Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Category: travel Page 2 of 17

The Road Home & the Washington Correspondents’ Dinner

By the time you read this, I will probably be back in East Moline, Illinois, home base.

Poplar Bluffs, Missouri, on April 29th, 2022.

I’m writing from St. Louis, Missouri at my brother-in-law’s house. When we arrived, we went out to see the site where niece Megan and her husband (Aaron) and daughter (Winnie) will be building their new house. [They plan to move from Denver to St. Louis]. ETA: spring of 2023.

We also visited the grave of my dear sister-in-law Wendy, who died April 18, 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic from an accumulation of illnesses, including lymphoma. It would be so much better for us and for the world if Wendy were here, in person, to go out to dinner with us. Sixty-two is far too young to shuffle off this mortal coil.

Austin Tice (#freeaustintice) has been held prisoner in Syria for years and is being saluted at the White House Correspondents’ dinner. The president of the journalists’ association is mentioning other prisoners held and, also, Maksim Levin, Vira Hyryo, Bren Renaud, Oksana Baulin, Sasha Kuvshyova  Zakrezews, —all journalists killed in Ukraine. Benjamin Hall of ABC News is recovering from injuries. (I’m sure I missed a few). “How It Happened” won an award for Axis, a film documenting the end of days of the Trump administration.

Biden Remarks: “Excited to be here among the only group with a lower approval rating than I have.” “We had a horrible plague, followed by 2 years of Covid.” “It would really have been a real coup if my predecessor had attended this dinner.” “Calvin Coolidge attended the first correspondents’ dinner in 1924. I remember telling him, ‘Just get up there and be yourself.'” “The good news is that I have a real shot at replacing James Corden. Great performers going out after 8 years at the top. Sounds about right to me.” “I’ve never had to open before Trevor Noah before. He called me ‘America’s new dad.’ I’m excited to be called a new anything.” Reference to all of Fox News members all being there, vaccinated and boosted. (Tough opposition from Democrats is referenced, as he talked about how he expected confrontation, but from REPUBLICANS.) “There’s nothing that I can say about the GOP that Kevin McCarthy hasn’t already said on tape.”

Remarks from Trevor Noah: 

“That was really great. I got a promise that I will not be going to prison.” (a reference to Biden’s introduction, where he told him that he could make fun of the President of the United States and not go to prison.)

“One of the nation’s most distinguished Super Spreader events. The second someone offered you a free dinner you all turned into Joe Rogan. Dr. Fauci dropped out, but Pete Davidson thought it was okay. You could have picked any comedian but you picked an African variant. Get comfortable, but don’t get too comfortable, Jeffrey Toobin.”

“You may have noticed I’m going to be telling some jokes tonight. I’m a comedian, not Kristin Synema.

Reference to the Oscars: “What if I make a really mean joke about Kellye Anne Conway and then her husband rushes up on the stage and thanks me?” (Chris Cuomo slam). Governor Abbott is providing free buses for the Telemundo table.”

(Ron DeSantis jokes, re his presidential ambitions). “You’re smarter than him. You’re fitter than him. You can walk down ramps.”

(To Biden): “I was a little confused as to why you picked me, but then I was told that you get your highest approval ratings when you’re standing next to a bi-racial Black guy.”

“Jill Biden is still teaching because she’s still paying off her student debt.” “Unemployment at 3.3%—2% if you don’t count the Cuomo family.” [Shots at MSNBC.] Shots at Joe & Mikka (“most adorable HR violation in town.”).

Mick Mulvaney (hired by CBS) was a target of Trevor Noah. “So many other huge talents who can no longer be mentioned in Florida.”

Chuck Todd: “I’d ask for a follow-up, but I know you don’t know what that is.” (slam)

“An interview with (Australian) Jonathan Swan is like being interviewed by a koala bear.”

NPR: “I wish you guys didn’t always have to beg for money. Maybe you’re spending too much on those tote bags. Who’s designing those things? Gucci?”

