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Voice of America’s immigration news - April 16, 2024 - 18:00
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

Maui wildfire report details need for more equipment, mutual aid

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 16, 2024 - 17:45
honolulu — Additional equipment such as fire trucks or water tankers would have helped the Maui Fire Department fight the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century last August, the agency said on Tuesday. Wildfires were burning in several locations in Maui on August 8, 2023, stretching the department's limited resources. A severe windstorm made battling the flames difficult, and the blaze in Lahaina quickly tore through the historic town, killing 101 people and destroying thousands of homes. Crews used personal vehicles and even a moped to try to rescue residents from the flames, the department said. The need for additional firefighting equipment is one of 17 recommendations included in an after-action report produced for the department by the Western Fire Chiefs Association. The report details what went well when the department responded in Lahaina, Olinda and Kula on August 8, as well as improvements that can be made, Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Giesa said. Giesa and Fire Chief Brad Ventura discussed the report during a news conference in Kula on Tuesday morning and said the full document would be released later that day. "There were firefighters fighting the fires in Lahaina as they well knew their homes were burning down," Ventura said. "There were firefighters who rescued people and kept them in their apparatus for several hours as they continued to evacuate others." One off-duty safety officer repeatedly drove his personal moped into the fire zone to rescue people, according to Ventura, and other firefighters drove their own cars to the perimeter and ran and hiked inside to evacuate people. "While I'm incredibly proud of our department's response, I believe we can always improve our efforts," Ventura said. One of the recommendations in the report is that the department keep their relief fire equipment fully stocked, he said. Other recommendations include creating a statewide mutual aid program and a statewide evacuation plan for residents who speak different languages. Many of the factors that contributed to the disaster are already known: A windstorm battering the island had downed power lines and blown off parts of rooftops, and debris blocked roads throughout Lahaina. Hawaiian Electric has acknowledged that one of its power lines fell and caused a fire in Lahaina the morning of August 8, but the utility company denies the morning fire caused the flames that burned through the town later that day. The vast majority of the county's fire crews were already tied up fighting other wildfires on a different part of the island, their efforts sometimes hindered by a critical loss of water pressure after the winds knocked out electricity for the water pumps normally used to load firefighting tanks and reservoirs. County officials have acknowledged that a lack of backup power for critical pumps made it significantly harder for crews to battle the Upcountry fires. A smaller firefighting team was tasked with handling any outbreaks in Lahaina. That crew brought the morning fire under control and even declared it extinguished, then broke for lunch. By the time they returned, flames had erupted in the same area and were quickly moving into a major subdivision. "Our firefighters are well-trained, they are well-equipped. They are basically forced to make decisions every single day with the best information available," Giesa said of the crew leaving. "It's 20-20 hindsight, but our crews did everything that they normally do on fires." Cellphone and internet service were also down in the area at times, so it was difficult for some to call for help or to get information about the spreading fire — including any evacuation announcements. And emergency officials did not use Hawaii's extensive network of emergency sirens to warn Lahaina residents. The after-action report also recommends that officials undertake an analysis of the island's cellular system, Ventura said. The high winds made it hard at times for first responders to communicate on their radios, and 911 operators and emergency dispatchers were overwhelmed with hundreds of calls. Police and electricity crews tried to direct people away from roads that were partially or completely blocked by downed power lines. Meanwhile, people trying to flee burning neighborhoods packed the few thoroughfares leading in and out of town. The traffic jam left some trapped in their cars when the fire overtook them. Others who were close to the ocean jumped into the choppy waters to escape the flames. The fire department's after-action report comes one day before the Hawaii Attorney General is expected to release the first phase of a separate comprehensive investigation about the events before, during and after the fires. The reports could help officials understand exactly what happened when the wind-whipped fire overtook the historic Maui town of Lahaina, destroying roughly 3,000 properties and causing more than $5.5 billion in estimated damage, according to state officials. A similar after-action report was released by the Maui Police Department in February. It included 32 recommendations to improve the agency's disaster response, including that the department obtain better equipment and station a high-ranking officer in the island's communications center during emergencies.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 16, 2024 - 17:00
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

