39 dead in fire at Mexico migrant center near US border
A fire in a dormitory at a Mexican immigration detention center near the U.S. border left more than three dozen migrants dead, a government agency said Tuesday, in one of the deadliest incidents ever at an immigration lockup in the country. Hours after the fire broke out late Monday, rows of bodies were laid out under shimmery silver sheets outside the facility in Ciudad Juarez, which is across from El Paso, Texas, and a major crossing point for migrants. Ambulances, firefighters and vans from the morgue swarmed the scene. Thirty-nine people died and 29 were injured and are in "delicate-serious" condition, according to the National Immigration Institute. There were 68 men from Central and South America held in the facility at the time of the fire, the agency said. It was the deadliest incident inside a Mexican immigration facility in recent memory. Authorities are investigating the cause of the fire and the governmental National Human Rights Commission had been called in to help the migrants. Tensions between authorities and migrants had apparently been running high in recent weeks in Ciudad Juarez, where shelters are full of people waiting for opportunities to cross into the U.S. or who have requested asylum there and are waiting out the process. More than 30 migrant shelters and other advocacy organizations published an open letter March 9 that complained of a criminalization of migrants and asylum seekers in the city. It accused authorities of abuse and using excessive force in rounding up migrants, complaining that municipal police were questioning people in the street about their immigration status without cause. The high level of frustration in Ciudad Juarez was evident earlier this month when hundreds of mostly Venezuelan migrants acting on false rumors that the United States would allow them to enter the country tried to force their way across one of the international bridges to El Paso. U.S. authorities blocked their attempts. The national immigration agency said Tuesday that it "energetically rejects the actions that led to this tragedy" without any further explanation of what those actions might have been. In recent years, as Mexico has stepped up efforts to stem the flow migration to the U.S. border under pressure from the American government, the agency has struggled with overcrowding in its facilities. And the country's immigration lockups have seen protests and riots from time to time. Mostly Venezuelan migrants rioted inside an immigration center in Tijuana in October that had to be controlled by police and National Guard troops. In November, dozens of migrants rioted in Mexico's largest detention center in the southern city of Tapachula near the border with Guatemala. No one died in either incident.
Biden's Canada agenda stacked: NORAD, migration deals likely
President Joe Biden arrived in Canada on Thursday for talks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on several of the world's most difficult challenges: the war in Ukraine, climate change, trade, mass migration and an increasingly assertive China. Two important agreements appeared to be in hand before Biden even departed Washington. Canada will escalate its timeline for military upgrades to the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the two nations have reached an agreement to update rules for migrants seeking asylum, according to U.S. and Canadian officials. The officials were not authorized to comment publicly and requested anonymity. The migration deal eliminates a loophole under existing rules that will allow both countries to turn away asylum seekers at the countries' borders. The loophole resulted in thousands of migrants annually crossing into Canada from the U.S. at a non-official checkpoint, enabling them to stay in the country as they seek asylum instead of letting the process play out while staying in the U.S. As part of the agreement, Canada is expected to announce that 15,000 migrants from the Western Hemisphere will be given slots to apply to enter the country, according to a Canadian official. The new policy applies to people without U.S. or Canadian citizenship who are caught within 14 days of crossing the border between the two countries. Biden and Trudeau did not respond to questions from reporters about the agreement when the president and first lady Jill Biden arrived for a private gathering at the prime minister's residence. The White House declined to comment on the agreement, which is expected to be formally announced Friday. The visit comes as the Biden administration has made strengthening its relationship with Canada a priority over the past two years. Both sides see the meetings in the capital of Ottawa as an opportunity to set plans for the future. National security and air defenses are top of mind after a Chinese spy balloon last month traversed North America. Canada plans to update its radar systems and has agreed to an accelerated timeline for spending billions more on military upgrades for NORAD, which monitors the skies above the continent, according to the senior Canadian government official. Canada announced last year it is investing $3.8 billion (Canadian $4.9 billion) over the next six years to modernize NORAD radar systems and billions more years later, but David Cohen, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, has said the current threat climate calls for quicker investment. The loophole in the U.S.