Fox News: “I think they get a bad rap. It just depends on when you watch. It’s relatively normal in the afternoon, but just wait until the sun goes down.” (“Their segments on Corona virus moved their viewers–right into the ICU.”) “Tucker Carlson: who else could fill an entire show each night asking questions that Google could easily answer?”

CNN: “I blame John King. Your magic wall can predict everything, but you spend $300 million on CNN+ and the wall can’t predict its failure?” CNN Breaking News banner: “Did they just turn it on during the O.J. case and just never figured out how to get rid of it?”

“The media is in a tough position: you’re battling conspiracy theories.  (Named 3 biggies) and said, “And that’s just the people in this room.”

Conclusion: Serious message about the Fourth Estate and how it gives voice to those who, otherwise, would not have one. “Every single one of you is a bastion of democracy. If you ever begin to doubt, look no further than what is happening in Ukraine. In America you have the right to seek the truth and speak the truth, even if it makes people in power uncomfortable. Do you know how amazing that is? Do you really understand what a blessing that is? Maybe it’s happened so long that you don’t remember. Ask yourself this question: if Russian journalists who are losing their liveliood and their lives trying to tell  stories or ask  questions, would they be using that freedom in the same way that you do?”

So, the Correspondents’ Dinner on CNN was a four-hour entertainment fest that wasted 2 of the hours with replays of the Ukrainian conflict.

The “celebrities” that I saw were Kim Kardashian, and the guy who is now the lead on “Billions.” Aside from him, Don Lemon was about the most well-known, although Harry Hamlin entered with someone I think was his daughter, and his hair had been dyed blonde. Strange.

This night was no 2015 Seth Meyer performance, but Trevor Noah was topical and delivered well. The lack of any Grade “A” celebrities was noteworthy, with a very few exceptions, but it was a chance for Biden to show that he is not a thin-skinned dictator who can dish it out, but can’t take it, which DJT modeled at this same dinner in 2015.

 

On the Road Again: Poplar Bluffs, Missouri

I’m currently in Poplar Bluffs,Missouri. Yesterday, we were in Mt. Pleasant, Texas. . We journeyed across Arkansas today. Hampton Inns are our “home away from home” and I (belatedly) remembered that I am a Hilton Honors member and they now own Hampton Inns.

All I know is that we will hit St. Louis tomorrow and, hopefully, see brother-in-law Mark and do dinner and some sight-seeing.

We added up the cost of gas, so far, to and from Texas: $74 Of course, we are driving my Prius hybrid auto, which gets something like 52 miles to the gallon.

We managed to find two of the worst gas station rest rooms in the states of Arkansas and Texas. One had a rest room, but it was “out of order.” We ended up eating waffles at a waffle house at 4 p.m., simply to gain access to a rest room. Today was no better, as this rest room definitely did not earn a gold star for cleanliness. Yet there were instructions posted prominently about washing one’s hands, although I was afraid to touch ANYTHING in this rest room.

I am reading aloud and the book in question on this way home is Bob Odenkirk’s “Comedy” autobiography. On the way down, it was Mel Brooks’ autobiography, “All About Me.” Both re good books and very funny and very interesting.

My spouse insists on pronouncing “Poplar” as “popular” (!) but I will say that the Hampton Inn here is very nice. Rooms are running about $150 per night, so the trip will end up costing around $400, total, whereas our air fare back to Texas for the Fourth of July is going to run more like $600, or $300 apiece.

I can’t say that Arkansas is an improvement over Oklahoma, Folks, but Texas was way warmer and I’m getting ready to don a jacket as we head closer to home.

Cancun from April 9-16, 2022

“Winnie the Pooh has nothing on me!”

It’s been a while since I posted, which is because we (a) drove from Illinois to Texas (b) I covered SXSW (c) I speculated on the Oscars (and wrote about the “Slap Heard Round the World”) (d) celebrated my husband’s birthday (e) celebrated our anniversary and (f) flew to Cancun on April 9th.

Today is April 17th, which is 8 days (or one week) since we left the country. I’ve been pre-occupied with all of the above and ignoring the beauties of the gorgeous Cancun beaches here in Quintana Roo, a place we have visited every year since 1989.

