Thousands flee escalating violence in Myanmar

from August 29, 2017 at 02:57AM http://bit.ly/2gpdmHR

Thousands are fleeing Rakhine State in Myanmar as ethnic violence there reaches new levels of ferocity.

Amid claims by Human Rights Watch that many of their townships are on fire, Rohingya muslims are pouring into Bangladesh, which has said no new refugees will be allowed in. There are reports that some refugees between the two borders are being pushed back by Bangladeshi security forces.

Laila Begum, a Rohingya refugee, said:

“They took my husband away from our house and killed him. Villagers told me. They killed my husband and my son-in-law.”

It is difficult to determine exactly what is happening in the affected area, as police officers have been preventing journalists from travelling there. The Human Rights Watch claims are based on satellite imaging.

Rohingya are denied citizenship in Myanmar and classed as illegal immigrants, despite a heritage there that can go back hundreds of years.

Attacks on security posts

The latest violence appears to have been triggered by a series of coordinated attacks on police check points and an army base carried out by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a group previously known as Harakah al-Yaqin.

Injured policemen say that they were attacked with sticks, swords and knives. One policeman travelling to get treatment by boat said that he was attacked with a machete as he went to reload his gun.

Similar attacks were mounted last October, prompting brutal military reprisals that generated international criticism.

Buddhist population displaced

Buddhists, too, are being displaced, many fleeing Maungdaw, where the worst of the fighting seems to be taking place.

Many have turned to monasteries for shelter. One Buddhist Maungdaw resident, Hla Nu Sein, explained:

“I thought I was going to die while the clashes were happening. I couldn’t run fast as my knee isn’t good. There are some elders still left in the village. All we can do is bring our children here.”

The fleeing fear that the insurgent group behind last Friday’s attacks will strike again.

Read more at: News | Euronews RSS http://bit.ly/1SYzMbo

Rohingya: Even babies were not spared by the army

from August 27, 2017 at 01:45PM http://bit.ly/2wKWR00

The Myanmar army has been accused of carrying out extrajudicial killings in the restive Rakhine region, with residents and activists accusing soldiers of shooting indiscriminately at unarmed Rohingya men, women and children and carrying out arson attacks.

Authorities in Myanmar say close to 100 people have been killed since Friday when armed men, reportedly from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), launched a pre-dawn raid on police outposts in the restive region.

UPFRONT: Aung San Suu Kyi: Turning her back on Rohingya? (12:15)

The army has declared a war against “terrorism”, encircling the townships of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung, home to around 800,000 people, and imposed a curfew from 6pm to 6am.

However, advocates for the Rohingya have given a much higher death toll, telling Al Jazeera that at least 800 of the Muslim minority, including dozens of women and children, have been killed in the violence.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the figures. 

Aziz Khan, a Maungdaw resident, said the army stormed his village early on Friday and began “firing indiscriminately at people’s cars and homes.

“Government forces and the border guard police killed at least 11 people in my village. When they arrived they started shooting at everything that moved. Some soldiers then carried out arson attacks.

“Women and children were also among the dead,” he said. “Even a baby wasn’t spared.”

OPINION: Myanmar needs to get serious about peace

Ro Nay San Lwin, a Rohingya activist and blogger based in Europe, said anywhere between 5,000 -10,000 people had been driven from their homes by the recent offensive.

Using a network of activists on the ground to document the conflict, San Lwin said mosques and madrasahs (religious Islamic institutions) had been burned to the ground, with thousands of Muslims stranded without food and shelter.

“My own uncles were forced to flee by the government and the military,” he told Al Jazeera.

“There has been no help from the government, instead people’s homes have been destroyed and their goods looted.

“Without food, shelter and protection, they don’t know when we’ll be killed.”

Speaking to Al Jazeera under a pseudonym, Myint Lwin, a resident of Buthidaung township said that “fear had gripped every household.

“People have been sharing videos of the killings on Whatsapp. Videos of women and children being killed. Innocent men being shot dead. You can’t begin to imagine how scared we are.

“Nobody wants to leave their home. Muslims are scared to go anywhere, hospitals, markets, anywhere. It’s a very dangerous situation.”

Videos uploaded on social media showed dozens of men, women and children fleeing with only the clothes on their backs while seeking refuge in rice and paddy fields.