Geneva conference raises nearly $630 million for Ethiopia's humanitarian needs

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 16, 2024 - 16:44
Geneva — A high-level pledging conference in Geneva co-sponsored by Ethiopia, Britain and the United Nations received $628.9 million in pledges to provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance for millions of Ethiopians suffering from the ill effects of conflict and climate change. It was seeking $1 billion. “We understand this is just the beginning, and we hope for continued and increased support throughout the year,” said Joyce Msuya, U.N. assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs. Of the 21 countries, the U.S. was the biggest donor with $154 million, followed by the United Kingdom with $124.58 million and the European Union with $139 million. Last month’s U.N.-backed multibillion-dollar humanitarian response plan is less than 5% funded, far from enough to address the dire needs of 15.5 million people suffering from conflict and back-to-back climate shocks. Ambassador Shiferaw Teklemariam, commissioner of the Ethiopian Disaster Risk Management Commission, told journalists in Geneva on Tuesday that he hoped the pledging event would turn things around and donor nations would provide critical lifesaving support to Ethiopia. Failure to do so, he said, would have serious consequences. “We are coming out of the COVID pandemic. And, at the same time several disasters including epidemics, locusts, displacements, as we have already raised, is an issue which we have to address and that is why we are saying we really have to act before it is too late,” he said. The United Nations warns the emergency has been building up through cycles of droughts, floods and conflict and is likely to peak during the July-September lean season. The U.N. projects nearly 11 million people are likely to be food insecure, causing malnutrition levels to rise during the lean season, the period between harvests when food stocks are at their lowest. Andrew Mitchell, Britain’s deputy foreign secretary and minister for Development and Africa who recently visited Ethiopia, said he saw increasingly worrying signs of famine-like conditions emerging in conflict areas in the north. “What we found when we went up into Tigray and looked at the areas, where the marginalization and the difficulties were taking place. We found an increasing number of people, particularly children suffering from malnutrition, with the pipeline growing,” he said. “Because of climate change and particularly because of the displacement of people, we saw that the coping mechanisms of people were being seriously eroded and people were selling whatever they had,” he added. El Nino has exacerbated a drought in the northern highlands. U.N. agencies report malnutrition rates in conflict-ridden parts of Afar, Amhara, and Tigray are worsening, forcing millions of people to cope with less water, drier pastures and smaller harvests. Ramiz Alakbarov, U.N. assistant secretary-general, resident and humanitarian coordinator in Ethiopia, noted that the compounded effect of back-to-back climate shocks and conflicts “is quite devastating.” “On top of it, we have 4.5 million people who have left their homes,” he said, noting that Ethiopia “is among the top 10 countries with the highest level of internal displacement caused by all those elements.” At the same time, he said “conflicts have destroyed and damaged thousands of schools, health facilities, water systems and other community infrastructure in a number of regions and that adds to the difficulty.” Alakbarov said the U.N. was working with the Ethiopian government and international partners to strengthen national systems and civil society. He said humanitarian aid is focused on helping the most vulnerable people, which is a major challenge. “The challenges are working on improving the access, which is not fluid. Sometimes we are prevented in reaching people and people cannot reach us because of insecurity. … In many parts of Ethiopia that situation needs to improve,” he said. Conference organizers say Ethiopia will need at least $1 billion to cover critical aid needs for the next three months. Last year, USAID and the U.N.’s World Food Program temporarily suspended food aid to Ethiopia amid allegations that the food was being diverted. The Ethiopian government denied this. The agencies have since resumed food distributions following stringent reforms to prevent anything similar from occurring. “In December, after a six-month pause prompted by the discovery of widespread aid diversion, USAID resumed food assistance in Ethiopia,” Isobel Coleman, USAID deputy administrator told the conference. “We worked closely with the Ethiopian government and our partners, including the U.N., to reform the food aid system and protect against corruption,” she said. “Since December, we have reached more than 4 million people with food assistance across the country, prioritizing drought- and conflict-affected regions with the most acute need,” said Coleman, noting that the U.S. is providing Ethiopia with an additional $154 million contribution, bringing its total aid to $243 million this year. Alakbarov described the reform system as “one of the most detailed and most verified processes I have ever observed in my life.” “That includes 30 verification points including issuance of digital IDs, creation of community complaint mechanisms and all sorts of digital tracking of every bag of items,” he said. “The problem is that we do not have enough to distribute,” he said.

