6000 kids crossed border last month. Biden pushes gun reform. 500 tankers explode at Iran-Afghan border. Ebola rising in West Africa.
Border Agency sees spike in lone minors crossing border
Over the last month, US Customs and Border Protection found 5,871 kids crossing the south-west border without a parent or legal guardian. This is the highest one-month number since the beginning of the pandemic, but is still relatively low compared to the same period in 2019. This creates a dilemma for the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which oversees the handling of unaccompanied minor immigrants. The ORR’s housing budget has been slashed due to COVID 19. With most of its allotted beds filled, the agency is contemplating re-opening a controversial influx shelter in Carrizo Springs, TX. This announcement has alarmed advocates who consider such facilities dangerous and unfit for housing and caring for children.
Numbers of incoming migrants are on the rise due to increasing poverty and violence in their home countries. Misconceptions about changes in US border and immigrations policies only make matters worse. While Biden has promised immigration reforms, the administration is at pains to stress that most immigrants are still being turned away. White House press secretary Jen Psaki recently warned potential migrants that, “Now is not the time to come”.
Despite this, misreporting in the foreign press – and the eagerness of people smugglers to take advantage means that many aren’t getting the message.
Biden pushes for gun reform on Parkland anniversary
On the third anniversary of the Parkland High School shooting, President Biden called on Biden to pass several “commonsense” gun control reforms. At the top of the list was a ban on sales of assault weapons. Assault weapons were banned federally between 1994 and 2004 for. Successive efforts to reinstate the ban have failed, despite climbing numbers of lethal mass shootings.
Biden is also calling for a ban on high-capacity magazines and mandatory background checks on all gun sales. These reforms would certainly provoke an outcry from gun enthusiasts. But Biden’s call to eliminate legal and civil immunity for gun manufacturers is likely to meet the stiffest resistance in Congress, including among some members of Biden’s own party.
500 gas tankers explode at Iran-Afghanistan border
Saturday morning, a devastating explosion at an Afghan border station has destroyed as many as 500 gas and oil tankers and caused about $50 million worth of damage. Successive blasts hurled tankers and trucks hundreds of yards into the air and flung some of them half a mile away. NASA reports that the blast was visible from space.
So far, only 17 injuries have been reported. But the blast incinerated the customs depot and authorities fear they will find bodies later. The causes of the blast have not been determined. Local merchants blame border officials for allowing a dangerous backlog and build-up of vehicles queued at the border. The tankers were apparently transporting gas and oil from Iran to Afghanistan. Despite US sanctions on Iran, the US has granted Afghanistan a special dispensation to continue importing petroleum products from its oil-rich neighbor.
Ebola on rise in West Africa
The west African country of Guinea has confirmed 7 cases of Ebola, including three deaths. The head of Guinea’s National Agency for Health and Security says the country is now in an “epidemic situation”. Guinea and its neighbor, Liberia, are now on high alert in hopes of preventing an outbreak like that seen in 2013. Between 2013 and 2016, an Ebola epidemic killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa.
In light of past events and the complications of the COVID pandemic, World Health Organization is monitoring the situation with concern. The WHO has been in touch with the manufacturer of an Ebola-vaccine to ensure that doses are available to limit the spread. The 2013-2016 epidemic sped the development of the vaccine, and there is now a global emergency stockpile of 500,000 doses.
The WHO confirmed last week that the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Central Africa, is also now experiencing a resurgence of Ebola. The DRC’s most recent outbreak ended in November, after 40,000 vaccinations helped to curb the spread.
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