The biggest winter storm so far this year is set to slam the eastern U.S.

Luke 21:25, 26 “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Important Takeaways:

  • Storm to unleash dangerous snow, ice from Atlanta to Raleigh
  • A winter storm will plunge from the Midwest into the Southeast over the holiday weekend, threatening to create dangerous to impossible travel conditions and the potential for lengthy power outages.
  • A weather event that could evolve into an all-out ice storm for cities along the Interstate 85 corrido
  • The ice could also contribute to power outages and significant tree damage, Porter added.

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National Weather Service issuing advisories for Winter Storm Izzy

Luke 21:25,26 “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Important Takeaways:

  • Winter Storm Izzy to Spread Snow, Ice from Midwest into South and East into MLK Weekend
  • An expansive storm will spread a wintry mess across several regions.
  • Named Winter Storm Izzy by The Weather Channel, this sprawling storm is likely to produce major travel headaches from North Dakota down to northern Georgia and up to Maine.
  • Winter storm warnings, winter storm watches and winter weather advisories have been issued by the National Weather Service for parts of the Midwest.

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Severe weather has many looking for refuge

Important Takeaways:

  • Northwest weather forces many into shelters.
  • Severe weather sweeping parts of the U.S. brought frigid temperatures to the Pacific Northwest and heavy snow to mountains in Northern California and Nevada. 
  • The region continued to break daily cold records. The National Weather Service said the low was 17 degrees F in Seattle on Monday, breaking a record set in 1968.
  • Utilities reported about 5,000 customers without power Tuesday morning, mostly in southwestern Oregon. 
  • Officials with the University of California, Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Laboratory on Monday said recent snowfall has smashed the snowiest December record of 179 inches, set in 1970. The record is now 193.7 inches as more snow is expected.
  • The storms that have been pummeling California and Nevada in recent days also brought rain and snow to Arizona. A record inch of rain in one day was reported at the airport in Phoenix.

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U.S. immigration agents to pilot use of body-worn cameras

By Mica Rosenberg

(Reuters) – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is rolling out a pilot program to test the feasibility of requiring immigration agents to wear body cameras, a senior agency official said on Tuesday, a move that could aid criminal investigations as well increase oversight of agents’ activities.

The cameras are expected to be rolled out first only among specialized teams in ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division to around 55 agents in offices in New York City, Newark, New Jersey and Houston, Texas, the official told reporters.

The HSI officers, who target transnational criminal organizations for money laundering, drug trafficking, smuggling, terrorism and other crimes, would use the cameras only in pre-planned operations.

The official said the pilot program will be expanded to immigration agents at ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations division in the near future, without giving a specific date. The agency said the timing is dependent on negotiations with the division’s union.

Earlier this year, Reuters reported on a plan to equip thousands of border agents of U.S. Customs and Border Protection with body-worn cameras as well.

Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union have called on expanded use of the cameras in law enforcement to provide a record of potential abuses. ICE has been criticized by some advocates for some of its agents’ tactics arresting immigrants in the country illegally.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, whose agency oversees ICE, said in a statement that with the pilot, the agency “is making an important statement that transparency and accountability are essential components of our ability to fulfill our law enforcement mission and keep communities safe.”

Under U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat who promised a more humane approach to immigration enforcement than his hardline predecessor, Republican Donald Trump, ICE arrests have dropped, with the agency focusing on those who pose national security or public safety risks.

The senior official said the pilot program would be “test driving” the cameras to assess their operational utility and financial costs.

The footage collected would be subject to freedom of information laws and could also potentially be used in criminal prosecutions.

The official said the cameras, which will be mounted on agents’ vests, shirts or helmets, would be provided by Axon Enterprises Inc, which also contracted to outfit the border agents.

The company declined to comment on the pilot program.

(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Dan Grebler)

U.S. judge blocks Biden’s limits on immigrant arrests, deportation

By Daniel Wiessner

(Reuters) – A federal judge on Thursday blocked President Joe Biden’s administration from enforcing its guidance limiting who can be arrested and deported by U.S. immigration agents, siding with two Republican-led states – Texas and Louisiana – that had challenged it.

U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton, in Corpus Christi, Texas, ruled that the February guidance from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency violated a federal law requiring that the government “shall detain” people who commit certain crimes or are otherwise deemed eligible for deportation.

“Put simply, the Government has instructed federal officials that ‘shall detain’ certain aliens means ‘may detain’ when it unambiguously means must detain,” Tipton wrote.

ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Biden, a Democrat, has sought to roll back some of the hardline immigration policies of his Republican predecessor Donald Trump.

The Biden administration guidelines unveiled in February, the month after Biden took office, instruct agents to focus on immigrants deemed national security and public safety threats and those who entered the United States after Nov. 1, 2020.

