Washington: The White House is laying the groundwork for declaring a national emergency that would let President Donald Trump build sections of a wall along the US-Mexico border, possibly using funds from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Washington Post reported , citing two unnamed sources.
According to a report, the plan called for building 315 miles (500 km) of border barrier by declaring an emergency and tapping a $13.9 billion Army Corps fund that was set aside for US disaster relief and prevention projects.
Such a strategy, which Reuters could not immediately confirm independently, would escalate a wall-funding standoff between Trump and Democrats in Congress from a policy dispute to a test of presidential power and likely trigger a legal challenge. Pushing the impasse into the courts could give Trump an escape path from the political box he has put himself in by demanding that any legislation to end a 20-day-old partial government shutdown include $5.7 billion in funding for his wall, a demand that congressional Democrats oppose.
The federal government partially shut down on Dec. 22 when Trump and lawmakers failed to reach an agreement to fund several agencies whose funding had expired for reasons unrelated to Trump`s wall.
US officials, said Trump had been briefed on the plan involving the Army Corps while flying to the US southern border on Thursday. A White House official denied Trump had been briefed on the plan. The Pentagon declined to comment on the news reports.
“The News reports are totally false, bogus, but doesn`t mean the president won`t talk to them at some point,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said. The Post, citing a congressional aide, said the administration was specifically looking at using some of the $13.9 billion included in a disaster spending bill passed by Congress last year that has been allocated but not yet spent.
Death toll due to Nepal floods reaches 67
Kathmandu: The death toll from the monsoon floods and landslides in Nepal has increased to 67, while 32 people were reported missing and over 40 others injured, officials said.
The Nepal Police said in a statement that the victims comprised 41 men and 26 women, reports Xinhua news agency.
“At least 1,445 people from different districts have been rescued successfully and evacuated to safer destinations,” the statement said.
According to the Home Ministry, around 35,000 people were affected by the disasters particularly in the low-lying areas known as Terai region. More than 20 of Nepal`s 77 districts were worst-hit due to the floods and landslides.
The Nepal Army, Nepal Police and Armed Police Force were deployed in the disaster-hit districts to carry out rescue and relief operations.
Residents were displaced after the swollen rivers breached the embankment and gushed into human settlements, especially in Province 2. Over 13,000 families were displaced in Province 2 alone where around 3,500 houses were completely damaged.
The provincial governments announced separate relief packages for the victims, including cash for the families of those who lost their members and free treatment of the injured. The local governments in coordination with different agencies distributed food items, clothes and tarpaulins to the highly affected communities.
The Health Emergency Operation Centre said that different medical teams with doctors were mobilized in the hard-hit districts to ensure health services to the affected people.
“There is a high risk of possible outbreaks of different water-borne diseases like diarrhea, dysentery, dengue, typhoid among others,” Ghanashyam Pokharel, health official at Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, told Xinhua.
US says asylum seekers from India rising as Trump adds yet another roadblock
New York/Washington: The Trump administration unveiled a new rule to bar almost all immigrants from applying for asylum at the southern border, requiring them to first pursue safe haven in a third country through which they had travelled on the way to the United States.
The Department of Homeland Security, in a statement issued with the Department of Justice, said the rule would set a “new bar” for immigrants “by placing further restrictions or limitations on eligibility for aliens who seek asylum in the United States.”
The American Civil Liberties Union called the new rule “patently unlawful” and vowed to file a lawsuit against it, while a host of experts also questioned its legality.
“The interim regulation violates the clear language of the law in several respects,” Stephen Legomsky, a former chief counsel of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, told Reuters in an email.
The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said it was “deeply concerned” about the measure, saying it would “put vulnerable families at risk” and undermine international efforts to find a coordinated solution.
Designated an “interim final rule,” the measure goes into effect, potentially shifting the burden onto poorly equipped countries like Mexico and Guatemala to process asylum claims.
The rule would make it all but impossible for asylum-seekers to gain legal entry to the United States unless they first apply for asylum in a “third country.”The proposed changes represent the latest effort by the Trump administration to crack down on immigration, the signature issue that helped propel Trump to the White House in the 2016 election and one already figuring prominently in the 2020 campaign.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Trump administration had overreached its authority and violated the law.
“The President is devastating lives, dishonouring our values and departing from decades of precedent and law in his haste to destroy the lifeline of asylum in America,” Pelosi said in a statement.
While Democratic politicians have sought to portray the Trump policies as inhumane, the president`s supporters are certain to be pleased at another gesture making good on campaign promises to sharply curtail immigration.
Trump on Monday declared “very successful” what he had billed as a sweeping operation to arrest undocumented immigrants this past weekend. US authorities launched small-scale operations aimed at about 2,000 recently arrived families in about 10 cities.
The operations come as the Trump administration faces criticism for housing immigrants in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions, and there are concerns about migrant children being separated from adults by US authorities.
Iran says may ‘reverse’ nuclear programme to pre-deal status
Tehran: Iran’s atomic energy agency said it could reverse its nuclear programme to its status before curbs were imposed under a landmark 2015 agreement with world powers.
“If the Europeans and the Americans don’t want to carry out their duties… we will decrease our commitments and… reverse the conditions to four years ago,” agency spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said, quoted by IRNA state news agency.
“These actions are not out of obstinacy. It is to give diplomacy a chance so that the other side come to their senses and carry out their duties,” he added.
The deal promised economic benefits and sanctions relief to Iran, but US President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord in May 2018 and reimposed tough punitive measures against the Islamic republic.
Angered that its beleaguered economy is not receiving the relief it believes it was promised under the deal, Iran has intensified sensitive uranium enrichment work.
European foreign ministers were meeting in Brussels on Monday for crisis talks on the deal.
The European parties to the deal — Britain, France and Germany — called for dialogue as tensions further intensified between Iran and the United States.
In a statement, the so-called E3 expressed concern the deal was at risk of further unravelling but said it was up to Iran to ensure its survival.
Iran has repeatedly threatened to leave the deal unless the remaining parties to the agreement bypass US sanctions and deliver the promised benefits.
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