Biden is on his heels amid a migrant surge at Mexico border, and other top stories in general news from March 21, 2021.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas laid blame on the Trump administration for the situation unfolding at the southern border on Sunday, as the government struggles to cope with an influx in arrivals of migrants and asylum seekers.
Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union, Mr Mayorkas said the government was racing to respond to the situation and to accommodate thousands of unaccompanied migrant children who have arrived at the US border.
However, he said that part of the difficulty in responding to the situation at the border was due to the Trump administration’s legacy, with the DHS chief asserting that the past leadership “tore down our systems and we have to rebuild them from scratch”.
As President Joe Biden contends with the situation at the border, his administration is celebrating having swept past its goal of administering 100 million coronavirusvaccine doses within his first 100 days in office.
As of Saturday, the CDC reported that at least 121 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine had been administered, with the government passing its goal roughly six weeks ahead of schedule.
Mr Biden has said he plans to announce new vaccination targets this upcoming week.
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Chantal Da Silva21 March 2021 08:48
Biden administration surges past vaccine goal
President Joe Biden’s administration has surged past its goal of seeing at least 100 million coronavirus vaccine doses administered within his first 100 days in office.
According to the CDC, more than 79 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with more than 43 million people fully vaccinated.
Chantal Da Silva21 March 2021 09:00
Biden to announce next vaccine goal
President Joe Biden is expected to announce his next vaccination goal this upcoming week.
Speaking on Thursday, the president noted that his administration would be meeting its goal to administer 100 million shots of the Covid-19 vaccine well ahead of its 100-day goal.
As of Saturday, the US had seen at least 121 million shots administered, according to the CDC.
Mr Biden suggested he does not plan to slow the pace of the vaccination programme, however, with the US leader asserting that “we need millions more to get vaccinated”.
“We’re going to beat this. We’re way ahead of schedule, but we’ve got a long way to go,” he said.
The president said he would outline his administration’s next target for vaccinations in the coming days.
“We will not stop until we beat this pandemic. Next week, I will announce our next goal to put shots in arms,” he said.
Chantal Da Silva21 March 2021 09:17
Biden administration ramps up family expulsions amid rise in arrivals at border
The Biden administration has reportedly started expelling migrant families to parts of Mexico far from where they were initially caught crossing the US border in an effort to circumvent one Mexican state’s policy against accepting the return of families with younger children.
Citing witnesses and immigration officials, Reuters said the government had begun stepping up its efforts to expel families, including by transporting some to different parts of the US for removal to get around a new policy from the Mexican state of Tamaulipas blocking the return of families with young kids.
Gloria Chavez, the US Border Patrol chief for the El Paso Sector, told the press agency that the El Paso sector had been receiving families from the Rio Grande Valley since early March.
She said the government’s priority was to expel the families to Mexico, but said the country could only take in a limited number of families from the area each day.
It comes as the Biden administration continues to face scrutiny over an increase in arrivals at the US border, with GOP detractors blaming the government’s decision to end hardline immigration policies introduced under former President Donald Trump for the rise.
Chantal Da Silva21 March 2021 09:52
Biden admin to spend $86m on hotel rooms to house migrant families, reports says
The Biden administration has reportedly awarded an $86 million contract for hotel rooms near the Mexican border to be used as housing for migrant families.
According to Axios, the government has signed on to a six-month contract for the hotel housing, but that could be extended.
The hotels will be near high-traffic border areas, including Texas and Arizona, the news outlet reported.
Read more on the development:
Chantal Da Silva21 March 2021 10:23
Russia’s ambassador to the US back in Moscow to discuss worsening relations
Russia’s ambassador to the US reportedly arrived in Moscow on Sunday for talks on how to address the shift in relations between the US and Mexico after US President Joe Biden branded Russian President Vladimir Putin a killer.
According to Russian news agency TASS, Anatoly Antonov arrived back in the country for urgent talks days after the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that it would be recalling the ambassador to discuss the growing tensions.