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Voice of America’s immigration news - April 16, 2024 - 16:00
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

House Republicans send Mayorkas impeachment articles to Senate, forcing trial

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 16, 2024 - 15:03
Washington — House impeachment managers walked two articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas across the Capitol to the Senate on Tuesday, forcing senators to convene a trial on the allegations that he has "willfully and systematically" refused to enforce immigration laws. While the Senate is obligated to hold a trial under the rules of impeachment once the charges are walked across the Capitol, the proceedings may not last long. Democrats are expected to try to dismiss or table the charges later this week before the full arguments get underway. Republicans have argued there should be a full trial. As Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana, signed the articles Monday in preparation for sending them across the Capitol, he said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, should convene a trial to "hold those who engineered this crisis to full account."  Schumer "is the only impediment to delivering accountability for the American people," Johnson said. "Pursuant to the Constitution, the House demands a trial." Majority Democrats have said the Republicans' case against Mayorkas doesn't rise to the "high crimes and misdemeanors" laid out as a bar for impeachment in the Constitution, and Schumer likely has enough votes to end the trial immediately if he decides to do so. The proceedings will not begin until Wednesday. Schumer has said he wants to "address this issue as expeditiously as possible." "Impeachment should never be used to settle a policy disagreement," Schumer said. "That would set a horrible precedent for the Congress." Senators will be sworn in Wednesday as jurors, turning the chamber into the court of impeachment. The Senate will then issue a summons to Mayorkas to inform him of the charges and ask for a written answer. He will not have to appear in the Senate at any point. What happens after that is unclear. Impeachment rules generally allow the Senate to decide how to proceed. The House narrowly voted in February to impeach Mayorkas for his handling of the border. House Republicans charged in two articles of impeachment that Mayorkas has not only refused to enforce existing law but also breached the public trust by lying to Congress and saying the border was secure. It was the first time in nearly 150 years a Cabinet secretary was impeached. Since then, Johnson has delayed sending the articles to the Senate for weeks while both chambers finished work on government funding legislation and took a two-week recess. Johnson had said he would send them to the Senate last week, but punted again after Senate Republicans said they wanted more time to prepare. South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the Senate's No. 2 Republican, has said the Senate needs to hold a full trial where it can examine the evidence against Mayorkas and come to a final conclusion. "This is an absolute debacle at the southern border," Thune said. "It is a national security crisis. There needs to be accountability." House impeachment managers — members who act as prosecutors and are appointed by the speaker — previewed some of their arguments at a hearing with Mayorkas on Tuesday morning on President Joe Biden's budget request for the department. House Homeland Security Chairman Mark Green, a Tennessee Republican who is one of the managers, told the secretary that he has a duty under the law to control and guard U.S. borders, and "during your three years as secretary, you have failed to fulfill this oath. You have refused to comply with the laws passed by Congress and you have breached the public trust." Mayorkas defended the department's efforts but said the nation's immigration system is "fundamentally broken, and only Congress can fix it." Other impeachment managers are Michael McCaul of Texas, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Ben Cline of Virginia, Andrew Garbarino of New York, Michael Guest of Mississippi, Harriet Hageman of Wyoming, Clay Higgins of Louisiana, Laurel Lee of Florida, August Pfluger of Texas and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. After the jurors are sworn in, Senate Republicans are likely to try to raise a series of objections if Schumer calls a vote to dismiss or table, an effort to both protest and delay the move. But ultimately they cannot block a dismissal if majority Democrats have the votes. Some Republicans have said they would like time to debate whether Mayorkas should be impeached, even though debate time is usually not included in impeachment proceedings. Negotiations were underway between the two parties over whether Schumer may allow that time and give senators in both parties a chance to discuss the impeachment before it is dismissed.  While most Republicans oppose quick dismissal, some have hinted they could vote with Democrats Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican representing Utah, said last week he wasn't sure what he would do if there were a move to dismiss the trial. "I think it's virtually certain that there will not be the conviction of someone when the constitutional test has not been met," he said. At the same time, Romney said he wants to at least express his view that "Mayorkas has done a terrible job, but he's following the direction of the president and has not met the constitutional test of a high crime or misdemeanor." In any case, Republicans would not be able to win the support of the two-thirds of the Senate that is needed to convict and remove Mayorkas from office. Democrats control the Senate, 51-49, and they appear to be united against the impeachment effort. Not a single House Democrat supported it, either. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat who is facing a tough reelection bid in Ohio, called the impeachment trial a "distraction," arguing that Republicans should instead support a bipartisan border compromise they scuttled earlier this year. "Instead of doing this impeachment — the first one in 100 years — why are we not doing a bipartisan border deal?" he said. If Democrats are not able to dismiss or table the articles, they could follow the precedent of several impeachment trials for federal judges over the last century and hold a vote to create a trial committee that would investigate the charges. While there is sufficient precedent for this approach, Democrats may prefer to end the process completely, especially in a presidential election year when immigration and border security are top issues. If the Senate were to proceed to an impeachment trial, it would be the third in five years. Democrats impeached former President Donald Trump twice, once over his dealings with Ukraine and a second time in the days after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. The Senate acquitted Trump both times. At a trial, senators would be forced to sit in their seats for the duration, maybe weeks, while the House impeachment managers and lawyers representing Mayorkas make their cases. The Senate is allowed to call witnesses, as well, if it so decides, and can ask questions of both sides after the opening arguments are finished.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 16, 2024 - 15:00
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