OPINION: Regional actors should take a stand against Myanmar

Security has deteriorated sharply in Rakhine since Aung San Suu Kyi’s government sent thousands of troops into Rohingya villages and hamlets last October after nine policemen were killed by suspected Rohingya militia in attacks on border posts.

The security forces’ offensive has been beset by allegations of arson, killings and rape; and forced more than 87,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh.

Matthew Smith, chief executive officer at Fortify Rights, a human rights group, said with the “authorities treating all Rohingya as combatants”, the government’s account of the violence would be “dubious at best”.

“The government has refused to cooperate with a UN fact-finding Mission on Rakhine and there are serious allegations of the military attacking unarmed civilians,” he told Al Jazeera on Sunday.

“A lot of people are on the run and they need serious protection and the authorities have not made it easy to help them.”

Rakhine state is home to most of Myanmar’s 1.1 million Rohingya, who live largely in abject poverty and face widespread discrimination by the Buddhist majority.

The minority are widely reviled as illegal migrants from Bangladesh, despite having lived in the area for generations.    

They have been rendered stateless by the government and the UN believes the army’s crackdown may amount to ethnic cleansing – a charge the government of Aung San Suu Kyi vehemently denies. 

The Rohingya: Silent Abuse (45:33)

Source: Al Jazeera News

Read more at: Al Jazeera English http://bit.ly/1FQbY1B

Tropical storm Harvey: death toll rises as ‘historic’ flooding hits Houston

from August 27, 2017 at 06:18PM http://bit.ly/2vuM2Le

Fourth-largest city in the US could see 50in of rain as rescue workers struggle to keep up with calls for help and flood defences are tested to the limit

Tropical Storm Harvey has continued to batter Texas, hurling record rainfall at the nation’s fourth-largest city, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes and testing flood control systems to their limits.

Related: Ex-hurricane Harvey: Houston flooded as catastrophe unfolds in Texas – latest updates

Continue reading…

Read more at: World news | The Guardian http://bit.ly/2pJ7Aoj

‘Victory’: Thousands protest far right in San Francisco

from August 26, 2017 at 08:09PM http://bit.ly/2w8oPku

More than a thousand people have protested a right-wing group in the US city of San Francisco, condemning white supremacy and bigotry.

The protesters showed up to Alamo Square Park on Saturday despite the cancellation of a rally and press conference by the right-wing Patriot Prayer group after officials walled off the area.

“Right now, this is victory,” protester Benjamin Sierra told The Associated Press.

“They did not have enough gumption to do what they set out to do,” he said.

On Friday, Joey Gibson, the leader of Patriot Prayer, cancelled the so-called Freedom Rally over fears of a “huge riot”.

He said the group would instead hold a press conference on Saturday in Alamo Square Park.

‘Adopt a Nazi’: How groups are countering neo-Nazis and white supremacists 

But after police erected a fence around the park earlier in the day on Saturday to screen people as they entered, Gibson announced the event would be held indoors at a different location.

According to local media, Gibson eventually showed up to Crissy Field, the site of the originally scheduled rally, with about two dozen supporters.

They were eventually confronted by counterprotesters before leaving the area.

The Patriot Prayer leader has recently denounced white supremacy, but the group’s rallies in the past have attracted white supremacists, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members and others from a number of right-wing organisations, leading to violent confrontations with counterprotesters. 

Many activists and rights groups have said Patriot Prayer seeks to provoke chaos and violence, especially because it often chooses to hold areas in more liberal communities.

‘Whose streets? Our streets’

A number of politicians, both at the local and national level, repeatedly voiced concerns that the previously scheduled event by the Patriot Prayer group would lead to clashes with counterprotesters.

The San Francisco Bay Area is considered a cradle for freedom of speech, and police in San Francisco have traditionally given demonstrators a wide berth.

However, after a man with links to a white supremacist group rammed his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, killing a 32-year-old woman in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month, San Francisco police and civil leaders began to rethink their response to protests.

Gibson criticised the city’s move to wall off the park as an attempt to silence his group’s message.

Campuses, cities reject far right after Charlottesville

But the city’s mayor, Ed Lee, defended the decision, saying that “if people want to have a stage in San Francisco, they better have a message that contributes to people’s lives rather than find ways to hurt them”.

Outside Alamo Square Park, protesters chanted, “Whose streets? Our streets” as they waved signs denouncing hate and bigotry.

Thousands of others took to the streets in the city’s Castro neighbourhood under the banner ‘United Against Hate’. 