-Canada migration rules allowed thousands of migrants to cross into Canada from the U.S. at a non-official checkpoint, enabling them to stay in the country as they seek asylum instead of letting the process play out while staying in the U.S. A quirk in a 2002 agreement between the U.S. and Canada says people seeking asylum must apply in the first country they arrive in. Migrants who go to an official crossing are returned to the U.S. and told to apply there. But those who arrive in Canada at a location other than a port of entry are allowed to stay and request protection, as has been happening on Roxham Road between Champlain, New York, and Quebec. More than 39,000 claims were filed in 2022 by people who were intercepted by Canadian police, the vast majority of them in Quebec and at Roxham Road. The broadened focus of Biden's visit represents an evolution of a friendship between the two countries that exceeds 150 years. The emphasis had more frequently been on issues like trade that had defined relations between the two countries, which share a 5,525-mile border. "This visit is about taking stock of what we've done, where we are and what we need to prioritize for for the future," said John Kirby, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council. "We're going to talk about our two democracies stepping up to meet the challenges of our time." There will still be an emphasis on trade, yet Canada and the U.S. see the partnership as crucial in supporting Ukraine against Russia's invasion, reducing their dependence on Chinese goods and shifting toward cleaner energy sources amid the planetary damage caused by burning fossil fuels. The leaders are also expected to discuss tapping critical minerals that will enable the production of electric vehicles, and military and economic commitments at a moment that observers say is the most dangerous since World War II. Chinese President Xi Jinping this week visited Russian President Vladimir Putin, pledging to deepen their economic ties in ways that could help fund Putin's ongoing war to take Ukraine. "The United States is coming with big strategic issues on their mind," said Vincent Rigby, a former national security adviser to Trudeau. "It's a world where they're looking to allies to help." Trade between the U.S. and Canada totaled an estimated record of $950 billion (Canadian $1.3 trillion) in 2022. Each day, about 400,000 people cross the world's longest international border, and about 800,000 Canadian citizens live in the United States. There is close cooperation on defense, border security and law enforcement, and a vast overlap in culture, traditions and pastimes. Biden will address Parliament and Trudeau will host him for a state dinner Friday evening. It is Biden's first visit to Canada since he became president, but Trudeau also gave Biden a state dinner when he was vice president in December 2016 just before Donald Trump took office. "It didn't need to have happened. It was an incredibly well timed and wise investment on the prime minister's part to do that and I think it's paid dividends," said Bruce Heyman, who was U.S. ambassador to Canada at the time. Last year, Canada was exempted from the subsidy restrictions for electric vehicles in Biden's Inflation Reduction Act. Heyman called it a huge win for Canada. The NORAD partnership was in the spotlight recently when NORAD tracked a suspected Chinese spy balloon that passed over the two countries before being shot down over the coast of South Carolina. A U.S. fighter jet later shot down an unidentified flying object in Canadian airspace. The British, Australians and Japanese are all investing more in defense given the threats posed by Beijing and Moscow, and the U.S. expects its northern neighbor to do its part. Canada has long faced calls to increase its defense spending to 2% of its gross domestic product, the agreed-upon target by NATO members. Ottawa spends about 1.2% now. Canada announced in January it will purchase 88 F-35 fighter jets but at the time of the announcement said the first four won't arrive for another three years. The U.S. is also pushing Canada to lead an international force in Haiti but Canada's top military official has suggested the country doesn't have the capacity.
Trudeau: US fighter shot down object over northern Canada
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Saturday that on his order a U.S. fighter jet shot down an “unidentified object” that was flying high over the Yukon, acting a day after the U.S. took similar action over Alaska. North American Aerospace Defense Command, the combined U.S.-Canada organization that provides shared defense of airspace over the two nations, detected the object flying at a high altitude Friday evening over Alaska, U.S. officials said. It crossed into Canadian airspace on Saturday. Trudeau spoke with President Joe Biden, who also ordered the object to be shot down. Canadian and U.S. jets operating as part of NORAD were scrambled and it was a U.S. jet that shot down the object. Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand told a news conference in Ottawa that the object, flying at around 40,000 feet, had been shot down at 3:41 p.m. EST, approximately 100 miles from the Canada-U.S. border in the central Yukon. A recovery operation was underway involving the Canadian Armed Forces and the RCMP. Hours later, in the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration said Saturday night it had closed some airspace in Montana to support Defense Department activities. NORAD later said the closure, which lasted a little more than an hour, came after it had detected “a radar anomaly” and sent fighter aircraft to investigate. The aircraft did not identify any object to correlate to the radar hits, NORAD said. F-22 fighter jets have now taken out three objects in the airspace above the U.S. and Canada over seven days, a stunning development that is raising questions on just what, exactly, is hovering overhead and who has sent them. At least one of the objects downed was believed to be a spy balloon from China, but the other two had not yet been publicly identified. While Trudeau described the object Saturday as “unidentified,” Anand said it appeared to be “a small cylindrical object, smaller than the one that was downed off the coast of North Carolina." A NORAD spokesman, Maj. Olivier Gallant, said the military had determined what it was but would not reveal details. Anand refused to speculate whether the object shot down over Canada came from China. “We are continuing to do the analysis on the object and we will make sure that analysis is thorough,” she said. “It would not be prudent for me to speculate on the origins of the object at this time.” Anand said to her knowledge this was the first time NORAD had downed an object in Canadian airspace. “The importance of this moment should not be underestimated,” she said. “We detected this object together and we defeated this object together.” She was asked why a U.S. jet, and not a Canadian plane, shot the object down. “As opposed to separating it out by country, I think what the important point is, these were NORAD capabilities, this was a NORAD mission and this was NORAD doing what it is supposed to do,” she said. Anand didn’t use the word “balloon” to describe the object. But later, Gen. Wayne Eyre, chief of the defense staff, said the instructions given to the planes was “who ever had the first, best shot to take out the balloon had the go-ahead.” Trudeau said Canadian forces would recover the wreckage for study. The Yukon is westernmost Canadian territory and the among the least populated part of Canada. After the airspace closure over Montana, multiple members of Congress, including Montana Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester, said they were in touch with defense officials. Daines tweeted that he would “continue to demand answers on these invasions of US airspace.” Just about a day earlier, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said an object roughly the size of a small car was shot out of the skies above remote Alaska. Officials couldn’t say if it contained any surveillance equipment, where it came from or what purpose it had. Kirby said it was shot down because it was flying at about 40,000 feet (13,000 meters) and posed a “reasonable threat” to the safety of civilian flights, not because of any knowledge that it was engaged in surveillance. According to U.S. Northern Command, recovery operations continued Saturday on sea ice near Deadhorse, Alaska. In a statement, the Northern Command said there were no new details on what the object was. It said the Alaska Command and the Alaska National Guard, along with the FBI and local law enforcement, were conducting search and recovery. “Arctic weather conditions, including wind chill, snow, and limited daylight, are a factor in this operation, and personnel will adjust recovery operations to maintain safety,” the statement said. On Feb. 4, U.S. officials shot down a large white balloon off the coast of South Carolina. The balloon was part of a large surveillance program that China has been conducting for “several years,” the Pentagon has said. The U.S. has said Chinese balloons have flown over dozens of countries across five continents in recent years, and it learned more about the balloon program after closely monitoring the one shot down near South Carolina. China responded that it reserved the right to “take further actions” and criticized the U.S. for “an obvious overreaction and a serious violation of international practice.” The Navy continued survey and recovery activities on the ocean floor off South Carolina, and the Coast Guard was providing security. Additional debris was pulled out Friday, and additional operations will continue as weather permits, Northern Command said.
Toronto mayor steps down after affair with ex-staffer
The mayor of Canada’s largest city has stepped down after acknowledging he had an affair with a former staffer. Toronto Mayor John Tory said at a late Friday night news conference that he developed a relationship with an employee in his office. The 68-year-old was known as a straight-laced, button down moderate conservative — almost the polar opposite of previous Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, whose term was plagued by scandals involving public drinking and illegal drug use. “I recognize that permitting this relationship to develop was a serious error in judgment on my part,” Tory said after the Toronto Star reported on the affair. “It came at a time when Barb, my wife of 40-plus years and I were enduring many lengthy periods apart while I carried out my responsibilities during the pandemic," he said. "As a result, I have decided I will step down as Mayor so I can take the time to reflect on my mistakes and to do the work of rebuilding the trust of my family.” Tory was first elected mayor in 2014, in part on a promise to restore respectability to the office after the turbulent term of Ford. Tory recently won a third term. Rob Ford’s four-year tenure as mayor of Canada’s largest city was marred by his drinking and crack cocaine use. He later died from a rare form of cancer. Tory said he is “deeply sorry” to the people of Toronto.