Saudi Arabia, Pakistan call for cease-fire in Gaza

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 16, 2024 - 14:51
ISLAMABAD — Saudi Arabia and Pakistan jointly called for a cease-fire in Gaza on Tuesday, with Saudis urging de-escalation in the region without mentioning Iran’s recent strike on Israel.  Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud led a high-level delegation to Islamabad Monday on a two-day visit to explore investment opportunities in Pakistan.  Addressing a joint press conference with Pakistani counterpart Ishaq Dar at the end of the short visit, Al-Saud urged a cessation of hostilities in Gaza between Israel and militant group Hamas, citing the mounting death toll of Palestinians.  “The situation is unacceptable. This is a complete failure of the international system. We must have a cease-fire now,” Al-Saud said.  “The reality is the international community is not living up to its responsibility. We must do more to end the killing,” the Saudi foreign minister added.  According to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, since October 7 of last year, Israeli military operations aimed at eliminating Hamas have killed more than 33,000 Palestinians. The war broke out after Hamas attacked Israel, killing nearly 1,200 civilians and taking around 250 hostages.  Pakistan’s foreign minister said he had discussed the war in Gaza with the visiting foreign minister.  “We both agree that what we need is immediate and unconditional cease-fire to take place,” Dar said.  Without naming Israel, Pakistan’s foreign minister declared the situation in Gaza a genocide and called for accountability.  Both the top diplomats urged unhindered delivery of aid to Palestinians.  According to ReliefWeb, a platform run by United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, six months into the war, 90 percent of Gazans are displaced with more than half-a-million on the verge of famine.  Neither official called for the release of the more than 100 Israeli hostages still in Hamas custody.  Silent on Iran  Addressing the regional fallout of the Gaza war, Riyadh’s top diplomat called for de-escalation, but refrained from calling out Iran for launching a massive drone and missile attack against Israel over the weekend.  “Look, we are already in an unstable region. The humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza is already inflaming the region. We do not need more conflict in our region,” Al-Saud said.    Long-time rivals Riyadh and Tehran restored diplomatic ties last year. The deal brokered by China ended a seven-year rift between the two Muslim countries.  “So, it is our position that de-escalation must be everyone’s priority. When there are differences, they should be resolved through dialogue, not through the use of force,” Al-Saud added.    The Iranian attack involving some 350 drones and missiles came in response to Israel’s alleged strike on Iran’s consulate in Syria on April 1. The strike killed two Iranian generals and five other officers of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to Tehran.  The Pakistani foreign minister also did not address Iran's attack on Israel.  He called, however, for the creation of a Palestinian state with pre-1967 borders, reiterating Pakistan’s diplomatic position on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.  “It is good for Israel, perhaps, also,” Dar said, mentioning the Jewish state only once in his remarks.  No investment deal  Pakistan presented a wide range of investment options to the visiting Saudi delegation, however, no deals were inked during the visit.  The delegation included Saudi ministers for water and agriculture, and industry and mineral resources, as well as the assistant minister for investment and senior officials from the Saudi Public Investment Fund, among others.   The Saudi visit follows one by a Pakistani delegation to Saudi Arabia earlier this month. During that visit, led by Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, both sides agreed to expedite “the first wave of investment package worth $5 billion which was discussed previously,” according to a Pakistani foreign ministry statement.  Pakistani state media recently reported Riyadh could invest $1 billion in Reko Diq — a copper and gold mine project — in the restive Balochistan province. The two sides, however, did not report any progress on that during Tuesday’s media briefing.  Al-Saud, whose team met with Pakistan’s president, prime minister and the powerful army chief, sounded optimistic about future investment in the cash-strapped South Asian country, saying his delegation was “impressed” with the presentations it received.  Critics, however, say Pakistan has boasted of billion-dollar pledges from Saudi Arabia in the past as well with little to show for it. 

