May 3, 2021

News roundup: Pentagon cancels border wall contracts, Biden raises refugee cap

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, May 3.

Arizona COVID-19 cases: 7 days

Map shows COVID-19 cases and case rates over the week preceding the last update.

Credit: Nick O'Gara/AZPM. Sources: The New York Times, based on reports from state and local health agencies, Census Bureau. Case reports do not correspond to day of test.

Cases 864,579 | Deaths 17,344

On Monday, May 3, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 652 new cases of COVID-19 and no additional deaths.


Pentagon cancels border wall contracts funded by Department of Defense, return unused funds

AZPM

The Pentagon will cancel all border wall construction projects contracted by the Trump administration that used money from the Department of Defense. And the Biden administration says it will return any unused money back to the agency.

The Trump administration built more than 450 miles of new border wall and funded some of it by redirecting around 10 billion dollars in military funds. Randy Serraglio with the Center for Biodiversity said seeing an end to those projects is a win for environmental groups.

"So these projects that Trump was funding with stolen money basically are in some of the most wild and remote and rugged places along the Arizona Sonora border," he said.

Serraglio said that includes Guadalupe Canyon, where contractors used dynamite to blast through tough mountainous terrain, and the Coronado National Wildlife Refuge.

Environmental organizations have challenged the legality of using military funds at all. Serraglio said those lawsuits will still go forward to ensure another transfer like it won’t happen again.


Biden raises cap on refugees

AZPM

Refugee Ceiling 5-3 PM

The Biden administration is raising the refugee admissions cap to 62,500. The announcement comes after the administration faced blowback last month when it announced a plan to keep former President Donald Trump's historically low admissions cap of 15,000.

Stanford Prescott with the International Rescue Committee’s Arizona office says 35,000 refugees are already cleared to come to the U.S.

“For refugees to come to the U.S. there is a vetting process which can take many years, and for that vetting process to occur, that means that applications have to have been in that process for sometime,” Prescott said.

Advocates say more than 700 refugee flights bound for the U.S. have been cancelled since February, when Biden first announced a plan to raise the cap. Prescott says his organization welcomes the new, higher cap, and expects the number of resettlements in Arizona to go up once again.


Bill to save Oak Flat advances in House

AZPM

Last week the Save Oak Flat Act passed out of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee.

Democratic Congressman Raúl Grijalva introduced the bill to block the congressionally approved land swap of Oak Flat, a sacred Apache site near Superior, to Resolution Copper.

Grijalva says though he's introduced this legislation before, this is the first time it's been really debated in committee. He credits this change in part to the consistent opposition some Indigenous groups have had against the mining project.

If developed, the mine would become one of the largest in the country, and eventually Oak Flat would collapse into a massive crater, denying Apaches access to the site.

The act passed through the committee along party lines and will next go to the House floor.


No venue change for suspect in murders of 2 Arizona girls

AP

A Pima County judge has denied a venue change for the trial of a man accused of killing two young girls.

Lawyers for Christopher Clements argued that holding the proceedings in the county would deprive him of a fair trial. Superior Court Judge Deborah Bernini denied the motion, stating that the county courts are more than equipped to handle both homicide cases against Clements in an orderly fashion.

Prosecutors have already filed a notice to withdraw the death penalty in the case.

Clements allegedly kidnapped and killed 6-year-old Isabel Celis and 13-year old Maribel Gonzalez. He was indicted in 2018 on 22 felony charges including first-degree murder after the remains of the two young children were found separately in a remote area of Pima County.

Learn more here.


Ducey ends job-seeking waiver for Arizona unemployed

AP

Jobless people in Arizona will again be required to show they’re looking for work in order to receive unemployment benefits.

Gov. Doug Ducey announced Monday he will stop waiving the job-seeking requirements the week of May 23.

He waived the mandate in March 2020 when some businesses were ordered to close to slow the spread of COVID-19. He says it's time to reinstate the job-seeking mandate because all adults now have access to the COVID-19 vaccine and there are plenty of jobs available.

Authorities on Monday reported 652 additional COVID-19 cases in Arizona and no additional deaths from the virus. Over 2.9 million residents have received at least one shot with almost 2.3 million people fully vaccinated.

Learn more here.


Vaccinations For 50- To 59-Year-Olds To Begin Soon In Mexico

Fronteras Desk

Vaccinations in Mexico for those between the ages of 50 and 59 are set to begin soon.

Registration for that age range opened up last week, and the first day of inoculations is set to begin Tuesday, according to social media posts from the Sonoran office of the federal agency Bienestar.

So far, roughly 10,700,000 Mexicans over the age of 60 have received at least one dose, and little over half of them have received all necessary doses, according to recent comments from federal health officials.

Nearly 18 millions doses have been administered so far, which works out to a rate more than five times slower than the neighboring United States, where over 240 million doses have been given so far.


US begins reuniting some families separated at Mexico border

AP

SAN DIEGO — The Biden administration says four families that were separated at the Mexico border during Donald Trump’s presidency will be reunited in the United States this week.

The families represent what Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas calls “just the beginning” of a broader effort.

Two of the four families include mothers who were separated from their children in late 2017, one Honduran and another Mexican.

Exactly how many families will reunite in the United States and in what order is linked to negotiations with the American Civil Liberties Union to settle a lawsuit. But Mayorkas says there are more to come.

ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt says he's happy for the four families but their reunifications are “just the tip of the iceberg.”

Learn more here.

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