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Border officials are expecting to encounter more migrants at the southwest border and its port entries this year than in the last two decades, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the secretary of homeland security, said Tuesday.
“Poverty, high levels of violence and corruption in Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries have propelled migration to our southwest border for years,” Mr. Mayorkas said, referring to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. He also cited two hurricanes that damaged the region last year. “The adverse conditions have continued to deteriorate.”
President Biden has faced intensifying criticism over his handling of migration to the U.S. border with Mexico, particularly the treatment of thousands of Central American children and teenagers stuck in border detention facilities. Lawyers who interviewed some of the young migrants in Texas have reported that they had been left to sleep on gym mats with foil sheets and had been confined to an overcrowded tent.
More than 9,400 minors — ranging from young children to teenagers — arrived along the border without parents in February, a nearly threefold increase over that month last year.
The administration has scrambled to find shelter space to move the children out of the detention facilities designed for adults. It will soon open a temporary center at a former camp for oil field workers in Midland, Texas, and move teenage boys to a convention center in Dallas. Mr. Mayorkas said the administration was working to set up an additional shelter in Arizona.
The backlog in shelters managed by Health and Human Services, which until recently were strained by coronavirus occupancy limits, has caused a logjam in Border Patrol processing facilities and resulted in the detention of many children for several days longer than the maximum 72 hours allowed under federal law. Roughly 4,000 children and teenagers were in border facilities as of Sunday.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has made the situation more complicated,” Mr. Mayorkas said in the written statement. “There are restrictions and protocols that need to be followed.”
Mr. Mayorkas said in the statement that the administration was working to open “joint processing centers” so the children could be moved to the custody of Health and Human Services shortly after they were stopped by border agents. The Homeland Security Department did not immediately respond to questions seeking additional details.
Mr. Mayorkas’s statement also came a day after Republican members of Congress traveled to the border to accuse Mr. Biden of opening the doors to illegal migration.
But a majority of the border crossings involved single adults, who under a public health emergency rule are often quickly expelled back to Mexico or their home countries, Mr. Mayorkas said.The administration has also used the rule against families, except in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Mexican officials in neighboring Tamaulipas, Mexico, have refused to accept the families the United States has tried to rapidly turn away after the passing of a Mexican law that prohibited detaining young immigrant children. As a result, border agents have dropped the families off at bus stations in South Texas communities.
The Biden administration has broken from the Trump administration in declining to restore a process of rapidly turning away unaccompanied minors. More than 29,700 have been detained this fiscal year — about 400 a day so far in March — compared with 17,100 during the same period last fiscal year.
The administration has announced multiple long-term strategies to deter migration, including investing foreign aid in Central America and restarting a program allowing some migrant children to apply for refugee status in the United States from their home countries and avoid making the dangerous journey north to join parents already in the United States.
But Mr. Biden faces an immediate humanitarian crisis at the border. He has placed Health and Human Services officials inside border detention centers to try to quickly identify sponsors for the children. Mr. Biden also deployed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help identify shelter space to move the children and teenagers out of the border jails.
WASHINGTON — Senator Mitch McConnell on Tuesday bluntly warned Democrats who are considering weakening or eliminating the filibuster to push through progressive legislation that Republicans would bring the Senate to a complete standstill and derail President Biden’s agenda if Democrats took that step.
“Everything that Democratic Senates did to Presidents Bush and Trump, everything the Republican Senate did to President Obama, would be child’s play compared to the disaster that Democrats would create for their own priorities if — if — they break the Senate,” said Mr. McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and minority leader. “The most mundane task of the Biden presidency would actually be harder — harder, not easier — for Democrats in a post-nuclear Senate.”
Mr. McConnell was referring to the prospect that Democrats might resort to a move known as the “nuclear option,” to force a change in the Senate rules that allow senators to block action on any bill unless proponents can muster 60 votes to move forward. That would effectively destroy the filibuster, allowing the majority party — currently the Democrats — to muscle through any measure on a simple majority vote.
Progressives have been agitating for such a change to allow Mr. Biden to steer his agenda around Republican obstruction, and a growing number of Democrats are openly considering it.