Under the guidelines, agents must seek pre-approval from a senior manager if they want to arrest someone who does not fall into one of those categories.

Trump had allowed ICE agents to pursue low-level offenders and non-criminals, as well as people with long ties to the United States.

The Republican attorneys general of Texas and Louisiana in an April lawsuit said dozens of convicted criminals had been released into their communities as a result of the Biden administration’s guidance, placing burdens on local law enforcement and social service programs.

The judge’s ruling blocked ICE from enforcing the guidance pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

Tipton, a Trump judicial appointee, in January blocked the Biden administration’s 100-day moratorium on deportations. In a decision last week, Tipton also ordered the administration to reinstate a Trump-era policy requiring that asylum applicants be sent to Mexico to await legal proceedings.

(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in New York; Editing by Will Dunham)

U.S. watchdog investigating immigration detention center tied to allegations of improper hysterectomies

By Ted Hesson and Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Acting U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said at a congressional hearing on Wednesday that the department’s internal watchdog is investigating a Georgia immigration detention center tied to allegations of improper hysterectomies and other gynecological procedures.

Wolf said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) inspector general would interview people at the facility on Wednesday and Thursday, but cautioned that “some of the facts on the ground” did not back up the allegations.

“At this point, they are allegations, and we need to make sure that they fully investigate them so that all sides have a chance to be heard,” Wolf said during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The claims were made by Dawn Wooten, a former nurse at the Irwin County Detention Center, in a complaint filed to the inspector general last week.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has denied the allegations, which have shocked people across Latin America, from where many U.S. immigrants hail, and caused an outcry among Democratic lawmakers.

(Reporting by Ted Hesson and Lisa Lambert; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

Portland police use tear gas after declaring riot for second night

By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) – Police in the city of Portland said they fired crowd control munitions and tear gas on Wednesday night to break up a gathering of about 200 people who threw rocks, lit fires and vandalized a U.S. immigration agency building.

Law enforcement officials had declared a riot for a second successive night, calling a protest near the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office an “unlawful assembly”.

Federal officers fired pepper balls and set off a few smoke devices, the Oregonian newspaper reported earlier.

Protests against racism and police brutality have swept the United States since the death on May 25 of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man, after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

The Portland protests are among those that have erupted occasionally in arson and violence, with federal officers sent into the northwestern city repeatedly clashing with crowds targeting its federal courthouse.

Wednesday’s protest began in the Elizabeth Caruthers Park before demonstrators marched toward the ICE building.

“All persons near SW Bancroft St and SW Bond Ave must disperse,” police had said on Twitter, warning the marchers they faced arrest and the use of tear gas, crowd control agents and impact weapons if they did not comply.

Two arrests were made on charges of “interfering with a peace officer and disorderly conduct”, police said in a statement. The arrested men were booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center.

Police officers sustained minor injuries, the statement added, without specifying how many were injured.

Police had also declared a riot on Tuesday after protesters lit fires, threw rocks and smashed windows at county government offices in another location, in violence that also led to two arrests and a minor injury for an officer.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr drew fire from Democratic lawmakers this month for sending federal officers to disperse protesters in the city.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Tom Hogue, Clarence Fernandez and Alex Richardson)

U.S. immigration officials spread coronavirus with detainee transfers

By Mica Rosenberg, Kristina Cooke and Reade Levinson

NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Public health specialists have for months warned the U.S. government that shuffling detainees among immigration detention centers will expose people to COVID-19 and help spread the disease.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has continued the practice, saying it is taking all necessary precautions.

It turns out the health specialists were right, according to a Reuters review of court records and ICE data.

The analysis of immigration court data identified 268 transfers of detainees between detention centers in April, May and June, after hundreds in ICE custody had already tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Half of the transfers Reuters identified involved detainees who were either moved from centers with COVID-19 cases to centers with no known cases, or from centers with no cases to those where the virus had spread.

The Reuters tally is likely just a small fraction of all transfers, former ICE officials said. ICE does not release data on detainee moves, and court records capture only a smattering of them.

At least one transfer resulted in a super-spreading event, according to emails from ICE and officials at a detention center in Farmville, Virginia, court documents and interviews with more than a dozen detainees at the facility.

Until that transfer, only two detainees had tested positive at the Farmville center — both immigrants transferred there in late April. They were immediately isolated and monitored and were the only known cases at the facility for more than a month, court records state.

Then on June 2, ICE relocated 74 detainees from Florida and Arizona, more than half of whom later tested positive for COVID-19. By July 16, Farmville was the detention center hardest-hit by the virus with 315 total cases, according to ICE data.

