lawsuit to block the program’s termination, alleging racial discrimination motivated Trump’s decision. Last year, Trump reportedly told lawmakers that Haiti, El Salvador and unspecified African nations were “s—hole countries.” Last month, temporary protected status for nationals of Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti and El Salvador was extended through early January 2020.
In environmental news, a federal judge in Alaska has restored a ban on offshore drilling across large parts of the Arctic Ocean, blocking a 2017 executive order by President Trump that opened up tens of millions of acres for oil leasing. Trump’s order sought to reverse several Obama-era measures, but Judge Sharon Gleason ruled that it “exceeded the President’s authority,” and only Congress has the power to revoke the prior withdrawal of lands for oil leasing. The League of Conservation Voters, one of the groups who sued to block the executive order, celebrated the victory, saying, “Offshore drilling and the associated threat of devastating oil spills puts coastal economies and ways of life at risk while worsening the consequences of climate change. President Trump wanted to erase all the environmental progress we’ve made, but we fought back and we won.” The Trump administration is expected to appeal the decision.
The political crisis in Britain is mounting after lawmakers rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan for the third time Friday. This is May speaking after her deal’s defeat.
Prime Minister Theresa May: “The legal default now is that United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on the 12th of April. … That is not enough time to agree, legislate for and ratify a deal, and yet the House has been clear it will not permit leaving without a deal. … I fear we are reaching the limits of this process in this House.”
With the new deadline less than two weeks away, Parliament is scrambling to come up with a deal that will be backed by a majority. Lawmakers are scheduled to hold votes on a number of other scenarios. Among the options on the table are remaining in the EU customs union, a soft Brexit and a second referendum—all ideas Theresa May has rejected in the past.
In Gaza, Israeli forces killed four Palestinians, including three teenagers, at a mass demonstration Saturday marking the first anniversary of the Great March of Return. The teenage boys were identified as Tamer Abu el-Khair, Adham Amara and Belal al-Najjar—all 17 years old. Twenty-year-old Mohamed Jihad Saad was also killed by Israeli forces in a smaller protest earlier on Saturday. Israeli soldiers used live ammunition, tear gas and rubber bullets on the protesters. Tens of thousands of Palestinians came out to demand an end to the ongoing siege of Gaza and the right to return to their ancestral land. This is a protester speaking Saturday.
Palestinian protester: “What I want to stress is that any attempt to obscure the consciousness and rights of Palestinians is bound to fail, as generation after generation of our people would recall our homeland. That is why we’ve come to participate in the demonstration. Although Palestine is in a difficult plight, what we want to say is that any plot against Palestine is doomed to failure.”
We’ll have more on the Gaza protests with Ahmed Abu Artema, Palestinian poet, journalist and peace activist who inspired the Great March of Return, later in the broadcast.
In Ukraine, comedian Volodymyr Zelensky has received the most votes in the first round of a presidential election, garnering more support than incumbent Petro Poroshenko and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. On his television show, the comedic actor plays an ordinary citizen who becomes president by chance and fights against corruption. He has no prior political experience but has expressed pro-EU views. Zelensky will face the second vote-getter, currently believed to be Poroshenko, according to exit polls.
Meanwhile, voters in Slovakia elected their first woman president. Anti-corruption candidate and environmentalist Zuzana Caputova vowed to counter nationalist rhetoric. In 2016, she won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her fight to shut down a toxic waste dump in her hometown, earning her the nickname “Erin Brockovich of Slovakia.” The president holds a primarily ceremonial role in Slovakia but is charged with appointing the prime minister, among other duties.
In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was dealt a major blow in this weekend’s local elections as his AK Party lost control over the capital Ankara for the first time in 25 years. The opposition People’s Republican Party, or CHP, also appears to be narrowly ahead in Istanbul. Leaders from both parties claimed early victories, but official results have not yet been announced. At least four people were killed and dozens injured across the country in Election Day violence.
In Mozambique, authorities in the flood-ravaged city of Beira have confirmed over 500 cases of cholera after Cyclone Idai left hundreds of thousands of people homeless and living in unsanitary conditions. Cholera can spread rapidly if left untreated, and in the worst cases can result in death. The World Health Organization says 900,000 doses of cholera vaccine are arriving in the region today. The death toll from the cyclone has surpassed 500 people in Mozambique, as well as at least 250 people in Zimbabwe and over 50 in Malawi.