“San Francisco as a whole, we are a liberal city and this is not a place for hate or any sort of bigotry of any kind,” protester Bianca Harris said.

“I think it’s a really powerful message that we’re sending to people who come here to try to spew messages of hate that it’s just not welcome in this city.”

Online, many used #NoHateInTheBay, #SFrally and #UniteAgainstHate to condemn white supremacy and racism.

Source: Al Jazeera News

Read more at: Al Jazeera English http://bit.ly/1FQbY1B

Thousands of Rohingya flee Myanmar for Bangladesh

from August 23, 2017 at 02:06PM http://bit.ly/2wINEoG

Thousands of Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh since Myanmar announced a military build-up in violence-hit Rakhine state earlier this month, according to community leaders.

Rohingya leaders in Bangladesh told AFP news agency on Wednesday that at least 3,500 had arrived in recent weeks, piling pressure onto already overcrowded refugee camps in the Cox’s Bazaar area near the Naf river that divides the two countries.

That is despite stepped-up patrols by Bangladeshi border and coast guards, who said this week they had pushed back a boat carrying 31 Rohingya, including children.

Myanmar offensive: Rohingya Muslims caught in the crossfire

“In the Balukhali camp alone, some 3,000 Rohingya arrived from their villages in Rakhine,” said Abdul Khaleq, referring to the camp nearest the river, where most of the migrants stay when they first arrive.

Kamal Hossain, a Rohingya elder in another, camp, said nearly 700 families had arrived in Bangladesh in the past 11 days.

Many were sleeping in the open because there was no more space in the camps, he said.

On August 12, authorities in Myanmar sent hundreds of troops into Rakhine in to boost security, drawing criticism from UN special rapporteur Yanghee Lee, who warned the deployment was “cause for major concern”.  

Rakhine, in northern Myanmar, has been gripped by violence since October, when armed men attacked police posts.

Following the incident, Myanmar authorities have reportedly cracked down on the Rohingya community, which the United Nations believes may amount to ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority group.  

Deen Mohammad, another Rohingya man who entered Bangladesh on August 13, said Muslim villagers in Rakhine were not allowed to visit neighbours without prior permission from the army.

The 45-year-old farmer said he left home with his family after the army killed his 23-year-old son for travelling to a nearby village.

Myanmar border police patrol Buthidaung, an area in northern Rakhine state, near the border with Bangladesh [Reuters File] 

UN report of atrocities

Details of other alleged abuse last year have been recorded by the UN, whose special representative, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, presented his report on Wednesday to President Htin Kyaw in the Myanmar capital of Naypyidaw. 

The UN said it had documented mass gang rape, killings, including of babies and children, brutal beatings and disappearances. Rohingya representatives have said approximately 400 people were slain during the security forces’ operation in October.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar has long faced criticism for its treatment of the more than one million Rohingya who live in Rakhine, who are seen as interlopers from Bangladesh, and are denied citizenship and access to basic rights.

Bangladesh estimates that nearly 400,000 Rohingya refugees are living in squalid refugee camps and makeshift settlements in Cox’s Bazar.

The Rohingya: Silent Abuse

They included more than 70,000 who arrived in the months that followed the crisis in October, many bringing stories of systematic rape, murder and arson at the hands of Myanmar soldiers.

But Rohingya are also increasingly unwelcome in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, where police often blame them for crimes such as drug trafficking.

Dhaka has floated the idea of relocating tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees to a remote, flood-prone island off its coast, despite opposition from rights groups.

On Wednesday, the UN refugee agency said it was “deeply concerned” by the reports of a boat carrying Rohingya being turned back.

“UNHCR is deeply concerned by this incident, which as the coast guard reported, involved women and children who said they were fleeing violence,” an agency spokesman told AFP.

Source: News agencies

Read more at: Al Jazeera English http://bit.ly/1FQbY1B

UN issues rare warning over ‘alarming’ racism in US

from August 23, 2017 at 05:18PM http://bit.ly/2wIiXjD

UN human rights experts have called on the United States and its leadership to “unequivocally and unconditionally” condemn racist speech and crimes, warning that a failure to do so could fuel further violent incidents. 

THE LISTENING POST – Charlottesville, Trump and the media

The rare “early warning and urgent action” statement, which is reserved for serious situations, was issued by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on Wednesday.

It stopped short of criticising US President Donald Trump by name.