Russia’s spy agency baselessly claims DEA and FBI enlist Mexican, Colombian drug cartels to fight for Ukraine

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 16, 2024 - 14:47
Contrary to Russia’s well-documented state-backed campaign to enlist criminals and foreigners to fight in Ukraine, Russian foreign intelligence provided no evidence to support its allegations against the United States.

Israel still weighing reaction to Iranian attack

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 16, 2024 - 14:35
The world is watching as Israel is still weighing its reaction to Iran’s air strike over the weekend. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy sees allied cooperation to protect Israel and is asking for the same help. Iraq’s leader is in Washington, and a look at the civil war in Sudan.

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Voice of America’s immigration news - April 16, 2024 - 14:00
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

Heavy rains and floods kill over 100 across Pakistan and Afghanistan

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 16, 2024 - 13:00
islamabad — Authorities in Pakistan and Afghanistan said Tuesday that intense unseasonal rainfall, lightning and floods across both neighboring countries had killed at least 100 people over the past several days. A spokesman for the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority said floods had caused human and material losses in 13 of the country’s 34 provinces. Janan Saiq reported that the disaster resulted in nearly 50 fatalities, dozens of injuries, and the loss of hundreds of livestock. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Afghanistan said Tuesday that the recent heavy rains and floods have affected more than 1,200 families and damaged almost 1,000 houses and at least 25,000 hectares of agricultural land. The statement noted that the U.N. and partners “are assessing the impact and related needs and providing assistance.” The Afghan meteorological agency has predicted that more heavy rainfall is expected in most provinces. Poverty-stricken Afghanistan has been reeling from the devastation of years of conflict and natural disasters, including floods, droughts and earthquakes. Last October, a series of earthquakes rattled western Herat and surrounding provinces, killing around 1,500 people. Devastation in Pakistan On Tuesday, Pakistan's federal and provincial authorities reported that over 50 people have died due to heavy rains, flash floods, lightning, storms and landslides. Most of the fatalities occurred in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan, and central Punjab province. Officials said that at least 42 people were killed in both provinces, and many more were injured. Southwestern Baluchistan province and areas elsewhere in Pakistan have reported the rest of the casualties and losses to houses, as well as agricultural land. The National Disaster Management Authority has advised emergency services to remain on high alert, as another spell of heavy rains is expected later this week. Officials have blamed climate change for the unusually heavy rains in Pakistan. Although the South Asian nation, with an estimated 250 million population, contributes less than 1% to global greenhouse gas emissions, it is listed as one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change. Pakistan experienced severe flooding in 2022 due to seasonal heavy monsoon rainfall and floods, resulting in at least 1,700 deaths, affecting 33 million people and submerging approximately one-third of the country. After visiting flood-hit areas in 2022, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Pakistanis were “facing a monsoon on steroids — the relentless impact of epochal levels of rain and flooding.” Guterres criticized a lack of climate action, despite rising global emissions of greenhouse gases. “Let’s stop sleepwalking towards the destruction of our planet by climate change. Today, it’s Pakistan. Tomorrow, it could be your country," he said.