Back in the U.S., former vice president and potential 2020 hopeful Joe Biden has come under renewed scrutiny for his inappropriate touching of women and girls after Lucy Flores, a former Nevada state assemblywoman, penned a piece, published Friday, detailing her encounter with Biden when she was running for lieutenant governor in Nevada in 2014. Flores says Biden came up behind her as she was preparing to give a campaign speech on stage, held her shoulders, smelled her hair and kissed her slowly on the back of the head. Biden issued a statement saying that he has expressed affection many times in his political life but that “not once—never—did I believe I acted inappropriately.” Flores addressed Biden’s response in an interview on CNN Sunday.
Lucy Flores: “My point was never about his intentions, and they shouldn’t be about his intentions. It should be about the women on the receiving end of that behavior. And this isn’t the first time, and it wasn’t the only incident, where he was acting inappropriately with women.”
That was Lucy Flores speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper. Biden is rumored to announce his bid for the 2020 election sometime this month.
Lawmakers in Georgia’s House of Representatives approved passage of the so-called fetal heartbeat law, which bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected—something that typically happens just six weeks into a pregnancy and before many women realize they’re pregnant. The bill, which was already approved by Georgia’s Senate, now heads to Governor Brian Kemp’s desk, who has expressed support for the measure. The ACLU of Georgia said they will take the case to court if Governor Kemp signs the bill. Reproductive rights groups are challenging “fetal heartbeat” bills that were recently passed in Mississippi and Kentucky. A judge temporarily halted the Kentucky law from going into effect. Similar laws are being pushed by Republican lawmakers in Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas.
Police in Vallejo, California, have released bodycam footage of the fatal February shooting of African-American rapper Willie McCoy while he was sleeping in his car outside a Taco Bell. Police said at the time McCoy made a sudden move, but the footage shows he simply moved his hand to scratch his shoulder and clearly posed no threat, yet all six officers present opened fire on him. McCoy’s family lawyer said he will file a civil rights lawsuit against the local police and the officers responsible for his killing.
In New York, Attorney General Letitia James says she will not seek criminal charges against the police officers who shot and killed Saheed Vassell in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, last year. Police officers opened fire on Vassell, a 34-year-old African-American man who had bipolar disorder, after they allegedly mistook a welding torch he was holding for a gun. Eric Vassell, Saheed’s father, said of the decision, “It is heartbreaking that once again, the criminal justice system is treating police as if they are above the law, and failing to hold them accountable for killing an unarmed black man.” Click here to see our interview with Saheed Vassell’s parents
Lawmakers in New York have agreed to implement a ban on single-use plastic bags. The ban, which appears in the recently revealed state budget, makes New York the second state, after California, to adopt such a measure. The ban would exclude restaurant takeout bags and plastic garbage bags.
Hip-hop star Nipsey Hussle was shot and killed Sunday outside of the Marathon Clothing Company store he founded in Los Angeles’s Hyde Park neighborhood. He was just 33 years old. His death rocked the music industry and drew expressions of grief and shock from some of biggest names in hip-hop.
Nipsey Hussle grew up in South Los Angeles, and in his youth was part of the “Rollin 60’s Neighborhood Crips” gang. He later went on to organize against gangs—telling stories about rising above street violence in his songs. Hussle’s 2018 album “Victory Lap” was nominated for Best Rap Album at the Grammys. In 2016, Hussle released one of his most famous songs, “F— Donald Trump.”
Los Angeles Police Commissioner Steve Soboroff said Sunday he and LAPD Police Chief Michael Moore had been scheduled to meet with Hussle to discuss ways to end gang violence. Less than 24 hours before the planned conversation, Hussle was gunned down. His killer has not been apprehended and remains at large.
And former Newark Mayor Kenneth Gibson, who in 1970 became the first black mayor of a major Northeastern city, died Friday in West Orange at the age of 86. He served four terms in office. Gibson was elected amid heightened racial tensions in the city and three years after riots known as the “Long Hot Summer of 1967” claimed 26 lives. Gibson focused on housing and public health during his tenure but was also criticized for failing to bring stable jobs to the local economy. He was tried on bribery and fraud charges in 2001 and eventually pleaded guilty to tax evasion. Newark Mayor Ras Baraka wrote in a Facebook message, “1970 was a year of transition and difficult times. Gibson paved the way for every major African American elected official in this state and many places around the country.”