The US president has been under constant condemnation after he blamed “both sides” for violence that broke out at a rally, organised by neo-Nazis and white supremacists, in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month. 

At the rally, 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed after James Alex Fields, a man linked to white supremacists, rammed his car into a group of anti-racist protesters.

CERD said it was “disturbed by the failure at the highest political level” of the US to reject racist demonstrations.

That failure could lead to “fuelling the proliferation of racist discourse and incidents” in the United States, the statement said.

“We are alarmed by the racist demonstrations, with overtly racist slogans, chants and salutes by white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan, promoting white supremacy and inciting racial discrimination and hatred,” Anastasia Crickley, who chairs the UN panel, added.

The UN experts said the alleged perpetrators of the violence should be prosecuted and, if convicted, punished with sanctions commensurate with the gravity of the crime.

OPINION: Charlottesville is America everywhere

US officials should also “address the root causes of the proliferation of such racist manifestations, and thoroughly investigate the phenomenon of racial discrimination “, the experts said.

They added that officials should ensure that freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly “are not exercised with the aim of destroying or denying the rights and freedoms of others”.

The US is among 177 countries to have ratified the UN pact against racial discrimination. CERD monitors compliance and reviews countries’ records every few years.

Six in 10 Americans have said they disapprove of the way Trump has responded to the events in Charlottesville [Scott Eisen/Getty Images]

Prior to the UN warning, Trump again defended his response to the violence in Charlottesville at a rally in Arizona on Tuesday. 

“I didn’t say I love you because you’re black, or I love you because you’re white,” Trump said. “I love all the people of our country.”

He accused a “very dishonest media” of mischaracterising his response to the protest.

In a toned-down speech on Wednesday in Nevada, the US president called for a “new unity”, saying that it was “time to heal the wounds that have divided” the US.

Resignations

Most Americans disapprove of Trump’s response to Charlottesville and believe he is dividing the country, according to a new poll by Quinnipiac University.

Six in 10 Americans said they rejected the way Trump has handled race relations, and by a similar margin said they disapproved of Trump’s handling of the events in Charlottesville.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, a science envoy to the US State Department resigned over Trump’s response to Charlottesville.

READ MORE: Campuses, cities reject far right after Charlottesville

Daniel Kammen, an expert on renewable energy who was appointed as a science envoy under former President Barack Obama, announced his departure in an impassioned letter that contained a hidden message that spelled out ‘impeach’ using the first letter of each paragraph.

“My decision to resign is in response to your attacks on core values of the United States,” Kammen wrote in a letter he shared on Twitter. “Your failure to condemn white supremacists and neo-Nazis has domestic and international ramifications.”

Kammen’s resignation follows that of several actors and prominent arts figures from an advisory committee to the White House. The group, which included actor Kal Penn, photographer Chuck Close and author Jhumpa Lahiri, said they could not “sit idly by … without speaking out against” Trump’s words and actions.

The president was also forced to shut down four major business advisory councils over tensions with the business community following the events in Charlottesville.

LISTENING POST: Is Donald Trump giving a voice to white supremacists?

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

Read more at: Al Jazeera English http://bit.ly/1FQbY1B

Party poopers: rightwing rally cancelled in San Francisco amid dog poo protest

from August 25, 2017 at 04:48PM http://bit.ly/2izW3of

Patriot Prayer cancels Saturday event, citing ‘safety concerns’ and ‘smear campaign’ that branded group as white supremacists

Patriot Prayer, the rightwing protest group that planned to rally in San Francisco on Saturday, has cancelled its event, citing safety concerns and a “smear campaign” by elected officials who called them “white supremacists”.

Related: Turd Reich: San Francisco dog owners lay minefield of poo for rightwing rally

Continue reading…

Read more at: World news | The Guardian http://bit.ly/2pJ7Aoj

Myanmar troops open fire on civilians fleeing attacks

from August 26, 2017 at 08:51AM http://bit.ly/2wRGqOH

Thousands of Rohingya Muslims escaping violence in Myanmar were trapped at the border with Bangladesh on Saturday, as fresh fighting erupted in restive Rakhine state.

Clashes erupted on Friday between security forces and Rohingya rebels leaving at least 92 people dead, including 12 soldiers, forcing civilians to flee to the Bangladeshi border. 

“Many Rohingya people are trying to enter the country, but we have a zero tolerance policy – no one will be allowed,” Mohammad Ali Hossain, deputy commissioner of Cox’s Bazar district near the Myanmar border, told Reuters news agency.

