TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — US immigration lawyers are telling Central Americans in a caravan of asylum-seekers that travelled through Mexico to the border with San Diego that they face possible separation from their children and detention for many months. They say they want to prepare them for the worst possible outcome.
"We are the bearers of horrible news," Los Angeles lawyer Nora Phillips said during a break from legal workshops for the migrants at three Tijuana locations where about 20 lawyers gave free information and advice. "That's what good attorneys are for."
The Central Americans, many travelling as families, on Sunday will test the Trump administration's tough rhetoric criticising the caravan when the migrants begin seeking asylum by turning themselves in to border inspectors at San Diego's San Ysidro border crossing, the nation's busiest.
President Donald Trump and members of his Cabinet have been tracking the caravan, calling it a threat to the US since it started March 25 in the Mexican city of Tapachula, near the Guatemala border. They have promised a stern, swift response.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the caravan "a deliberate attempt to undermine our laws and overwhelm our system," pledging to send more immigration judges to the border to resolve cases if needed.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said asylum claims will be resolved "efficiently and expeditiously" but said the asylum-seekers should seek it in the first safe country they reach, including Mexico.
Any asylum seekers making false claims to US authorities could be prosecuted as could anyone who assists or coaches immigrants on making false claims, Nielsen said. Administration officials and their allies claim asylum fraud is growing and that many who seek it are coached on how to do so.
Kenia Elizabeth Avila, 35, appeared shaken after the volunteer attorneys told her Friday that temperatures may be cold in temporary holding cells and that she could be separated from her three children, ages 10, 9 and 4.
But she said in an interview that returning to her native El Salvador would be worse. She fled for reasons she declined to discuss.
"If they're going to separate us for a few days, that's better than getting myself killed in my country," she said.
The San Ysidro crossing, which admits about 75,000 people a day into the country, may be unable to take asylum-seekers if it faces too many at once, forcing people to wait in Mexico until it has more room, according to Pete Flores, US Customs and Border Protection's San Diego field office director. Flores said earlier this month that the port can hold about 300 people temporarily.
The Border Patrol said "several groups" of people in the caravan have entered the country illegally since Friday by climbing a dilapidated metal fence. It didn't say how many people.
RIYADH, April 28, 2018 (Reuters) - New U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday on the first stop of his hastily-arranged visit to the Middle East as decisions on the Iran nuclear deal and a review of the U.S. role in Syria loom large.
In Riyadh, Pompeo was greeted on the tarmac by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. He is expected to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and King Salman during the visit.
A State Department official said the visit to Riyadh, Jerusalem and Amman just two days after Pompeo was sworn-in as America’s top diplomat was also aimed at forging closer ties with important U.S allies in the Middle East.
Pompeo said on Friday he would discuss the future of the 2015 Iran deal in his talks.
U.S. President Donald Trump has called the nuclear agreement the “worst deal ever” and threatened to reimpose sanctions against Iran unless European allies Britain, France and Germany agree to fix it. Resuming sanctions would likely kill the deal.
Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France, which all struck the accord with Iran and the United States, see the deal as the best way to stop Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.
Speaking after a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels on Friday, Pompeo said Trump had not taken a decision on whether to abandon the deal but was not likely to stick to it without substantial changes.
“There’s been no decision, so the team is working and I am sure we will have lots of conversations to deliver what the president has made clear,” Pompeo told a news conference.
Earlier this week French President Emmanuel Macron called on the United States not to abandon the deal, although later he acknowledged he thought Trump would pull out, based on his long opposition to it.
The Trump administration is also currently reviewing the U.S.’s role in fighting Islamic State in Syria’s seven-year conflict. Trump has also called on Gulf countries to provide funding and troops to stabilize areas once controlled by the group in Syria.
Pompeo was one of the first Trump administration officials to visit Saudi Arabia early in his tenure as CIA director.