This is our next-to-last year in our penthouse time share at the Royal islander. We arrived here yesterday from one week spent at the Royal Sands down the street, a week spent with 17 family members or hangers-on in attendance in three units.

“My future’s so bright I gotta’ wear shades.”

One of the group is Baby Winnie, who flew in from Denver with her Mom and Dad. Winnie is quite cool and the namesake of her Grandmother Wendy (Daebelliehn) Wilson. We have all been helping keep her happy. We have The Baby Whisperer (Jessica) and my specialty is singing, primarily the litte-known, unpublished “You’re my baby, yes you are, tiny little baby” song that I used to sing to Baby Stacey. Sometimes it calms her. Sometimes, she begins crying harder. (What’s the deal with that?)

Winnie flew in with her Mom (Megan) and her Dad (Aaron) and her Grandpa Mark. She seems quite happy most of the time and has been a real trouper on the trip.

The next youngest of the group would have to be 13-year-old twins Ava and Elise, who have been studying non-stop with various books brought from their Texas classes. Ava and Elise both ate sushi at a Brazilian restaurant in Kukulcaan Plaza and, as a result, both were sick for two days. We wondered about Covid, but both passed their test(s) and, so have the rest of the 15 people who flew back to Austin (Texas), Denver, St. Louis, Chicago, Salem and Boston.

I am trying hard not to get too much sun, as too much radiation is not going to be a good thing prior to “real” radiation in May. Therefore, I am wearing a 50 sun screen, always seeking shady spots, and have

Ava Stacey and Elise enjoy the Cancun weather.

only been in the water once. This was both because of the sun factor and because it has been spring-like in temperature and very windy, until recently. It has now warmed up some.

We have, so far, eaten at the Veranda restaurant affiliated with the Royal Sands, at the Kukulcaan Plaza Brazilian Steakhouse, at Sisal Mexican food restaurant associated with the Royal Sands, at Fred’s, at Puerto Modero Steakhouse, at the downstairs restaurant known as Key Largo, at the Captain’s Cove (where we waited 90 minutes for food) and we’ve ordered one pizza and one friend chicken meal, delivered to the room.

Today is Easter Sunday and we have no reservations and are vegging out, at the moment. Eating out with 17 people involved is quite the undertaking and, right now, aside from some strange hot dogs that my spouse purchased, but does not like, our foodstuffs consist mostly of snacks and various canned beverages. We have various weird things, like orange soda (no idea where that came from), noodles to be used as poker chips (garbage to be), microwave popcorn, a box of candy, one pint of vanilla ice cream that both melted and then refroze while we waited from 11 am. to 2 p.m. to gain entry, and various chips. The apple and banana and grapes represent probably the healthiest choices. We have inherited the detritus from 3 different units, so the items are many and numerous.

Tonight, we plan to wander down to see the work on the Uno concept that the Royal properties plans to open in June. It sounds like a giant step backwards from the full kitchens and sleeps 8 that we have, as they are ripping out all the kitchens, I hear, and making the rooms more like our lock-off side, with just a small microwave and a small refrigerator. All those who participate will have to be on the All Inclusive meal plan, so most of the restaurants I listed above would be off limits unless the guests paid double for the privilege.

Jessica, Stacey, Scott and the apprehensive me.

 

Windy in Cancun for Craig, Stacey, Scott and me. Note the wind blowing my hair all over the place!

Rhino Poaching in Africa is Treated in Doc “The Last Horns of Africa” at Denver International Film Festival

“The Last Horns of Africa” is a film by director/cinematographer Garth de Bruno Austin that chronicles the endangered rhinoceros of South Africa. The film is shot in Kruger National Park, a 2-million acre park the size of Israel or Wales.

Regional Ranger Don English, whose father was a ranger in the park from 1963 on, has worked the area since 1985. Over the years, Don’s job has changed from conservation to guerilla warfare against rhinoceros poachers, who will stop at nothing to kill the rhinos in the park in order to remove their horns and sell them on the black market.