Mr. McConnell issued his warning after Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat and a respected veteran of the institution, on Monday said it was time to stop allowing the minority party to routinely block legislation by requiring a three-fifths majority to advance most bills. It was the most explicit call yet by a leading Democrat leadership to take action.
“Today’s filibusters have turned the world’s most deliberative body into one of the world’s most ineffectual bodies,” said Mr. Durbin, who said the burden should be on opponents of legislation to maintain a filibuster rather than on supporters to produce 60 votes to advance it. “If a senator insists on blocking the will of the Senate, he or she should have to pay some minimal price of being present. No more phoning it in. If your principles are that important, stand up for them, speak your mind, hold the floor, and show your resolve.”
The Senate operates under arcane rules that are often bypassed by the use of what is known as unanimous consent agreement where no senator objects. Mr. McConnell threatened that if Democrats made significant changes to the filibuster rules, Republicans would deny consent even on the most mundane of matters and require senators to be present and voting to do virtually anything, effectively bogging down the Senate.
“Let me say this very clearly for all 99 of my colleagues,” Mr. McConnell said. “Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin — can even begin — to imagine what a completely scorched earth Senate would look like. None of us have served one minute in a Senate that was completely drained of comity, and this is an institution that requires unanimous consent to turn the lights on before noon.”
Some Senate Democrats and progressive activists have called on Democrats to weaken the filibuster to push ahead with a voting rights bill and other liberal legislative priorities over Republican objections while Democrats control both Congress and the White House.
The incomplete wall at the southern border of the United States, one of the costliest megaprojects in the country’s history, is once again igniting tensions as critics urge President Biden to tear down parts of the wall and Republican leaders call on him to finish it.
Former President Donald J. Trump made the wall a symbol of his administration’s efforts to slash immigration. While many stretches of the 1,954-mile border already had some low-level barriers built by previous administrations, the project was mired in controversy from the start.
Only a few miles were built in South Texas, the area most prone to illegal crossings. Instead, much of the construction, especially in the Trump administration’s closing days, has taken place in remote parts of Arizona where crossings in recent years have been relatively uncommon.
The Biden administration suspended construction of the border wall on Jan. 20, the president’s first day in office, announcing a 60-day period during which officials are determining how to proceed.
Alejandro Mayorkas, Mr. Biden’s homeland security secretary, has been directed to decide whether to “resume, modify, or terminate” projects when the 60-day suspension ends this month.
Some stretches of the border now have long, continuous segments of 30-foot high steel barriers that could endure in the desert for decades to come. But in other areas, border-crossers can easily tiptoe around far-flung islands of wall, some of which look more like conceptual art pieces than imposing barriers to entry.
There are half-dynamited mountaintops where work crews put down their tools in January, leaving a heightened risk of rapid erosion and even dangerous landslides. In some areas, colossal piles of unused steel bollards linger at deserted work sites.
After temporarily suspending building activities in February, Mr. Biden rescinded the national emergency that Mr. Trump used to justify advancing construction. But parts of the federal bureaucracy are continuing with the land acquisition process, alarming landowners.
Support in Washington for New York’s governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, is collapsing as allegations against him pile up, with one conspicuous holdout: President Biden, who says he is deferring judgment pending the outcome of a state investigation into the governor’s behavior toward women.
Mr. Cuomo, a polarizing figure who has made his share of enemies in the nation’s capital, has long enjoyed an amicable relationship with two of Washington’s top Democrats, Mr. Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
But now he is confronting a spiraling set of allegations and investigations involving sexual harassment, a toxic workplace, the manipulation of the number of deaths at New York nursing homes and perceived loyalty tests from the governor’s vaccine czar.
The president has made only a passing comment on the crises, hoping to avoid getting pulled in any further.
Mr. Biden and Mr. Cuomo have not spoken, people close to both men said. Asked on Sunday night whether Mr. Cuomo should resign, Mr. Biden said only, “I think the investigation is underway, and we should see what it brings us.”
Ms. Pelosi has counseled patience, but seems to be ushering Mr. Cuomo politely toward the exits. In recent days, Ms. Pelosi — who was close to the governor’s father, Mario — joined Representative Hakeem Jeffries, the House Democratic Caucus chairman, in suggesting Mr. Cuomo at least consider resigning.
Ms. Pelosi called the allegations “credible” over the weekend and suggested Mr. Cuomo ask himself whether he was still capable of governing.