Later on Saturday, Mohammad Nur – a Rohingya leader at an unregistered camp in Cox’s Bazar – told the AP news agency by phone he heard about 100,000 Rohingya had gathered along the border to try to enter Bangladesh. That figure could not be confirmed.

Gunfire rang out across the northern part of Rakhine state on Saturday as clashes between the two sides continued.

WATCH: Rohingya – the silent abuse

Bangladeshi officials regularly advocate a tough approach to refugees in official interviews, but typically end up letting them through.

An AFP reporter at the scene said hundreds of Rohingya made it across the porous border early on Saturday when border patrols were relaxed because of heavy rain, with some swimming across the Naf river.

An emergency ward doctor said two Rohingya men who had been shot in Myanmar entered Bangladesh and were taken to a hospital.

“One of them, aged 25, died hours after he was admitted here,” the doctor said on condition of anonymity.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees are already in Bangladesh and 87,000 have arrived since October 2016, after an attack by rebels killed nine security forces and resulted in a major crackdown in Rakhine state. 

Bangladeshi officials regularly advocate a tough approach to refugees in official interviews [Sam Jahan/AFP/Getty Images]

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, “strongly condemned” Friday’s “brutal attacks by terrorists on security forces in Rakhine state”.

“I would like to commend the members of the police and security forces who have acted with great courage in the face of many challenges,” Suu Kyi said.

The government said it had evacuated officials, teachers, and hundreds of non-Rohingya villagers to army bases and police stations.

The focal point of Friday’s unrest was Rathedaung township. The area has seen a heavy build-up of troops in recent weeks, with reports filtering out of killings by shadowy groups, army-blockaded villages, and abuses.

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) claimed responsibility for Friday’s attacks in a Twitter post but did not mention casualty figures or how many fighters were involved.

ARSA, accusing the Myanmar forces of killings and rape, said on Friday it was “taking defensive actions” in more than 25 different locations.

READ MORE: Commission urges Myanmar to end Rohingya restrictions

The government has declared the group a “terrorist” organisation.

Observers worry the latest attacks will spark an even more aggressive army response and trigger communal clashes between Muslims and Buddhist ethnic Rakhines.

“25 Aug attack in N Rakine utmost concern! Violence must stop in Rakhine. Heartfelt sorrow 4 deaths. Beg all sides 2 take restraint! Everyone!” Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said on Twitter.

The Rohingya Muslims are denied citizenship in Myanmar and are classified as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, despite claiming roots in the region that go back centuries.

About 1.1 million Rohingya live in Myanmar.

The mistreatment of the Rohingya Muslims, often described as the world’s most persecuted minority, has emerged as Myanmar’s most contentious human rights issue as it makes a transition from decades of military rule.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

Read more at: Al Jazeera English http://bit.ly/1FQbY1B

Israel plans most settlement homes since 1992: minister

from June 11, 2017 at 09:42AM http://bit.ly/2t0LsX3

Israel has so far this year advanced its highest number of settlement projects since 1992, the defence minister said, despite warnings such plans make a two-state solution impossible.

Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman made the comments on Sunday as Israel’s government faced mounting pressure from leaders of the settlement movement, who wield heavy influence in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition.

Netanyahu has found himself seeking to balance the competing demands of the settlers and US President Donald Trump, who has asked him to hold back on such projects for now as he seeks a way to restart negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

Lieberman told journalists and ministers at the start of a cabinet meeting that, so far this year, plans had been advanced for 8,345 homes in the occupied West Bank, including 3,066 slated for “immediate construction”.


READ MORE: 50 years on: How Israel devoured the rest of Palestine


Settlement projects pass through a list of planning stages before final approval.

“The numbers for the first half of 2017 are the highest since 1992,” Lieberman said.

The figures were similar to those published by settlement watchdog Peace Now last week.

Counting plans and tenders, Peace Now said 7,721 units had been advanced this year, almost triple the number for all of 2016, which amounted to 2,699.

Peace Now could not immediately say whether it agreed that this year’s figures were the highest since 1992, AFP news agency reported.

Last week alone, Israel advanced plans for more than 3,000 settlement homes.

While the majority of those are for pre-existing homes, some will be built in the first new official settlement in some 25 years, Peace Now said.

Palestine and Israel: One state, or two?