The Chinese belief in the medicinal properties of rhino horn powder, as well as the prestige of having a dagger with a rhino handle has made life difficult for the 450 ranger who try to patrol the large park. The job is virtually impossible since the ratio is one ranger for every 3,000 acres.

Also prominent in the telling of the story is the woman running the Care for Wild Rhinos Sanctuary, a rhino orphanage, Petronel Nieuwoudt. Petronel is plunged into deep grief over the death of Thor, a rescued baby rhino. Thor does not die at the hands of poachers, however, but as the result of frolicking with a herd of white rhinos, who somehow harm his spine.

There are only a few thousand rhinoceros left in Africa and something like 300 to 400 in Kroger Park. The pay-out of up to $8,600 for a rhino horn is irresistible to small teams of natives who have even resorted to murder of breeders, making it necessary to hire security and to keep the exact location of the rhino orphanage within the park a secret.

One breeder, John Hume, of Swaziland wants the government to legalize the trade of rhino horns, the money going towards the car and upkeep of rhinoceros to replenish the herd. His reasoning seems to make sense, as he is trying to save the lives of the animals and the horns, removed humanely, would not be sold on the black market but would allow the community to financially support the animals. And, as he pointed out, it might drive the high price of the rhino horn down if it were legalized. A vote is taken and fails, with only 26 yes votes, 17 abstentions, and 100 voting no.

One interesting analysis of the inability of the principals to agree reminded a lot of the current dilemmas in Congress between the GOP and the Democrats. As the narrator suggests, “They’re reluctant to sit down around the table and find a solution that works for everybody.”

The cinematography of the veldt, with a variety of wild animals pictured in their natural habitat, is visually stunning. Gorgeous landscapes abound. At one point, we see a rhinoceros come down to drink at the river, something Don England said he had never seen in his 44 years in the park.

Rhino numbers have decreased dramatically in Kruger National Park. According to recent rhino statistics, the rhino population in Kruger National Park has decreased by 60% since 2013. There are only 3,529 white rhinos and 268 black rhinos left in Kruger National Park. Rangers have recently voiced their frustration to the media about the courts taking too long to prosecute alleged rhino poachers who have been arrested. Many go free on bail only to commit more acts of rhino poaching.

The documentary could have played like a “Dateline” thriller, as the law, working undercover, attempts to shut down the two biggest illegal dealers, “Big Joe” Nyalunga and Mshengu (Petros Meduza). Finally, we see the raid on the property of Big Joe, as he and his colleague are taken down, as the result of an undercover officer, Lt. Colonel LeRoy Bruwer, who, along with the others, is successful in arresting the duo in September of 2018. Although the prosecution argues against bail for the defendants, they are released anyway. March 17 of 2020 the lead investigator is assassinated while on his way to work in Mbombela in Mpumalonga Province. He was 49 years old.

The film is long, but beautifully photographed and helped draw attention to a very real problem. According to the latest statistics, the problem is becoming somewhat better, no doubt because of efforts like those detailed in the documentary.

Cancun, Mexico, September 18th-October 2nd, 2021

It’s been a while since I’ve been around to post. I was in Cancun and these pictures will give you a rough idea of what I’ve been doing.

Captain’s Cove at sunset. Cancun, Mexico.

Here we are dining in style at Captain’s Cove: (L to R) me, Craig, Stacey and Scott.

 

Aside from a sun burn I sustained 2 days before we left, the 2 weeks were uneventful.

We learned that the Royal Sands is putting in 2 new whirlpools, which bodes well for our April return, and we were only a unit or 2 away from our own assigned unit (C5108), as we were in B5107 and B5106.

The Welcome Party is still defunct, as is the Tuesday taco party for members.

Here is a shot from Harry’s, right across the street from our lodgings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biden and the Border

The article below is a cobbled-together article from a variety of respected sources, all of them fiarly recent and all of them addressing the border, the border crisis, and the history of the border issues. In light of the constant litany of charges that “the border crisis” was all the Biden Administration’s fault, with little recognition of how long this problem has existed and no discussion of what all of the issues behind it might be, I decided to “copy and paste” some of the more enlightening articles out there…especially if they were current.