Most other Democrats have been far less equivocal.
The Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat who has often tried to steer clear of fights inside his state, recently joined New York’s junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, in calling for Mr. Cuomo’s resignation “due to the multiple, credible sexual harassment and misconduct allegations.”
They have been joined by most of the state’s congressional delegation in both parties, including the Democrats Jerrold Nadler, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jamaal Bowman, Tom Suozzi, Antonio Delgado, Mondaire Jones and Republicans including Elise Stefanik and Paul Tonko, along with many other representatives from other states.
Mr. Cuomo has denied the allegations and rejected calls to step down.
“I am not going to resign,” he told reporters earlier this month.
President Biden plans to visit a small business in Pennsylvania on Tuesday to promote the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which contains an assortment of measures aimed at helping small employers and their workers endure the pandemic’s economic shocks.
The aid bill created a $29 billion grant fund for restaurants and set aside additional money for several relief programs run by the Small Business Administration, including a long-delayed grant program for music clubs and other live-event businesses that the agency said would start accepting applications early next month.
But the Biden administration’s most sweeping small-business initiative has been hindered by problems. Last month, the administration announced changes to the Paycheck Protection Program that were intended to get more money to freelancers, gig workers and other self-employed people.
Women and minority owners are much more likely to run tiny businesses than larger ones, and they were disproportionately shut out of the Paycheck Protection Program under earlier rules that calculated such companies’ forgivable relief loans based on the size of their annual profit. The Biden administration’s more forgiving formula lets those businesses instead use their gross income, a switch that significantly increased the money available to many applicants.
But the change was not retroactive, which has set off a backlash from the hundreds of thousands of borrowers who got much smaller loans than they would now qualify for. Many have used social media or written to government officials to vent their anger.
JagMohan Dilawri, a self-employed chauffeur in Queens, got a loan in February for $1,900. Under the new rules, he calculates that he would have been eligible for around $15,000. That wide gulf frustrated Mr. Dilawri, who has struggled to keep up on his mortgage, car loan and auto insurance payments since the pandemic took hold.
“When the Biden administration came, they said, ‘We will be fair with everyone,’” he said. “But this is unfair.”
Small Business Administration officials have said that only Congress can fix that disparity. Some key Democratic lawmakers say they are willing.
“I am aware of the situation facing these sole proprietors and am working to ensure they get the funds they are entitled to under the Biden administration’s rule changes retroactively,” said Representative Nydia M. Velázquez, a New York Democrat who leads the House Small Business Committee. “My staff and I are working with the S.B.A. and congressional Republicans to find a path forward, whether that be through agency action or additional legislation.”
North Korea issued a stern first warning to the Biden administration on Tuesday, denouncing Washington for going forward with military exercises with South Korea and raising “a stink” on the Korean Peninsula.
The statement, the first official comment on the Biden administration from North Korea, is part of a series of early maneuvers by both sides to recalibrate the relationship between the countries following former President Donald J. Trump’s fruitless attempt at personal diplomacy with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un.
On Monday, White House officials acknowledged that the administration had attempted to reach North Korea through multiple channels in recent weeks, but that Pyongyang had been unresponsive. Analysts said the silence was part of the North’s pressure tactic.
“We take this opportunity to warn the new U.S. administration trying hard to give off a powder smell in our land,” Kim Yo-jong, the sister of the country’s leader, said in a statement carried by state-run North Korean media, referring to the odor emitted by exploding ammunition.
“If it wants to sleep in peace for the coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step,” she added.
Tuesday’s statement from Pyongyang came hours before Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III began meetings in Japan. Later in the week, they head to South Korea, a trip that will coincide with annual joint military exercises, which often draws over-the-top reactions from North Korea.
The meetings this week are meant to strengthen alliances in the region, where the threat of North Korean nuclear weapons and China’s growing influence have been cast as major foreign policy challenges.
While bellicose, Ms. Kim’s comments were relatively tame in comparisons to the taunts thrown at Mr. Biden during the 2020 election campaign, after he suggested Mr. Trump had been too accommodating.
At the time, North Korean officials called Mr. Biden a “rabid dog” who should be “beaten to death.”