`THE WALKING DEAD’

Serafin Saragoza, a Mexican detainee at Farmville, said he and another detainee – who confirmed Saragoza’s account to Reuters – had contact with the transferees when they first arrived. His job was to distribute shoes and clothing to the new arrivals.

The new group was kept in a separate dormitory, but about two weeks after their arrival, dozens of other detainees began falling ill, 15 detainees said in interviews. The Centers for Disease Control says COVID symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.

“There are people with fevers, two guys collapsed on the floor because they fainted,” Saragoza said. “There is one guy who has a really high fever. He looks like the walking dead.”

Faced with an outbreak, Farmville tested all detainees in the first few days of July. Of 359 detainees tested, 268 were positive, according to an ICE statement in response to questions from Reuters. While the majority are asymptomatic, it said, three detainees are hospitalized.

The ICE statement said the agency was committed to the welfare of all detainees and continued some transfers to reduce crowding. ICE did not respond to a request for comment on Reuters’ analysis.

Former ICE officials and immigration attorneys say the agency regularly transfers people in custody for myriad reasons, including: bed space, preparing migrants for deportation, and security reasons. With the pandemic still raging in the United States, lawmakers have called on ICE to halt the practice.

Carlos Franco-Paredes, an infectious disease doctor studying COVID-19 outbreaks in correctional settings, said it is not possible to transfer detainees safely in the current environment.

“If you’re moving people, particularly from an area where there is an ongoing outbreak, even though you sequester them for two weeks or so, there is contact with people,” said Franco-Paredes. “You’re basically spreading the problems.”

In an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, ICE halted detention center visits in mid-March and has slowed arrests. U.S.-Mexico border crossings have also fallen, leading to smaller detained populations overall.

RISING CASES

Prisons and detention centers have been disproportionately affected by coronavirus outbreaks. Large numbers of people confined in close quarters with insufficient access to medical care and poor ventilation and sanitation all create a breeding ground for viral infections, infectious disease doctors say.

As of July 16, ICE had reported 3,567 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in its detention centers. The actual number of infected detainees is almost certainly higher, Franco-Paredes said, since not all centers are doing widespread testing.

About 22,000 detainees are in ICE custody now, and about 13,500 tests have been done, but that likely includes some immigrants who have since been released.

To be sure, detainee transfers are not the only means of introducing the virus to a detention center. Employees with the disease are another main source of transmission, public health specialists said. Nearly 1,000 detention center employees have tested positive for the virus.

Before it transfers detainees, ICE policy is to screen them for fevers and other symptoms, but not to test for the disease. Those with positive or suspected cases of COVID-19 are isolated from other detainees, ICE says.

MASS TRANSFER

But the case of Farmville shows that efforts to keep sick and healthy detainees separate don’t always prevent the spread.

A week after the out-of-state transferees arrived at the Farmville center, three of them tested positive for the virus while still quarantined from the general population. In response, center officials decided to test the entire group of new arrivals, according to an email from ICE deputy field office director Matthew Munroe to immigration attorneys. Fifty-one tested positive.

ICE data shows that the day before the transfers, two of the three centers where the detainees came from had reported cases. ICE’s Krome North Service Processing Center in Florida had 15 confirmed COVID cases, and Eloy Detention Center in Eloy, Arizona had one.

The Reuters review of immigration court records identified 195 transfers to or from detention centers where ICE had reported confirmed cases. These include:

–A May 6 transfer from New Mexico’s Otero County Processing Center, which at the time had 10 confirmed cases, to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, which had no known cases until two weeks later on May 19.

–A transfer on May 7 from the Bluebonnet Detention Center in Anson, Texas, which at the time had 41 confirmed cases, to the Johnson County Jail in Dallas, which had no known cases until May 19.

–Four transfers in late May from a detention center in Glades County, Florida, which at the time had no known cases, to the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach, Florida, which at the time had 19 known cases.

Immigration court data notes when the government notifies the court that it has moved a detainee in its custody to another location. Reuters only counted transfers if the data showed a detainee having a hearing in a new, known detention facility, prison or jail. The news agency then compared those records to ICE counts of infections at detention centers.

Saragoza, the Mexican detainee in Farmville, lived in the United States for 21 years before his arrest. He has diabetes and high blood pressure – two conditions that the CDC says puts coronavirus patients at higher risk of falling seriously ill. He said he started feeling ill in late June but was not as sick as some others in his dormitory.

On July 9, he got bad news. He and almost all the men in his dorm had tested positive for coronavirus.

(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York, Reade Levinson in London and Kristina Cooke in Los Angeles. Editing by Ross Colvin and Janet Roberts.)

