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Texas border cities plan for cold, busy end to Title 42

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Texas border cities plan for cold, busy end to Title 42

EL PASO, Texas (AP) — Along the U.S. southern border, two cities — El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez in Mexico — prepared Sunday for a surge of as many as 5,000 new migrants a day as pandemic-era immigration restrictions expire this week, setting in motion plans for emergency housing, food and other essentials.

On the Mexican side of the international border, only heaps of discarded clothes, shoes and backpacks remained Sunday morning on the banks of the Rio Grande River, where until a couple of days ago hundreds of people were lining up to turn themselves in to U.S. officials. One young man from Ecuador stood uncertain on the Mexican side; he asked two journalists if they knew anything about what would happen if he turned himself in without having a sponsor in the U.S., and then gingerly removed sneakers and socks and hopped across the low water.

On the American side, by a small fence guarded by several Border Patrol vehicles, he joined a line of a dozen people who stood waiting with no U.S. officials in sight.

El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego told The Associated Press on Sunday that the region, home to one of the busiest border crossings in the country, was coordinating housing and relocation efforts with groups and other cities, as well as calling on the state and federal government for humanitarian help. The area is preparing for an onslaught of new arrivals that could double their daily numbers once public health rule Title 42 ends on Wednesday.

The rule has been used to deter more than 2.5 million migrants from crossing since March 2020.

At a migrant shelter not far from the river in a poor Ciudad Juárez neighborhood, Carmen Aros, 31, knew little about U.S. policies. In fact, she said she’d heard the border might close on Dec. 21.

She fled the cartel violence in the Mexican state of Zacatecas a month ago, right after her fifth daughter was born and her husband went missing. The Methodist pastor who runs the Buen Samaritano shelter put her on a list to be paroled into the United States and she waits every week to be called.

“They told me there was asylum in Juarez, but in truth, I didn’t know much,” she said on the bunk bed she shared with the girls. “We got here … and now let’s see if the government of the United States can resolve our case.”

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At a vast shelter run by the Mexican government in a former Ciudad Juárez factory, dozens of migrants watched the World Cup final Sunday on two TVs while a visiting team of doctors from El Paso treated many who had come down with respiratory illness in the cold weather.

Dylan Corbett, who leads the group that started the clinic two months ago, said constantly changing policies make it hard to plan and desperation grows.

“You have a lot of pent-up pain,” he said. “I’m afraid of what’s going to happen.” With government policies in disarray, “the majority of the world falls to faith communities to pick up the pieces and deal with the consequences.”

Just a couple blocks across the border, sleet fell in El Paso as about 80 huddled migrants ate tacos that volunteers grilled up. Temperatures in the region were set to drop below freezing this week.

“We’re going to keep giving them as much as we have,” said Veronica Castorena, who came out with her husband with tortillas and ground beef as well as blankets for those who will likely sleep on the streets.

Jeff Petion, the owner of a trucking school in town, said this was his second time coming with employees to help migrants in the streets. “They’re out here, they’re cold, they’re hungry, so we wanted to let them know they’re not alone.

But across the street from Petion, Kathy Countiss, a retiree, said she worries the new arrivals will get out of control in El Paso, draining resources and directing enforcement away from criminals to those claiming asylum.

On Saturday, El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser issued an emergency declaration to access additional local and state resources for building shelters and other urgently needed aid.

Samaniego, the county judge, said the order came one day after El Paso officials sent Texas Gov. Greg Abbott a letter requesting humanitarian assistance for the region, adding that the request was for resources to help tend to and relocate the newly arriving migrants, not additional security forces.

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Samaniego said he has received no response to the request and plans to issue a similar county-wide emergency declaration specifying the kind of help the area needs if the city does not get state aid soon. He urged the state and federal governments to provide the additional money, adding they had a strategy in place but were short in financial, essential and volunteer resources.

El Paso officials have been coordinating with organizations to provide temporary housing for migrants while they are processed and given sponsors and relocate them to bigger cities where they can be flown or bused to their final destinations, Samaniego said. As of Wednesday, they will all join forces at a one-stop emergency command center, Samaniego said, similarly to their approach to the COVID-19 emergency.