US nears new cooperation deals with Pacific Island nations
The Biden administration is nearing deals with two Pacific Island nations to extend ties that are considered critical to maintaining balance in the U.S.-China rivalry for influence in a region where the Chinese are rapidly expanding their economic, diplomatic and military clout. This week, the U.S. signed memorandums of understanding with the Marshall Islands and Palau that administration officials hope will pave the way for the quick completion of broader agreements that will govern the islands' relations with Washington for the next two decades. Those ties grant the U.S. unique military and other security rights on the islands in return for substantial aid. The administration believes that extending those so-called “Compacts of Free Association” agreements will be key to efforts to retain American power and blunt Chinese assertiveness throughout the Indo-Pacific. The memorandums signed this week lay out the amounts of money that the federal government will provide to the Marshall Islands and Palau if their compacts are successfully renegotiated. Negotiations on a similar memorandum with a third compact country, Micronesia, are ongoing. The current 20-year compacts with the Marshall Islands and Micronesia expire this year; the current compact with Palau expires in 2024 but administration officials said they believe all three can be renewed and signed by mid- to late-spring. Officials would not discuss specifics of the amounts of money involved because the deals aren’t yet legally binding and must still be reviewed and approved by Congress as part of the budget process. A Micronesian news outlet, Marianas Variety, reported Thursday that the Marshall Islands will receive $700 million over four years under the memorandum that it signed. But that amount would cover only one-fifth of a 20-year compact extension and does not include the amount Palau would receive. Joe Yun, Biden's special presidential envoy for compact negotiations, said the amounts will be far greater than what the U.S. had provided in the past. Read more: Australia to reopen island detention camp after refugee bill Islanders have long complained that the previous compacts they signed did not adequately address their needs or long-term environmental and health issues caused by U.S. nuclear testing in the 1950s and '60s. Lawmakers had expressed concern dating back to 2021 that the administration was not giving enough attention to the matter. Yun, who signed the memorandums with representatives of the Marshalls and Palau on Tuesday and Wednesday in Los Angeles, said the Marshall Islands, in particular, would be compensated for such damage and would be given control over how that money is spent. Yun said it would pay “nuclear-affected communities' health, welfare and development” and also noted that the U.S. had committed to building a new hospital as well as a museum in the Marshalls to preserve the memory and legacy of their role, notably in the Pacific theater during WWII. This week's signings clear the way for individual federal agencies — including the Postal Service, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the National Weather Service — to negotiate their own agreements with the Marshalls and Palau, which will then become part of the broader compacts. Along with the federal money, those agencies provide their services to the islands. In return, the U.S. is given unique military and national security basing rights and privileges in an area where China is increasingly flexing its muscles. Yun said China did not come up specifically in the negotiations but it was a major element in all sides' discussions. “The threat from China is unstated but there is no question that China is a factor,” Yun said. Not only does China have a large and growing economic presence in the region, but the Marshall Islands and Palau both recognize Taiwan diplomatically. “They are coming under Chinese pressure,” he said. China has steadily poached allies from Taiwan in the Pacific, including Kiribati and the Solomon Islands in 2019. The U.S. announced plans last year to reopen an embassy in the Solomon Islands, which has signed a security agreement with China. Since World War II, the U.S. has treated the Marshall Islands, along with Micronesia and Palau, much like territories. On the Marshall Islands, the U.S. has developed military, intelligence and aerospace facilities in a region where China is particularly active. In turn, U.S. money and jobs have benefited the islands’ economy. And many islanders have taken advantage of their ability to live and work in the U.S., moving in the thousands to Arkansas, Guam, Hawaii, Oregon and Oklahoma. Many on the Marshall Islands believe a U.S. settlement of $150 million agreed to in the 1980s fell well short of addressing the nuclear legacy. But the U.S. position has remained static for more than 20 years, the last time the compact came up for renegotiation. Various estimates put the true cost of the damage at about $3 billion, including for repairs to a massive nuclear waste facility known as the Cactus Dome which environmentalists say is leaking toxic waste into the ocean. Read more: Bangladesh to get US support in improving, widening coastal embankments The U.S. Department of Energy says the dome contains over 100,000 cubic yards (76,000 cubic meters) of radioactively contaminated soil and debris but the structure isn’t in any immediate danger of failing.
Leaders of US, Canada, Mexico show unity despite friction