Facing Republican revolt, House Speaker Johnson pushes ahead on US aid for Ukraine, Israel

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 16, 2024 - 13:00
Washington — Defiant and determined, House Speaker Mike Johnson pushed back Tuesday against mounting Republican anger over his proposed U.S. aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other allies, and rejected a call to step aside or risk a vote to oust him from office. "I am not resigning," Johnson said after a testy morning meeting of fellow House Republicans at the Capitol Johnson referred to himself as a "wartime speaker" of the House and indicated in his strongest self-defense yet he would press forward with a U.S. national security aid package, a situation that would force him to rely on Democrats to help pass it, over objections from his weakened majority. "We are simply here trying to do our jobs," Johnson said, calling the motion to oust him "absurd ... not helpful." Tuesday brought a definitive shift in tone from both the House Republicans and the speaker himself at a pivotal moment as the embattled leader tries, against the wishes of his majority, to marshal the votes needed to send the stalled national security aid for Israel, Ukraine and other overseas allies to passage. Johnson appeared emboldened by his meeting late last week with Donald Trump when the Republican former president threw him a political lifeline with a nod of support after their private talk at Trump's Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida. At his own press conference Tuesday, Johnson spoke of the importance of ensuring Trump, who is now at his criminal trial in New York, is re-elected to the White House. Johnson also spoke over the weekend with President Joe Biden as well as other congressional leaders about the emerging U.S. aid package, which the speaker plans to move in separate votes for each section — with bills for Ukraine, Israel, the Indo-Pacific region. He spoke about it with Biden again late Monday. It's a complicated approach that breaks apart the Senate's $95 billion aid package for separate votes, and then stitches it back together for the president's signature. The approach will require the speaker to cobble together bipartisan majorities with different factions of House Republicans and Democrats on each measure. Additionally, Johnson is preparing a fourth measure that would include various Republican-preferred national security priorities, such as a plan to seize some Russian assets in U.S. banks to help fund Ukraine and another to turn the economic aid for Ukraine into loans. The plan is not an automatic deal-braker for Democrats in the House and Senate, with leaders refraining from comment until they see the actual text of the measure, due out later Tuesday. House Republicans, however, were livid that Johnson will be leaving their top priority — efforts to impose more security at the U.S.-Mexico border — on the sidelines. Some predicted Johnson will not be able to push ahead with voting on the package this week, as planned.. Rep. Debbie Lesko, a Republican representing Arizona, called the morning meeting an "argument fest." She said Johnson was "most definitely'' losing support for the plan, but he seemed undeterred in trying to move forward despite "what the majority of the Conference" of Republicans wanted. When the speaker said the House Republicans' priority border security bill H.R. 2 would not be considered germane to the package, Rep. Chip Roy, a Republican representing Texas and a chief sponsor, said it's for the House to determine which provisions and amendments are relevant. "Things are very unresolved," Roy said. Roy said said Republicans want "to be united. They just have to be able to figure out how to do it." The speaker faces a threat of ouster from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican representing Georgia and the top Trump ally who has filed a motion to vacate the speaker from office in a snap vote — much the way Republicans ousted their former speaker, Kevin McCarthy, last fall. While Greene has not said if or when she will force the issue, and has not found much support for her plan after last year's turmoil over McCarthy's exit, she drew at least one key supporter Tuesday. Rep. Thomas Massie, a Republican representing Kentucky, rose in the meeting and suggested Johnson should step aside, pointing to the example of John Boehner, an even earlier House speaker who announced an early resignation in 2015 rather than risk a vote to oust him, according to Republicans in the room. Johnson did not respond, according to Republicans in the room, but told the lawmakers they have a "binary" choice" before them. The speaker explained they either try to pass the package as he is proposing or risk facing a discharge petition from Democrats that would force a vote on their preferred package — the Senate approved measure. But that would leave behind the extra Republican priorities.