Abbott, El Paso city officials and U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday.

Abbott has committed billions of dollars to “Operation Lone Star,” an unprecedented border security effort that has included busing migrants to so-called sanctuary cities like New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., as well as a massive presence of state troopers and National Guard along the Texas-Mexico border.

Additionally, the Republican Texas governor has pushed continued efforts to build former President Donald Trump’s wall using mostly private land along the border and crowdsourcing funds to help pay for it.

El Paso was the fifth-busiest of the Border Patrol’s nine sectors along the Mexico border as recently as March and suddenly became the most popular by far in October, jumping ahead of Del Rio, Texas, which itself had replaced Texas’ Rio Grande Valley as the busiest corridor at lightning-speed late last year. It is unclear why El Paso has become such a powerful magnet in recent months, drawing especially high numbers of migrants since September.

Recent illegal crossings in El Paso – at first largely dominated by Venezuelans and more recently by Nicaraguans – are reminiscent of a short period in 2019, when the westernmost reaches of Texas and eastern end of New Mexico were quickly overwhelmed with new arrivals from Cuba and Central America. El Paso had been a relatively sleepy area for illegal crossings for years.

Meanwhile, a group of about 300 migrants began walking northward Saturday night from an area near the Mexico-Guatemala border before being stopped by Mexican authorities. Some wanted to arrive on Dec. 21, under the mistaken belief that the end of the measure would men they could no longer request asylum. Misinformation about U.S. immigration rules is often rife among migrants. The group was largely made up of Central Americans and Venezuelans who had crossed the southern border into Mexico and had waited in vain for transit or exit visas, migratory forms that might have allowed them to make it across Mexico to the U.S. border.

“We want to get to the United States as soon as possible, before they close the border, that’s what we’re worried about,” said Venezuelan migrant Erick Martínez.

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Coronado reported from Austin, Texas. Associated Press reporter Edgar H. Clemente in Tapachula, Mexico contributed to this report.

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

The patience of Memorial Day weekend travelers was tested Thursday by widespread delays across the country, but there were relatively few canceled flights, raising hopes that airlines can handle bigger crowds expected Friday.

By early evening on the East Coast, more than 6,000 flights had been delayed Thursday, with the biggest backups at the three major airports in the New York City area and Dallas-Fort Worth International.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

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Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

The Transportation Security Administration predicted that Friday will be the busiest day for air travel over the holiday weekend, with nearly 3 million people expected to pass through airport checkpoints. It could rival the record of 2.9 million, set on the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year.

“Airports are going to be more packed than we have seen in 20 years,” said Aixa Diaz, a spokesperson for AAA.

When they aren’t waiting out flight delays, travelers are reporting sticker shock at the prices.

At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Larisa Latimer of New Lenox, Illinois, said her airfare was reasonable but other expenses for a getaway to New Orleans were not.

 

 

 

 

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Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

“I just have to make the accommodation,” she said. “The rental car is up … this year, the hotel accommodations were very unusually expensive.”

Kathy Larko of Fort Meyers, Florida, used frequent-flyer miles — and some flexible scheduling — to pay for her trip to Chicago.

“I’m really conscious of looking at the cost of the entire trip. We’re staying a little farther out than we normally would” to get a lower hotel rate, she said. “We’re also flying back a day later, because we could get cheaper miles.”

More travelers will be on the road. AAA estimates that 43.8 million people will venture at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) from home between Thursday and Monday, with 38 million of them taking vehicles.

 
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Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Airport unions are using the holiday weekend to highlight their demands.

About 100 workers who clean airplane cabins and drive trash trucks at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, started a 24-hour strike Thursday, demanding better pay and healthcare, according to the Service Employees International Union. About 15% of flights were delayed, but it was unclear whether the strike played any role.

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A planned strike at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York was averted, however. Teamsters Local 553, which represents about 300 workers who refuel passenger and cargo jets at JFK, said that it reached a settlement with Allied Aviation Services and called off a walkout planned for Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

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“We are happy an agreement has been reached, a need for a strike averted, and we are hopeful that the deal will be ratified by our members,” said Demos Demopoulos, the secretary-treasurer of the local.