Apparently there are those who think that a problem this complex can be solved by simply throwing up a barrier, and that it should happen literally overnight, in the case of the Biden Administration in office only 100 days as of April 29th.

So, what, exactly, is the deal with the border wall, then and now? The following words from others are selections of articles, only, and this is far from the definitive word on the border and what has gone on there historically and is going on there now, but I thought you might enjoy reading some of the information for yourselves all in one place.

***********************

US-Mexico border violence deepens immigration divide | World| Breaking news  and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 27.11.2018

“Some 172,000 migrants were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border in March, the most in two decades. The problem is both push and pull: residents are driven out by hurricanes, crop failure, crime and corruption; they are drawn to the U.S. by family ties, work and stability in an economy expected to explode with post-pandemic opportunities, and an administration promising more humane treatment after the harsher Donald Trump years.

On Monday, VP Kamala Harris (delegated by President Biden to handle the crisis) meets by video with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei in advance of a visit there and to Mexico in June. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Harris would discuss sending immediate aid to Guatemala and “deepening cooperation on migration.”

Harris plans to hold a call with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador next week after a virtual meeting with Guatemalan community groups on Tuesday.

Officials and advisers say Harris will have to figure out a mix of short- and long-term steps, find non-governmental organizations to partner with and use carrots and sticks to fight corruption.”

HONDURAS

“U.S. prosecutors allege Honduran President Hernandez participated in a violent cocaine trafficking conspiracy. His brother was sentenced to life in prison for conspiring to smuggle almost 200,000 kg of cocaine into the the U.S. The effort was part of a state-backed trafficking operation that netted the president’s brother nearly $140 million, according to prosecutors.

President Hernandez was also cited in a separate case in the U.S. last month for allegedly participating in cocaine trafficking. He has dismissed the accusations as lies told by convicted criminals seeking to reduce their sentences and said he remains committed to fighting the drug trade.

Hernandez narrowly won a second term in a 2017 election that Organization of American States observers called “low quality” and whose result they refused to confirm. The country will hold a presidential election in November, and Hernandez is not running. That could allow the Biden administration to hold out hope for better leadership, but there’s little optimism that corruption there is a problem with an easy solution.

“The perception of impunity or the perception that people in positions of power can commit acts of corruption without consequence discourages the population and contributes to the sense that there is no future in their countries,” Zuniga told reporters after visiting.

FLEEING THE VIOLENCE

migrant caravan

Central American migrants en route to the US starting their day departing Ciudad, Hidalgo, Mexico. (Photo AP/Moises Castillo)

“Migrants, including a growing number of women and children, are fleeing the troubled region in record numbers. On average, about 265,000 people have left annually in recent years, and this number is on track to more than double [PDF] in 2019. (And has, during DJT’s final years and now.]

Some migrants seek asylum in other parts of Latin America or in Europe. However, most endure a treacherous journey north through Mexico to the United States. Unlike past waves of migrants, in which most attempted to cross illegally without detection, migrants from the Northern Triangle often surrender to U.S. border patrol agents to claim asylum. In 2018, the United States granted asylum to roughly 13 percent [PDF] of Northern Triangle applicants, almost twice the 2015 acceptance rate [PDF]. Guatemalans currently account for the largest share of the migrant flow, followed by Hondurans and Salvadorans.

Agricultural setbacks, including unpredictable weather and a destructive coffee rust, have fueled food insecurity and become a leading driver of migration. Many households depend on money sent home by relatives living and working abroad. Remittances equal a comparatively large portion—almost 18 percent [PDF]—of the three countries’ economic output. Meanwhile, corruption and meager tax revenues, particularly in Guatemala, have crippled governments’ ability to provide social services.