President Joe Biden, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought to downplay their frustrations with one another on migration and trade as they met for the near-annual North American Leaders Summit. The leaders offered a unified front on Tuesday despite tensions that have put a strain on their relationships even as Biden has made repairing alliances a cornerstone of his foreign policy agenda. The tensions were front and center when Biden and López Obrador met on Monday, with the Mexican president complaining of “abandonment” and “disdain” for Latin America. But as they closed Tuesday’s summit in Mexico City with a joint news conference, the leaders offered an optimistic outlook. “We’re true partners the three of us,” said Biden, adding that they had “genuine like” for one another. “We share a common vision for the future, grounded on common values.” López Obrador, for his part, thanked Biden for not building “even one meter of wall,” a not so subtle dig at Biden’s Republican predecessor, Donald Trump. The warmth during their joint press conference stood in stark contrast to the more brusque exchange a day earlier. Still, López Obrador prodded Biden to “insist” Congress regularize undocumented Mexican migrants who work in industries where American employers are struggling mightily to find enough workers. The three-way gathering is held most years, although there was a hiatus while Trump was president. It’s often called the “three amigos summit,” a reference to the deep diplomatic and economic ties among the countries. However, the leaders have found themselves at odds, especially as they struggle to handle an influx of migrants and to crack down on smugglers who profit from persuading people to make the dangerous trip to the United States. In addition, Canada and the U.S. accuse López Obrador of violating a free trade pact by favoring Mexico’s state-owned utility over power plants built by foreign and private investors. Meanwhile, Trudeau and López Obrador are concerned about Biden’s efforts to boost domestic manufacturing, creating concerns that U.S. neighbors could be left behind. Trudeau emphasized in a one-on-one meeting with Biden the benefits of free trade and warned against Buy America policies that the U.S. administration has promoted, according to the prime minister’s office. Nearly 80% of Canada’s exports go to the U.S., so avoiding protectionism remains a priority for Canada. The key takeaways from the summit revolve around better connections among the three nations and a shared goal of a stronger North America on energy and in particular semiconductors, climate and a pledge to cut methane emissions, an agreement to manage large waves of migrants coming to the region and a more cohesive regional strategy on dealing with future pandemic-related health threats. In their talks on Monday, López Obrador challenged Biden to improve life across the region, telling him that “you hold the key in your hand.” “This is the moment for us to determine to do away with this abandonment, this disdain, and this forgetfulness for Latin America and the Caribbean,” Lopez Obrador said. Biden responded by pointing to the billions of dollars that the United States spends in foreign aid around the world. At the start of Tuesday’s Biden-Trudeau meeting, the leaders spoke familiarly and with optimism. Trudeau called the U.S. president “Joe” and Biden joked with Trudeau — after the Canadian leader had delivered a statement to reporters in English and French — that he should have paid more attention in his college French classes. Biden and Trudeau also discussed their countries’ efforts to support Ukraine nearly 11 months after Russia’s invasion. Canada announced Tuesday that it would buy an American-made National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System, or NASAMS, to be donated to Ukraine. The medium-range ground-based air defense system, which protects against drone, missile and aircraft attacks, costs about $406 million and brings Canada’s contribution to Ukraine to more than $1 billion since the start of the war. The White House said in a statement that the leaders also discussed “the generational opportunity to strengthen supply chains for critical minerals, electric vehicles, and semiconductors.” The U.S. administration also announced that Biden will make his first visit to Canada as president in March. “There’s a lot of reasons to be optimistic, especially for those of us in our countries,” Trudeau said. “But it’s going to take a lot of work, something neither you or I or most our citizens have ever been afraid of.” Biden and López Obrador haven’t been on particularly good terms for the past two years. The Mexican leader made no secret of his admiration for Trump, and last year he skipped a Los Angeles summit of the Americas because Biden didn’t invite the authoritarian leaders of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. But despite the tension, there’s been cooperation. The U.S. and Mexico have also reached an agreement on a major shift in migration policy, which Biden announced last week. Under the plan, the U.S. will send 30,000 migrants per month from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and Venezuela back across the border from among those who entered the U.S. illegally. Migrants who arrive from those four countries are not easily returned to their home countries for a variety of reasons. In addition, 30,000 people per month from those four nations who get sponsors, background checks and an airline flight to the U.S. will be able to work legally in the country for two years. The number of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border has risen dramatically during Biden’s first two years in office. There were more than 2.38 million stops during the year that ended Sept. 30, the first time the number topped 2 million. López Obrador spoke at length about Mexico’s efforts to control the flow into the United States of fentanyl, the synthetic opioid that has become a scourge for many American communities. He noted that his government gave the military control of sea ports to help with the interdiction of precursor chemicals coming from Asia. “We are battling fentanyl, these chemicals, and we are doing it because we care. No human is foreign to us,” he said. “It really matters to us to be able to help with what is happening in the United States, the deaths from fentanyl. But also as we discussed today, it is not only an issue for the United States, because if we don’t confront this problem, this scourge, we are going to suffer it, too. So we have to act in a coordinated way.” Canada is being nudged by the U.S. and other allies to lead an international mission to Haiti to help solve the ongoing humanitarian and security crisis. Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry and the country’s Council of Ministers sent an urgent appeal Oct. 7 calling for “the immediate deployment of a specialized armed force, in sufficient quantity” to stop the crisis caused partly by the “criminal actions of armed gangs.” But more than three months later, no countries have stepped forward. Trudeau on Tuesday called the situation “heartbreaking.” Both he and Biden said they will work with the United Nations Security Council to assist the Caribbean nation but also expressed caution about direct intervention. “We need to make sure that the solutions are driven by the people of Haiti themselves,” Trudeau said.