It comes after Mr Biden said during an ABC interview that he saw Mr Putin as a killer who would “pay a price” for alleged US election interference, a claim Moscow has denied.
Mr Putin hit back at Mr Biden, suggesting, “he who said it, did it”, as he offered to have an online discussion with his US counterpart.
Chantal Da Silva21 March 2021 10:30
Biden admin faces criticism after restricting press access to border facilities
The Biden administration is facing criticism after restricting press access to facilities at the US’s border with Mexico amid a rise in arrivals of migrants and asylum seekers.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas travelled to the border on Friday with senators from across the aisle.
However, Homeland Security barred journalists from joining the trip, citing “privacy and Covid-19 precautions”.
Read on to see how some journalists and lawmakers responded to the decision:
Chantal Da Silva21 March 2021 10:43
Chris Murphy says press should not have ‘unfettered’ access to border facilities
Democratic Sen Chris Murphy of Connecticut has defended the Biden administration’s decision to restrict press access to facilities at the southern border, asserting that the media should not have “unfettered” access to the sites.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Mr Murphy, who joined a trip to the border led by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Friday along with fellow lawmakers from across the aisle, which saw press members blocked due to “privacy and Covid-19” concerns, said he believed press should only have “some access” to facilities along the border.
“I think press should have some access, yes. But not unfettered,” he said. “Enough for accurate reporting on conditions (which are challenging but improving), but not so much to disrupt the already tumultuous lives of these children,” he said, referring to the unaccompanied children being held at facilities along the border.
In earlier tweets, Mr Murphy also detailed his own experience of the border visit, asserting that it left him fighting back tears.
“In a corner, I fought back tears as a 13 yr old girl sobbbed [sic] uncontrollably explaining thru [sic] a translator how terrified she was, having been separated from her grandmother and without her parents,” he tweeted.
“The Biden Administration is trying their best to uphold the rule of law with humanity. They have a ton of work ahead to clean up the mess Trump left them, but their intentions are true,” he said.
“The desperation these kids and families are fleeing is hard to describe,” he wrote. “The memory of that 13 yr old girl will be [with] me forever. So long as conditions are abysmal in places south, people will find a way to get here, no matter how high the wall is or how many border agents.”
Chantal Da Silva21 March 2021 11:19
US to hold Middle East naval exercise amid Iran tensions
The US Navy is reportedly planning to hold a major naval exercise along with Japan, Belgium and France in the middle East in the midst of tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme.
According to the Associated Press, drills will be carried out in the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman as part of the Group Arabian Sea Warfare Exercise.
Among the ships involved will be the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island, French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, Belgium’s frigate HNLMS Leopold I and Japanese destroyed JS Ariake.
It comes amid high tensions as the US and Iran remain locked in a standoff over which country should make the first move to restore the 2015 international nuclear deal.
Iran has abandoned the limits enforced by the deal after former President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal.
Tensions between the two countries have only been worsened as militias in Iraq, which are believed to be backed by Iran, have continued to target American interests.
President Joe Biden recently an air strike in Syria in retaliation. Plans for a second strike were called off after the US leader received a last-minute warning that a woman and children were at the target site.
Chantal Da Silva21 March 2021 11:40
US defense secretary arrives in Kabul in first visit to Afghanistan
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has arrived in Kabul for his first trip to Afghanistan as the head of the Pentagon, state media has reported.
According to Reuters, state media reported that Mr Austin arrived in Kabul from India on Sunday morning.
He was expected to meet with senior government officials, including with President Ashraf Ghani.
It comes as President Joe Biden ha said it will be “tough” for the US to meet a May deadline to withdraw troops from the country.
However, he said that if that if his administration is forced to extend the deadline, which was outlined in an agreement between former President Donald Trump’s administration and the Taliban, it will not be by a “lot longer”.
Still, the Taliban has warned that there could be consequences if the US fails to meet the deadline, though it is not clear what those consequences might be.
Chantal Da Silva21 March 2021 12:00