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Associated Press video journalist Melissa Perez Winder in Chicago and Associated Press radio reporter Shelley Adler in Washington contributed to this report.

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas’ health department has appointed an outspoken anti-abortion OB-GYN to a committee that reviews pregnancy-related deaths as doctors have been warning that the state’s restrictive abortion ban puts women’s lives at risk.

Dr. Ingrid Skop was among the new appointees to the Texas Maternal Morality and Morbidity Review Committee announced last week by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Her term starts June 1.

The committee, which compiles data on pregnancy-related deaths, makes recommendations to the Legislature on best practices and policy changes and is expected to assess the impact of abortion laws on maternal mortality.

Skop, who has worked as an OB-GYN for over three decades, is vice president and director of medical affairs for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an anti-abortion research group. Skop will be the committee’s rural representative.

Skop, who has worked in San Antonio for most of her career, told the Houston Chronicle that she has “often cared for women traveling long distances from rural Texas maternity deserts, including women suffering complications from abortions.”

Texas has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the U.S., and doctors have sought clarity on the state’s medical exemption, which allows an abortion to save a woman’s life or prevent the impairment of a major bodily function. Doctors have said the exemption is too vague, making it difficult to offer life-saving care for fear of repercussions. A doctor convicted of providing an illegal abortion in Texas can face up to 99 years in prison and a $100,000 fine and lose their medical license.

Skop has said medical associations are not giving doctors the proper guidance on the matter. She has also shared more controversial views, saying during a congressional hearing in 2021 that rape or incest victims as young as 9 or 10 could carry pregnancies to term.

Texas’ abortion ban has no exemption for cases of rape or incest.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which says abortion is “inherently tied to maternal health,” said in a statement that members of the Texas committee should be “unbiased, free of conflicts of interest and focused on the appropriate standards of care.” The organization noted that bias against abortion has already led to “compromised” analyses, citing a research articles co-authored by Skop and others affiliated with the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

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Earlier this year a medical journal retracted studies supported by the Charlotte Lozier Institute claiming to show harms of the abortion pill mifepristone, citing conflicts of interests by the authors and flaws in their research. Two of the studies were cited in a pivotal Texas court ruling that has threatened access to the drug.

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

A Michigan dairy worker has been diagnosed with bird flu — the second human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The male worker had been in contact with cows at a farm with infected animals. He experienced mild eye symptoms and has recovered, U.S. and Michigan health officials said in announcing the case Wednesday.

A nasal swab from the person tested negative for the virus, but an eye swab tested Tuesday was positive for bird flu, “indicating an eye infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The worker developed a “gritty feeling” in his eye earlier this month but it was a “very mild case,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. He was not treated with oseltamivir, a medication advised for treating bird flu, she said.

The risk to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said. They said those workers should be offered protective equipment, especially for their eyes.

Health officials say they do not know if the Michigan farmworker was wearing protective eyewear, but an investigation is continuing.

In late March, a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported only eye inflammation and recovered.

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

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The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

That hasn’t happened, although there’s been a steady increase of reported infections in cows. As of Wednesday, the virus had been confirmed in 51 dairy herds in nine states, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fifteen of the herds were in Michigan.

The CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah said the case was “not unexpected” and it’s possible more infections could be diagnosed in people who work around infected cows.

U.S. officials said they had tested 40 people since the first cow cases were discovered in late March. Michigan has tested 35 of them, Bagdasarian told The Associated Press in an interview.

Shah praised Michigan officials for actively monitoring farmworkers. He said health officials there have been sending daily text messages to workers exposed to infected cows asking about possible symptoms, and that the effort helped officials catch this infection. He said no other workers had reported symptoms.

That’s encouraging news, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who has studied bird flu for decades. There’s no sign to date that the virus is causing flu-like illness or that it is spreading among people.

“If we had four or five people seriously ill with respiratory illness, we would be picking that up,” he said.

The virus has been found in high levels in the raw milk of infected cows, but government officials say pasteurized products sold in grocery stores are safe because heat treatment has been confirmed to kill the virus.

The new case marks the third time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. That predated the virus’s appearance in cows.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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