Decades of civil war and political instability [PDF] planted the seeds for the complex criminal ecosystem that plagues the region today, which includes transnational gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and the Eighteenth Street Gang (M-18). Critics say that U.S. interventions during the Cold War—including support for a coup in Guatemala, brutal government forces in El Salvador, and right-wing rebels based in Honduras known as the Contras—helped destabilize the region. Though they have declined somewhat in recent years, homicide rates in the Northern Triangle have been among the world’s highest for decades.

ECONOMIC INSTABILITY

Economic instability. The region’s most significant coordinated effort to address economic instability is the so-called Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity (A4P), which made commitments to increase production, strengthen institutions, expand opportunities, and improve public safety. Announced after a flood of Northern Triangle migrants arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2014, the $22 billion plan is 80 percent funded by El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

Corruption. The region has made significant progress in its battle against corruption, a longtime drag on economies. In perhaps the most prominent example, Guatemala appealed to the United Nations for assistance in establishing an independent body to investigate and prosecute criminal groups suspected of infiltrating the government. Widely trusted by Guatemalans, the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) helped convict more than three hundred officials and significantly reduce Guatemala’s homicide rate.

Meanwhile, El Salvador has charged three former presidents with money laundering or embezzlement, and recently announced plans for its own international anticorruption panel. With the support of the Organization of American States, a regional bloc, Honduras also established a corruption-fighting committee and went so far as to fire 40 percent of its police during sweeping reforms in 2016, though citizen confidence in the force remains low [PDF].

What’s been the U.S. approach to the Northern Triangle?

Over the past twenty years, the United States has taken significant steps to try to help Northern Triangle countries manage irregular migration flows by fighting economic insecurity and violence. However, critics say U.S. policies have been largely reactive, prompted by upturns in migration to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Critics say U.S. policies have been largely reactive, prompted by upturns in migration to the U.S.-Mexico border.

George W. Bush administration. President Bush put trade at the top of his administration’s Central America agenda, negotiating the seven-country Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), which includes El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Under his administration, the United States also awarded Northern Triangle governments more than $650 million in development grants through the Millennium Challenge Corporation. During its second term, the administration grappled more with security challenges, including rising crime and drug trafficking in the region, and it responded with an aid package for Central America and Mexico known as the Merida Initiative.

Barack Obama administration. President Obama separated Mexico from the Merida grouping and rebranded it the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) [PDF]. Over the years, Congress has appropriated more than $2 billion in aid through CARSI to help the region’s law enforcement, counternarcotics agencies, and justice systems. Midway through his second term, Obama recast U.S. strategy [PDF] for Central America, forging what was intended to be a more holistic interagency approach to complement the region’s A4P plan.

After an upswing in migration from the region in 2014, the administration partnered with Northern Triangle governments on anti-smuggling operations and information campaigns intended to deter would-be migrants. It also cracked down on undocumented immigrants inside the United States. Court-mandated removals during his administration outpaced those under Bush, totaling about three million. After Mexico, the Northern Triangle countries accounted for the largest shares of Obama-era removals.

Donald J. Trump administration. The Trump administration has kept Obama’s framework for the region, but has prioritized stemming the flow of Central American migrants to the United States and ramping up border security.

Many of Trump’s actions have stoked controversy and sparked legal challenges. In the spring of 2018, the administration implemented a zero-tolerance policy [PDF] that sought to criminally prosecute all adults entering the United States illegally, including asylum seekers and those with children. As a result, several thousand children were separated from their parents and detained in makeshift facilities, many of which were criticized for being in poor condition. Trump officially rescinded the policy following a public backlash, though separations have continued.

OCTOBER 1, 2019:

The U.S. Immigration Debate | Council on Foreign Relations
 Photo courtesy of the Council on Foreign Relations

Apprehensions of Northern Triangle citizens have more than doubled so far this year  (2019) compared with all of 2018.

Meanwhile, Trump has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in Northern Triangle aid, and is holding back future funding until the region “take[s] concrete actions” to address migration. The administration also tried revoking temporary protected status, a program that allows migrants from crisis-stricken countries to live and work in the United States for a period of time, for Hondurans and Salvadorans.

This seems to have made the situation at the border worse.