Her statement was the first indication that North Korea may try to influence the new administration’s policies by raising the prospect of renewed tension on the peninsula, analysts said.
Ms. Kim, who serves as her brother’s spokeswoman in North Korea’s relations with Seoul and Washington, dedicated most of her statement to criticizing Seoul for pushing ahead with its annual military drills with the United States this month, despite warnings from her brother.
Under Mr. Trump, Washington and Seoul suspended or scaled down the joint military drills to support diplomacy with Mr. Kim. After three meetings, Mr. Trump’s talks with Mr. Kim collapsed without a deal on how to end North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile capabilities.
Mr. Biden is overseeing a comprehensive review of U.S. policy on North Korea. This year’s exercises remain relatively scaled back in comparison to those conducted in the pre-Trump years.
Democrats are preparing to push legislation through the House this week that would create a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, posing the first tests to President Biden’s immigration agenda just as an influx of migrants is creating a new challenge at the border.
Facing internal divisions and mounting Republican pressure, Democrats plan to take a notably narrow approach for now. Instead of bringing up Mr. Biden’s immigration overhaul, which would legalize most of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States, the House will start with two measures covering groups regarded as the most sympathetic: people brought to the country as children, known as Dreamers; others granted Temporary Protected Status for humanitarian reasons; and farm workers.
But with thousands more migrants, many of them unaccompanied children, showing up at the border daily, even those more modest steps face an increasingly uphill climb. Democrats concede they do not have sufficient Republican support to pass them in the Senate, and G.O.P. leaders, eager to turn Democrats’ difficulties on the issue into a political liability, are using the mounting problems to stoke fear and opposition to any but the most punitive of changes.
“Why would you legalize anybody, sending another incentive to keep coming, until you stop the flow?” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a leader of past bipartisan immigration efforts. “I just don’t see the politics of it — it’s just too out of control.”
Top immigration aides to Mr. Biden argue that the bills the House is taking up this week are a starting point for his broader plan, part of a pragmatic “multiple trains” strategy to avoid the pitfalls that have befallen prior administrations.
Mr. Biden’s broader legislation would also seek to tighten border security and address the root causes of the migration surge, by allocating funding for scanning technology at the southwestern border and providing aid to bolster the economies of the countries that are the main sources of the influx. But those long-term solutions are bumping up against the urgent need to move thousands of migrant children and teenagers out of border detention facilities.
Pressure is building among the most progressive Democrats in Congress, for the administration to move more decisively, as they regard the situation at the border with increasing alarm. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, said in a recent interview that it took “so much work to get President Biden to a place that immigration advocates felt comfortable calling a positive step.”
“To see folks in our caucus try to undo some of that progress,” she said, “I think is really concerning.”
The Army is promoting Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, an Army officer who was dismissed from the Trump White House last year as part of its reprisal campaign against his twin brother, Alexander S. Vindman, who had testified in President Donald J. Trump’s first impeachment.
The promotion is the latest twist in the saga of the Vindman twins, who together raised concerns about a July 2019 call between Mr. Trump and the president of Ukraine, which was at the core of the first impeachment proceeding against Mr. Trump. In the end, Mr. Trump was acquitted in 2020 of the charges against him, as he was during his second impeachment in 2021.
While not playing as prominent a role as his brother, who accused Mr. Trump of pressuring the Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on President Biden when he was a presidential candidate, Yevgeny Vindman, then a top ethics lawyer detailed to the National Security Council from the Pentagon, did raise ethical and legal concerns about Mr. Trump’s aides.
Alexander Vindman, who was also a lieutenant colonel with the Army, chose to retire last summer after repeated White House efforts to punish him for his impeachment testimony, but Yevgeny Vindman remained in the military. His name was on a list of promotions to colonel that is expected to be submitted to the Senate this week.
Last August, Yevgeny Vindman filed a whistle-blower complaint in which he said he was improperly fired in retaliation for both his role in the impeachment of Mr. Trump and lodging previously undisclosed allegations of ethical and legal wrongdoing against Robert C. O’Brien, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser.
The complaint outlined a half-dozen times that Yevgeny Vindman reported various legal and ethical concerns to superiors at the National Security Council and Defense Department between July 2019 and February 2020, communications that his lawyers argued met the criteria for protection from reprisal. It also disclosed that Yevgeny Vindman repeatedly raised concerns about Mr. O’Brien and Alex Gray, the National Security Council chief of staff, to top White House lawyers.