Harvard, MIT seek temporary halt to Trump administration rule on international students

By Mimi Dwyer

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology sued the Trump administration on Wednesday, seeking to block a new rule that would bar foreign students from remaining in the United States if their universities move all courses online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The two universities filed a lawsuit in federal court in Boston asking for an emergency temporary restraining order on the new directive issued by the government on Monday.

“We will pursue this case vigorously so that our international students – and international students at institutions across the country – can continue their studies without the threat of deportation,” Harvard President Lawrence Bacow wrote in a statement addressed to the Harvard community.

The lawsuit filed by Harvard and MIT, two of the most elite U.S. universities, is the first to challenge the order that could force tens of thousands of foreign students to leave the country if their schools switch fully to remote learning.

Harvard had announced it would hold all classes online in the coming fall term.

The U.S. Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

U.S. President Donald Trump is pushing schools across the country to re-open in the fall.

The Trump administration announcement blindsided academic institutions grappling with the logistical challenges of safely resuming classes as the coronavirus pandemic continues unabated around the world, and surges in the United States, especially among young people.

There are more than a million foreign students at U.S. colleges and universities, and many schools depend on revenue from foreign students, who often pay full tuition.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency rule said most students on F-1 and M-1 visas could stay if their programs were in person or offered a mix of online and in-person instruction.

In the wake of the announcement, students, professors, and universities were scrambling to figure out exactly who would be affected by the rule and come up with ways to comply without having to leave the country. On Twitter, professors across the country offered to teach outdoor in-person independent study courses for affected students.

The ICE policy change marked an unexpected reversal of exceptions to the rules limiting online learning for foreign students when colleges and universities in March rushed to shutter campuses and move to virtual classes as the pandemic forced lockdowns.

ICE “proceeded without any indication of having considered the health of students, faculty, university staff, or communities,” the complaint said.

The suit alleges the government skirted the proper rule making process and is asking the court to strike it down.

Judge Allison Burroughs, appointed by former President Barack Obama, is assigned to hear the case. In 2017, she ordered a halt to Trump’s travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries, a policy that was eventually upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

(Reporting by Mimi Dwyer in New York; Additional reporting by Dan Burns and Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Mica Rosenberg and Bernadette Baum)

U.S. to ramp up rapid deportations with sweeping new rule

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection vehicle parks near the border fence between Mexico and U.S. as seen from Tijuana, Mexico July 22, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

By Tom Hals

(Reuters) – The Trump administration said on Monday it will expand and speed up deportations of migrants who enter the United States illegally by stripping away court oversight, enabling officials to remove people in days rather than months or years.

Set to be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, the rule will apply “expedited removal” to the majority of those who enter the United States illegally unless they can prove they have been living in the country for at least two years.

Legal experts said it was a dramatic expansion of a program already used along the U.S.-Mexican border that cuts out review by an immigration judge, usually without access to an attorney. Both are available in regular proceedings.

“The Trump administration is moving forward into converting ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) into a ‘show me your papers’ militia,” said Vanita Gupta, the president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, on a call with reporters.

It was likely the policy would be blocked quickly by a court, several experts said. The American Civil Liberties Union, which has filed suit to block numerous Trump immigration policies in court, has vowed to sue.

President Donald Trump has struggled to stem an increase of mostly Central American families arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, leading to overcrowded detention facilities and a political battle over a growing humanitarian crisis.

The government said increasing rapid deportations would free up detention space and ease strains on immigration courts, which face a backlog of more than 900,000 cases.

Nearly 300,000 of the approximately 11 million immigrants in the United States illegally could be quickly deported under the new rule, according to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said 37%, or 20,570, of those encountered by ICE in the year to September, had been in the country less than two years.

People in rapid deportation proceedings are detained for 11.4 days on average, according to DHS. People in regular proceedings are held for 51.5 days and are released into the United States for the months or years it takes to resolve their cases.

Legal experts said the rule shreds basic due process and could create havoc beyond immigrant communities.

“ICE has been detaining and deporting U.S. citizens for decades,” said Jackie Stevens, a political science professor at Northwestern University. That policy came at a great cost to U.S. taxpayers in terms of litigation and compensation, she added.

    ICE in 2003 became a successor agency to Immigration and Naturalization Services.

U.S. citizens account for about 1% of those detained by ICE and about 0.5% of those deported, according to Stevens’ research.

“Expedited removal orders are going to make this much worse,” she said.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco in March ruled that those ordered deported in the sped-up process have a right to take their case to a judge.

Previously, only those immigrants caught within 100 miles of the border who had been in the country two weeks or less could be ordered rapidly deported. The policy makes an exception for immigrants who can establish a “credible fear” of persecution in their home country.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware and Mica Rosenberg in New York; Editing by Richard Chang and Rosalba O’Brien)