MOSCOW, April 28, 2018 (AP) — Russia's foreign minister said Saturday the United States is trying to divide Syria.
During a meeting with his counterparts from Iran and Turkey, Sergey Lavrov said the recent U.S.-led missile strikes on Syria "seriously aggravated the situation." He added that statements about supporting the territorial integrity of Syria "are only words that, apparently, cover plans for reformatting the Middle East and plans for dividing Syria into parts."
Lavrov met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. Russia, Iran and Turkey are the guarantor states in the so-called "Astana process" aimed at ending the violence in Syria.
The three agreed to intensify efforts to provide humanitarian aid in Syria.
"We will ensure that this aid is provided in the most effective way. We will be cooperating with the government, the opposition and of course with our counterparts at the United Nations, the International Red Cross, the Syrian Red Crescent and other international organizations," Lavrov said.
International aid groups have repeatedly accused the Syrian government, which is closely allied with Russia and Iran, of preventing the delivery of aid to besieged, rebel-held areas.
Lavrov also reiterated Russia's contention that the alleged chemical weapons attack on the town of Douma earlier this month was an "artificial pretext" for the missile strikes by the U.S., Britain and France.
Cavusoglu meanwhile criticized the United States for supporting Syria's main Kurdish militia, which played a key role in rolling back the Islamic State group and now controls much of northern and eastern Syria. Turkey views the Kurdish fighters as an extension of the Kurdish insurgency raging in its southeast.
"Today, the US supports terrorist organizations, and this has to stop," Cavusoglu said.
TRIPOLI, April 28, 2018 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Charge d'Affaires to Libya, Stephanie Williams, and Libyan Foreign Ministry's Under Secretary of Political Affairs, Lutfi Almughrabi, on Friday signed documents on security cooperation, according to the Libyan Foreign Ministry statement on Saturday.
The ministry said the documents include a memorandum of intent for airport security and a letter of agreement to support Libyan policing, corrections and justice sector development.
The two sides also vowed to enhance bilateral cooperation in various areas.
They stressed importance of the efforts of the UN envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, to push forward the Libyan political process and achieve stability.
Meanwhile, Sirte demining team was able to dismantle a number of shells in the western suburb of the city near the seashore.
The spokesman of the demining team, Salem al-Amil, said in a press statement on Saturday that they had received a report through the Libyan Red Crescent that a number of sheep were killed as a result of a land mine explosion.
He added that the demining team and the Libyan Red Crescent team then inspected the area and conducted a survey and found a number of shells ready for detonation and were able to defuse them.
In another development, the National Oil Corporation (NOC) has held talks with British oil and gas company BP and Italy's Eni on the resumption of exploration activities in the country.
The NOC said on Saturday that senior officials of the two companies expressed their firm desire to return quickly to complete their exploratory activities during a meeting with Chairman Mustafa Sannallah in Tripoli.
The NOC confirmed to the two companies its full readiness to provide all the necessary assistance and facilities to enable them to return to practice various activities.
The British company BP signed an exploration agreement in Libya in 2007, but suspended its ground operations in 2014 because of the security situation in the country.
SINGAPORE, April 28, 2018 (Reuters) - Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Saturday a mounting trade spat between the United States and China was one of the most pressing worries for Southeast Asian nations as their leaders echoed the concern over rising protectionism.
Lee flagged his concerns in remarks made as he opened a summit of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), for many of which the United States and China are the top two trading partners.
"In particular, the recent trade tensions between the U.S. and China are worrying concerns," he said. Singapore occupies the group's rotating chair for this year.
"We are deeply concerned over the rising tide of protectionism and anti-globalisation sentiments," said a statement issued on behalf of the ASEAN chair at the end of summit talks.
The U.S. Trump administration has threatened to impose tariffs on up to $150 billion of Chinese imports, and Beijing has vowed retaliation against American exports.
On Saturday Lee said the open and rules-based multilateral trading system, which has backed the growth of ASEAN, has come under pressure as the political mood in many countries has shifted against free trade.