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Voice of America’s immigration news - April 16, 2024 - 13:00
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

Nigeria’s Tinubu says country will no longer pay ransom to armed gangs

Voice of America’s immigration news - April 16, 2024 - 12:33
Abuja, Nigeria — Nigeria will no longer pay ransom to armed gangs that have plagued the country with kidnapping and extortion, President Bola Tinubu said in an opinion piece published Monday. He made the statement as activists commemorated the 10th anniversary of the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok. Acknowledging that “legitimate concerns” over kidnappings persist, Tinubu said Nigeria must address the root causes of poverty, inequality, and a lack of opportunity if it hopes to eradicate the threat posed by criminal gangs. In the Newsweek magazine piece, titled “Ten Years Since Chibok - Nigeria Will No Longer Pay the Price,” Tinubu said ransom payments to gangs only encouraged gangs to commit more crimes and said, “the extortion racket must be squeezed out of existence.”  The president said instead of ransom, perpetrators of the violence will receive the security services' counter actions.  He cited the recent rescue of 137 school students kidnapped in Kaduna state. Their abductors had demanded $600,000 in ransom, but the president said no ransom was paid.  Ndu Nwokolo, managing partner at Nextier, a public advisory firm with focus on security and economic issues, agreed that ransom payment emboldens perpetrators, but said Nigeria is not ready to take such a stance.  "The Nigerian state is obviously very weak to do those things it says it wants to do. If you're someone, you have your [relative] kidnapped and you know that the state security agents can't do anything,” Nwokolo said. “How come you were able to retrieve those numbers of kids without shooting a gun, and we know that those guys demanded ransom? The entire thing shows that there's no honesty, there's no transparency."  Tinubu said the government's response to the Chibok abduction in 2014 was slow.  But, the president said, Nigeria must recognize the changing nature of the threat. He said criminal gangs behind more recent kidnappings are primarily after cash rewards, unlike Boko Haram, which sought to impose Islamist rule.  In 2022 Tinubu’s predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, tried to criminalize ransom payments to kidnappers, but the decision was met with resistance from activists and the families of victims.   Security analyst Senator Iroegbu said lack of accountability from authorities is the main concern.  "There will not be ransoms in the first place if measures are on ground to prevent it,” Iroegbu said. “Why is it easy for kidnappers to kidnap Nigerians and keep them for long? Ten years after Chibok girls, why are the cases still rising? It's not trying to blame victims who are desperate to do everything they can to rescue their loved ones. For citizens, that may be their last resort."  Tinubu said Nigeria must ultimately address the triggers for insecurity, including poverty, inequality and lack of opportunity.  In the article, Tinubu also talked about his economic reforms. The Nigerian president said they were necessary to save public finances and encourage foreign investment.   Tinubu scrapped fuel subsidies for the public and floated the naira just days after assuming office last year. The decisions sent prices soaring and were widely criticized, but have not been reversed.   Tinubu said previous governments had failed to boost the economy, and 63 percent of Nigerians are multi-dimensionally poor.  Iroegbu said blaming predecessors will not solve Tinubu’s problems.  "This mentality of trying to blame past administrations, thinking you're better while you're not actually doing something different, needs to stop until there's a result that Nigerians can see and testify," Iroegbu said.  The Nigerian president ended his article by saying, “there will be no more ransoms paid to kidnappers nor towards policies which have trapped our people economically."

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Voice of America’s immigration news - April 16, 2024 - 12:00
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

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