Last month, Trump visited Israel and Palestine, meeting both Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas as he seeks what he calls the “ultimate deal”.

But he has given no details about how he plans to restart talks, and there is deep scepticism over whether such an effort would have any chance of success.

Settlements are seen as illegal under international law and major stumbling blocks to a solution as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state in a two-state settlement.

More than 600,000 Israeli settlers now live in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, alongside around 2.9 million Palestinians, which critics say makes a two-state agreement highly unlikely.

Source: News agencies

Read more at: Al Jazeera English http://bit.ly/1FQbY1B

Trump seeks to reopen cases of hundreds reprieved from deportation

from June 9, 2017 at 04:39AM http://bit.ly/2rb3Rkh

The Trump administration has moved to reopen the cases of hundreds of undocumented people who were reprieved from deportation under Barack Obama, according to government data, court documents and interviews with immigration lawyers.

Donald Trump signaled in January that he planned to dramatically widen the net of undocumented immigrants targeted for deportation, but his administration has not publicized efforts to reopen immigration cases. News of the administration’s effort represents one of the first concrete examples of the crackdown and is likely to stir fears among tens of thousands of undocumented people who thought they were safe from deportation.

Cases were reopened during the Obama administration, but generally only if a person had committed a serious crime, attorneys said. The Trump administration has sharply increased the number of cases it is asking the courts to reopen, and its targets appear to include at least some people who have not committed any crimes since their cases were closed.

Between 1 March and 31 May, prosecutors moved to reopen 1,329 cases, according to an analysis of data from the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR). The Obama administration filed 430 similar motions in the same period in 2016.

Jennifer Elzea, a spokeswoman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), confirmed the agency was now filing motions to reopen cases where illegal immigrants had “since been arrested for or convicted of a crime”.

It is not possible to tell from the EOIR data how many of the cases the Trump administration is seeking to reopen involve immigrants who committed crimes after their cases were closed. Attorneys said some of the cases were being reopened because immigrants had been arrested for serious crimes, but said they were also seeing cases involving people who had not committed crimes or who were cited for minor violations such as traffic tickets.

“This is a sea change,” said the attorney David Leopold, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “Before, if someone did something after the case was closed out that showed that person was a threat, then it would be reopened. Now they are opening cases just because they want to deport people.”

Elzea said the agency reviewed cases “to see if the basis for prosecutorial discretion is still appropriate”.

In 2011, Obama initiated a policy change, pulling back from deporting migrants who had formed deep ties in the US and whom the government considered no threat to public safety. Instead, the administration would prioritize undocumented migrants who had committed serious crimes.

Between January 2012 and Trump’s inauguration on 20 January 2017, the government shelved about 81,000 cases, according to Reuters analysis. These so-called “administrative closures” did not extend full legal status to those whose cases were closed, but they did remove the threat of deportation.

Trump signed an executive order overturning the Obama-era policy on 25 January. While criminals remain the highest priority for deportation, anyone in the country illegally is now a potential target. In cases reviewed by Reuters, the administration explicitly cited Trump’s executive order in 30 motions as a reason to put the immigrant back on the court docket.

Since immigration cases are not generally public, Reuters was able to review only cases made available by attorneys. Motions to reopen closed cases have been filed in 32 states, with the highest numbers in California, Florida and Virginia, according to the review of EOIR data. The bulk of the examples reviewed were two dozen motions sent over the span of a couple of days by the New Orleans Ice office.

Sally Joyner, an immigration attorney in Memphis, Tennessee, said one of her Central American clients, who crossed the border with her children in 2013, was allowed to stay in the US after the government filed a motion to close her case in December 2015. Since crossing the border, the woman has not been arrested or had trouble with law enforcement, said Joyner, who asked that her client’s name not be used because of the pending legal action.

Nevertheless, on 29 March, Ice filed a two-page motion to reopen the case against the woman and her children. When Joyner queried Ice, an official said the agency had been notified that her client had a criminal history in El Salvador, according to documents seen by Reuters.

The woman had been arrested for selling pumpkin seeds as an unauthorized street vendor. Government documents show US authorities knew about the arrest before her case was closed.

Dana Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said revisiting previously closed matters would add to a record backlog of 580,000 pending immigration cases.

“If we have to go back and review all of those decisions that were already made, it clearly generates more work,” she said. “It’s a judicial do-over.”

Read more at: World news | The Guardian http://bit.ly/2pJ7Aoj