There was little progress on the push to resolve the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, despite a fresh plea by ASEAN leaders for Myanmar to implement the recommendations of an international panel.
The situation in Myanmar's western state of Rakhine, where hundreds of thousands of minority Rohingya Muslims have fled for neighbouring Bangladesh after a military crackdown, is one of the biggest challenges facing the ASEAN group.
Lee said negotiations for a code of conduct in the South China Sea had started last month between ASEAN and China, and there was hope for an early conclusion. Four ASEAN member states have claims to the disputed South China Sea, one of the world's most volatile hotspots and one of its busiest waterways.
"We emphasised the importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states...that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea," the chair's statement said.
ASEAN, formed more than half a century ago, has struggled with challenges facing the region because it works by consensus and is reluctant to get involved in matters considered internal to its members.
Singapore is this year's chair of the bloc, which includes Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.
The group is working on initiatives to jointly tackle the threat of extremism and cyber attacks, as well as to promote trade and cross-border e-payment systems.
Meanwhile ASEAN welcomed Friday's summit meeting of the two Koreas and their pledge to work for peace and a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, as well as the plans for U.S. President Donald Trump to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Lee said Singapore has not had any request to host the Kim-Trump meeting, despite reports that the island state is on a short-list of potential venues for the talks expected in June.
WASHINGTON, April 27, 2018 - Days after buttering up French President Emmanuel Macron with a state dinner and other ceremonies, President Trump faces a shorter and more somber summit Friday with another key European leader, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Merkel has a much frostier relationship with Trump, though the German leader is expected to echo Macron by pushing back at the president's views on trade and the at-risk Iran nuclear agreement during a short meeting and lunch at the White House.
"Look forward to meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany today," Trump tweeted a few hours before her arrival. "So much to discuss, so little time! It will be good for both of our great countries!"
In the run-up to Friday's meetings, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that Trump and Merkel will "reaffirm the German-American partnership — bedrock of the transatlantic relationship and the NATO Alliance — as both nations work together to address a broad range of geopolitical and economic challenges."
Trump and Merkel are also likely to discuss the current peace talks between South and North Korea. Trump and aides are negotiating a possible meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as part of an ongoing effort to get him to give up nuclear weapons.
Before the Merkel conference, Trump tweeted praise for the prospect of a Korean peace treaty. "KOREAN WAR TO END!" he said in one post. "The United States, and all of its GREAT people, should be very proud of what is now taking place in Korea!"
While Merkel supports efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, she and Trump differ on another nuclear-tinged challenge: Iran.
Like Macron and other European leaders, Merkel is expected to implore Trump to stick with the nuclear agreement in which the U.S. and allies reduce economic sanctions on Iran as it gives up the means to make nuclear weapons.
Trump, who has criticized the agreement and claims Iran is violating it, faces a May 12 certification deadline and has indicated he may move to kill the deal; Merkel and other European leaders say that will only encourage the Iranians to pursue nuclear weapons.
Trade will also come up, as it did with Macron. Trump has long protested Germany's trade surplus with the United States, and claims that German and European Union trade policies are unfair.
Merkel and EU leaders criticized for proposed steel and aluminum tariffs they say could trigger a trade war that would slow the global economy.
These differences also surfaced during Trump's meetings with Macron on Monday and Tuesday, but in a much different atmosphere.
Macron made a state visit to the White House, receiving a formal welcome ceremony with 21-gun salute, a trip to Mount Vernon, and a state dinner. The two constantly shook hands and slapped each other on the back, inspiring any number of jokes about a new American-French "bromance."
Merkel gets a 30-minute meeting and a "working lunch," though the two will also host a joint news conference.
The two are expected to shake hands, something Trump seemed to want to avoid during a Merkel visit to the White House last year.
In Germany, Merkel has publicly played down differences with Trump, saying she is more interested in promoting strategic partnership.