US border cities strained ahead of expected migrant surge
Along the U.S. southern border, two cities — El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez in Mexico — prepared Sunday for a surge of as many as 5,000 new migrants a day as pandemic-era immigration restrictions expire this week, setting in motion plans for emergency housing, food and other essentials. On the Mexican side of the international border, only heaps of discarded clothes, shoes and backpacks remained Sunday morning on the banks of the Rio Grande River, where until a couple of days ago hundreds of people were lining up to turn themselves in to U.S. officials. One young man from Ecuador stood uncertain on the Mexican side; he asked two journalists if they knew anything about what would happen if he turned himself in without having a sponsor in the U.S., and then gingerly removed sneakers and socks and hopped across the low water. On the American side, by a small fence guarded by several Border Patrol vehicles, he joined a line of a dozen people who stood waiting with no U.S. officials in sight. El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego told The Associated Press on Sunday that the region, home to one of the busiest border crossings in the country, was coordinating housing and relocation efforts with groups and other cities, as well as calling on the state and federal government for humanitarian help. The area is preparing for an onslaught of new arrivals that could double their daily numbers once public health rule Title 42 ends on Wednesday. The rule has been used to deter more than 2.5 million migrants from crossing since March 2020. At a migrant shelter not far from the river in a poor Ciudad Juárez neighborhood, Carmen Aros, 31, knew little about U.S. policies. In fact, she said she’d heard the border might close on Dec. 21. She fled the cartel violence in the Mexican state of Zacatecas a month ago, right after her fifth daughter was born and her husband went missing. The Methodist pastor who runs the Buen Samaritano shelter put her on a list to be paroled into the United States and she waits every week to be called. “They told me there was asylum in Juarez, but in truth, I didn’t know much,” she said on the bunk bed she shared with the girls. “We got here … and now let’s see if the government of the United States can resolve our case.” At a vast shelter run by the Mexican government in a former Ciudad Juárez factory, dozens of migrants watched the World Cup final Sunday on two TVs while a visiting team of doctors from El Paso treated many who had come down with respiratory illness in the cold weather. Read: ‘Over 51,000 migrants die, thousands go missing in 8 years’ Constantly changing policies make it hard to plan, said Dylan Corbett, director of the Hope Border Institute, a Catholic organization helping migrants in both El Paso and Juarez. The group started the clinic two months ago. “You have a lot of pent-up pain,” Corbett said. “I’m afraid of what’s going to happen.” With government policies in disarray, “the majority of the work falls to faith communities to pick up the pieces and deal with the consequences.” Just a couple blocks across the border, sleet fell in El Paso as about 80 huddled migrants ate tacos that volunteers grilled up. Temperatures in the region were set to drop below freezing this week. “We’re going to keep giving them as much as we have,” said Veronica Castorena, who came out with her husband with tortillas and ground beef as well as blankets for those who will likely sleep on the streets. Jeff Petion, the owner of a trucking school in town, said this was his second time coming with employees to help migrants in the streets. “They’re out here, they’re cold, they’re hungry, so we wanted to let them know they’re not alone. But across the street from Petion, Kathy Countiss, a retiree, said she worries the new arrivals will get out of control in El Paso, draining resources and directing enforcement away from criminals to those claiming asylum. On Saturday, El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser issued an emergency declaration to access additional local and state resources for building shelters and other urgently needed aid. Samaniego, the county judge, said the order came one day after El Paso officials sent Texas Gov. Greg Abbott a letter requesting humanitarian assistance for the region, adding that the request was for resources to help tend to and relocate the newly arriving migrants, not additional security forces. Samaniego said he has received no response to the request and plans to issue a similar county-wide emergency declaration specifying the kind of help the area needs if the city does not get state aid soon. He urged the state and federal governments to provide the additional money, adding they had a strategy in place but were short in financial, essential and volunteer resources. El Paso officials have been coordinating with organizations to provide temporary housing for migrants while they are processed and given sponsors and relocate them to bigger cities where they can be flown or bused to their final destinations, Samaniego said. As of Wednesday, they will all join forces at a one-stop emergency command center, Samaniego said, similarly to their approach to the COVID-19 emergency. Abbott, El Paso city officials and U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday. Read: Swift return of irregular migrants to help promote legal migration: European Commissioner Abbott has committed billions of dollars to “Operation Lone Star,” an unprecedented border security effort that has included busing migrants to so-called sanctuary cities like New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., as well as a massive presence of state troopers and National Guard along the Texas-Mexico border. Additionally, the Republican Texas governor has pushed continued efforts to build former President Donald Trump’s wall using mostly private land along the border and crowdsourcing funds to help pay for it. El Paso was the fifth-busiest of the Border Patrol’s nine sectors along the Mexico border as recently as March and suddenly became the most popular by far in October, jumping ahead of Del Rio, Texas, which itself had replaced Texas’ Rio Grande Valley as the busiest corridor at lightning-speed late last year. It is unclear why El Paso has become such a powerful magnet in recent months, drawing especially high numbers of migrants since September. Recent illegal crossings in El Paso – at first largely dominated by Venezuelans and more recently by Nicaraguans – are reminiscent of a short period in 2019, when the westernmost reaches of Texas and eastern end of New Mexico were quickly overwhelmed with new arrivals from Cuba and Central America. El Paso had been a relatively sleepy area for illegal crossings for years. Meanwhile, a group of about 300 migrants began walking northward Saturday night from an area near the Mexico-Guatemala border before being stopped by Mexican authorities. Some wanted to arrive on Dec. 21, under the mistaken belief that the end of the measure would men they could no longer request asylum. Misinformation about U.S. immigration rules is often rife among migrants. The group was largely made up of Central Americans and Venezuelans who had crossed the southern border into Mexico and had waited in vain for transit or exit visas, migratory forms that might have allowed them to make it across Mexico to the U.S. border. “We want to get to the United States as soon as possible, before they close the border, that’s what we’re worried about,” said Venezuelan migrant Erick Martínez.