Yevgeny Vindman never testified before impeachment investigators in the House, but he appeared in person to support his brother. The brothers also privately raised concerns with top White House lawyers about Mr. Trump’s conduct on the call with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, in which the Mr. Trump pressured Mr. Zelensky to conduct investigations that would benefit him politically.
The Army’s decision to promote Yevgeny Vindman comes as Mr. Biden’s Defense Department moves swiftly to undo Trump-era policies affecting the military, including reversing Mr. Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military and promoting female generals whose nominations were stalled because of fears over how Mr. Trump would react.
In a statement Tuesday, Yevgeny Vindman said the Army and Pentagon investigators “stood their ground despite intense pressure during the last administration.”
As President Biden pushes to vaccinate as many Americans as possible, he faces deep skepticism among many Republicans, a group especially challenging for him to persuade.
While there are degrees of opposition to vaccination for Covid-19 among a number of groups, including African-Americans and antivaccine activists, polling suggests that opinions in this case are breaking substantially along partisan lines.
A third of Republicans said in a CBS News poll that they would not be vaccinated — compared with 10 percent of Democrats — and another 20 percent of Republicans said they were unsure. Other polls have found similar trends.
With the Biden administration readying television and internet advertising and other efforts to promote vaccination, the challenge for the White House is complicated by perceptions of former President Donald J. Trump’s stance on the issue. Although Mr. Trump was vaccinated before he left office and urged conservatives last month to get inoculated, many of his supporters appear reluctant to do so, and he has not played any prominent role in promoting vaccination.
Asked about the issue on Monday at the White House, Mr. Biden said Mr. Trump’s help promoting vaccination was less important than getting trusted community figures on board.
“I discussed it with my team, and they say the thing that has more impact than anything Trump would say to the MAGA folks is what the local doctor, what the local preachers, what the local people in the community say,” Mr. Biden said, referring to Mr. Trump’s supporters and campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.”
Widespread opposition to vaccination, if not overcome, could slow the United States from reaching the point where the virus can no longer spread easily, setting back efforts to get the economy humming again and people back to a more normal life. While the problem until now has been access to relatively tight supplies of the vaccine, administration officials expect to soon face the possibility of supply exceeding demand if many Americans remain reluctant.
Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico made history on Monday when the Senate confirmed her as President Biden’s secretary of the interior, making her the first Native American to lead a cabinet agency.
Ms. Haaland became one of the first two Native American women elected to the House in 2018. But her new position is particularly meaningful because the department she now leads has spent much of its history abusing or neglecting America’s Indigenous people.
Beyond the Interior Department’s responsibility for the well-being of the nation’s 1.9 million Native people, it oversees about 500 million acres of public land, federal waters off the United States coastline, a huge system of dams and reservoirs across the Western United States, and the protection of thousands of endangered species.
Republican opposition to Ms. Haaland’s confirmation centered on her history of fighting against oil and gas exploration, and the deliberations around her nomination highlighted her emerging role in public debates on climate change, energy policy and racial equity. Four Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, voted for Ms. Haaland’s confirmation.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said supporting her confirmation “would be voting to raise gas prices for families who are already struggling, to raise fuel and heating bills for seniors on a fixed income, to take the tough times we’ve been going through and make them even tougher.”
The new interior secretary will be charged with essentially reversing the agency’s mission over the past four years. Led by David Bernhardt, a former oil lobbyist, the Interior Department played a central role in the Trump administration’s systematic rollback of environmental regulations and the opening of the nation’s lands and waters to drilling and mining.
Ms. Haaland is expected to quickly halt new drilling, reinstate wildlife conservation rules, expand wind and solar power on public lands and waters, and place the Interior Department at the center of Mr. Biden’s climate agenda.
At the same time, she will quite likely assume a central role in realizing Mr. Biden’s promise to make racial equity a theme in his administration. Ms. Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo who identifies herself as a 35th-generation New Mexican, will assume control of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education, where she can address the needs of a population that has suffered from abuse and dislocation at the hands of the United States government for generations, and that has been disproportionately devastated by the coronavirus.
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