5 dead and suspect killed in Toronto area condo shooting
Five people were shot and killed in a condominium unit a Toronto suburb and the gunman was killed by police, authorities said late Sunday. Chief James MacSween of York regional police said one of his officers shot and killed the suspect at a condo in Vaughan, Ontario. “Horrendous scene,” MacSween said. “Six deceased. One of them is the subject. The other five are victims,” Read more: Shooting near Chicago school leaves 2 pupils dead and 2 injured He said a seventh person shot by the suspect was in the hospital and expected to survive. MacSheen said he didn’t have details on whether the shooter was a resident of the building. Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, which gets involved when there is a death or serious injury involving police, is investigating. Police did not identify the suspect or name the deceased. Police evacuated the building but MacSween said there is no further threat to the community. He said they hoped to have residents back in their units within hours. Read more: 9 killed in Walmart shooting in Virginia Mass shootings are rare in Canada and Toronto has long prided itself as being one of the safest big cities in the world. Canadians are nervous about anything that might indicate they are moving closer to U.S. experiences with gun violence.
Immigrants who are permanent residents can now enlist in Canadian army
As it struggles with low recruitment numbers, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) recently announced that immigrants who are permanent residents will now be able to enlist. According to the Royal United Services Institute of Nova Scotia, a non-profit organisation of retired and active duty members of the CAF, permanent residents were previously only qualified under the Skilled Military Foreign Applicant (SMFA) entry programme, which was “open for individuals... that would reduce training costs or fill a special need... such as a trained pilot or a doctor.” The decision was made five years after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) declared that they will change their “outdated recruitment process” to allow permanent citizens who have resided in Canada for ten years or more to apply, CTV News reports. With only roughly half the candidates it needs each month to reach its target of recruiting 5,900 new members this year, Canadian Armed Forces raised the alarm in September about a serious recruitment shortfall that was preventing it from filling thousands of open positions. Read: 2 dead after all-night shooting rampage in Vancouver, Canada The military has not confirmed whether the new action was taken to increase recruiting, but Christian Leuprecht, a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada, believes it makes sense. Leuprecht told CTV News: “In the past, the CAF has had the luxury of being able to limit itself to citizens because it has had enough applicants. This is no longer the case.” He argued that many other nations have been doing this for years, so hiring non-citizens is by no means a novel idea. Since Canadian citizenship is relatively simple to obtain for permanent residents, it’s not clear what significant incentive it would offer in the Canadian scenario, he said. “Countries such as France use military service as either a pathway to citizenship or an accelerated pathway to citizenship.” Read: Canada imposes new sanctions on Russia’s oil and gas sector, chemical industry Anita Anand, Canada’s Defence Minister, stated in March that the CAF must expand to fulfil international demands brought on by the Russia-Ukraine war.
Canada’s horrific knife rampage over as last suspect dies
The last suspect in a horrific stabbing spree that killed 10 and wounded 18 in western Canada is dead following his capture, and police hope the stunning end to a gripping hunt that stretched into a fourth day will bring some peace to victims’ families. One official said Myles Sanderson, 32, died from self-inflicted injuries Wednesday after police forced the stolen car he was driving off a highway in Saskatchewan. Other officials declined to discuss how he died, but expressed relief the final suspected killer was no longer on the loose. “This evening our province is breathing a collective sigh of relief,” Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore, commander of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Saskatchewan, said at a news conference Wednesday night. The other suspect, Sanderson’s 30-year-old brother, Damien Sanderson, was found dead Monday near the scene of the bloody knife attacks inside and around the James Smith Cree First Nation reserve early Sunday. Both men were residents of the Indigenous reserve. Blackmore said Myles Sanderson was cornered as police units responded to a report of a stolen vehicle being driven by a man armed with a knife. She said officers forced Sanderson’s vehicle off the road and into a ditch. He was detained and a knife was found inside the vehicle, she said. Sanderson went into medical distress while in custody, Blackmore said. She said CPR was attempted on him before an ambulance arrived, and emergency medical personnel then took him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. “All life saving measures that we are capable of were taken at that time,” she said. Blackmore gave no details on the cause of death. “I can’t speak to the specific manner of death,” she said. But an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, earlier said Sanderson died of self-inflicted injuries, without giving any further details. Video and photos from the scene showed a white SUV off to the side of the road with police cars all around. Air bags had deployed in the SUV. Some photos and video taken from a distance appeared to show Sanderson being frisked. An independent investigation by members of Saskatchewan’s Serious Incident Response Team went to the arrest site and will review Sanderson’s death and police conduct. The federal public safety minister, Marco Mendicino, also stressed that the events will be investigated. “You have questions. We have questions,” he told reporters during a Cabinet retreat in Vancouver, British Columbia, adding: “There will be two levels of police who will be investigating the circumstances of Myles Sanderson’s death.” His death came two days after the body of Damien Sanderson was found in a field near the scene of the knife rampage. Police are investigating whether Myles Sanderson killed his brother. Blackmore said that with both men dead, authorities will find it hard to figure out what set off the rampage. “Now that Myles is deceased we may never have an understanding of that motivation,” she said. But she said she hoped the families of the stabbing victims will find some comfort that neither of the Sandersons remains a threat. Read: Official: Suspect in Canada stab rampage died after arrest “I hope that this brings them closure. I hope they can rest easy knowing that Myles Sanderson is no longer a threat to them.” Some family members of the victims arrived at the scene Wednesday, including Brian Burns, whose wife and son were killed. “Now we can start to heal. The healing begins today, now,” he said. The stabbings raised questions of why Myles Sanderson — an ex-con with 59 convictions and a long history of shocking violence — was out on the streets in the first place. He was released by a parole board in February while serving a sentence of over four years on charges that included assault and robbery. But he had been wanted by police since May, apparently for violating the terms of his release, though the details were not immediately clear. His long and lurid rap sheet also showed that seven years ago, he attacked and stabbed one of the victims killed in Sunday’s stabbings, according to court records. Mendicino, the public safety minister, has said there will be an investigation into the parole board’s assessment of Sanderson. “I want to know the reasons behind the decision” to release him, Mendicino said. “I’m extremely concerned with what occurred here. A community has been left reeling.” The Saskatchewan Coroner’s Service said nine of those killed were from the James Smith Cree Nation: Thomas Burns, 23; Carol Burns, 46; Gregory Burns, 28; Lydia Gloria Burns, 61; Bonnie Burns, 48; Earl Burns, 66; Lana Head, 49; Christian Head, 54; and Robert Sanderson, 49. The other victim was from Weldon, 78-year-old Wesley Patterson. Authorities would not say if the victims might be related. Mark Arcand said his half sister Bonnie and her son Gregory were killed. “Her son was lying there already deceased. My sister went out and tried to help her son, and she was stabbed two times, and she died right beside him,” he said. “Right outside of her home she was killed by senseless acts. She was protecting her son. She was protecting three little boys. This is why she is a hero.” Arcand rushed to the reserve the morning of the rampage. After that, he said, “I woke up in the middle of the night just screaming and yelling. What I saw that day I can’t get out of my head.” As for what set off the violence, Arcand said: “We’re all looking for those same answers. We don’t know what happened. Maybe we’ll never know. That’s the hardest part of this.” Read: Stabbings in Canada kill 10, hurt 15; suspects at large Court documents said Sanderson attacked his in-laws Earl Burns and Joyce Burns in 2015, knifing Earl Burns repeatedly and wounding Joyce Burns. He later pleaded guilty to assault and threatening Earl Burns’ life. Many of Sanderson’s crimes were committed when he was intoxicated, according to court records. He told parole officials at one point that substance use made him out of his mind. Records showed he repeatedly violated court orders barring him from drinking or using drugs. Many of Canada’s Indigenous communities are plagued by drugs and alcohol. Myles Sanderson’s childhood was marked by violence, neglect and substance abuse, court records show. Sanderson, who is Indigenous and was raised on the Cree reserve, population 1,900, started drinking and smoking marijuana at around 12, and cocaine followed soon after. In 2017, he barged into his ex-girlfriend’s home, punched a hole in the door of a bathroom while his two children were hiding in a bathtub and threw a cement block at a vehicle parked outside, according to parole documents. He got into a fight a few days later at a store, threatening to kill an employee and burn down his parents’ home, documents said. That November he threatened an accomplice into robbing a fast-food restaurant by clubbing him with a gun and stomping on his head. He then stood watch during the holdup. In 2018, he stabbed two men with a fork while drinking and beat someone unconscious.