CHILDREN AT THE BORDER

A growing influx of migrants has led to a record number of children – 3,200 – being held in US immigration facilities as of 8 March. (*This has supposedly shrunk to 600 unescorted children being held, as of late April, 2021, with faster turn-around on processing and at least four families reunited after the Trump administration removed children from their parental escorts and lost track of many of them. Two shown being reunited recently had been separated from their parents since 2017 and 2018, respectively.)

US media reported that the figure had trebled in the past two weeks. It was also reported that half of the children are being held beyond the legal three-day limit, after which they must be transferred to the custody of health officials.

In January, the month that Mr Biden took office, 5,871 unaccompanied children crossed the border – up from 4,995 in December – according to data from US Customs and Border Protection (CPB).

Are unaccompanied children being held?

Yes.

While in office, Donald Trump faced outrage over the conditions inside border facilities holding minors. Images from inside the detention centres showed children overcrowded in metal cages, others sleeping under foil blankets.

Some of these Trump-era facilities – now renovated and upgraded – are being used again.

Mr Biden has so far left a Trump-era Covid-19 emergency policy in place, which allows US authorities to expel almost all undocumented migrants seeking entry – bypassing normal immigration laws and protections.

But unlike Mr Trump, Mr Biden has decided not to refuse entry to migrant children or teenagers.

CHANGES UNDER BIDEN

Biden immigration policy stirs confusion at Mexico border - Los Angeles  Times
Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Times

“Advocates say that with most children arriving with plans to reunite with sponsors – typically friends or family – they should be transferred immediately to their care.

And according to preliminary plans obtained by US media, such a system may already be in the works.

The Biden administration is reportedly rushing to convert its existing facilities into “reception centres”, meant to rapidly process migrant families with the goal of releasing them into the US within 72 hours of arrival.

The proposal would replace long-term detention with Ellis Island-style processing, allowing migrants to travel to US sponsors before completing asylum screenings. The reports, from the Washington Post and the San Antonio Express, suggest a major overhaul of the US immigration system. All those processed are tested for Covid-19 before being transferred.

What is happening with the Remain in Mexico policy?

On Mr Biden’s first day in office, DHS suspended a controversial Trump-era policy that forced asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their US immigration hearings.

About 70,000 migrants were enrolled in the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) – informally known as the Remain in Mexico program – since it was introduced in January 2019.

Last month, the Biden administration began to gradually process these tens of thousands of people waiting in Mexico, allowing them into the US while their cases are heard.

March 9, 2021

What’s happening to undocumented people already in the US?

Biden’s administration has taken several steps to reform the country’s legal immigration system.

He has proposed a major immigration bill that would offer an eight-year pathway to citizenship to the estimated 11 million undocumented people in the country.

The legislation would also provide permanent protection for young migrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) program, known as Dreamers.

The aggressively pro-immigration policy – which would greatly increase both family-based and employment-based legal immigration – will face staunch opposition in Congress, among Republicans and some moderate Democrats.

DIFFERENCES: THEN AND NOW

The White House has also started to focus attention on addressing root causes of migration in Central America, with Vice President Kamala Harris charged to shepherd an administration-wide effort to address conditions in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) sent a team to the region in April to scale up emergency humanitarian assistance in light of the pandemic, aftereffects of hurricanes that struck in late 2020, and other challenges. Thus far, work with these countries has focused on short-term measures to reduce the pace of migrants’ arrival at the U.S. border. But the administration has consistently noted that long-term efforts to address poor governance and create economic opportunities in Central America will be key to stem irregular migration.

 

 

 

“Beatles,” Live: And You Are There (And I Was)

The Royal Sands, April 3-10, 2021

Daughter Stacey and granddaughters Elise (l) and Ava (r).

Week One in Cancun is in the history books.

We visited several extremely fancy (and equally pricey) restaurants, including “Harry’s,” “Tabu,” “Rosa Negra” (the Black Rose), Captain’s Cove and the Veranda at the Royal Sands.

The daughter and the grandchildren encountered a pig on the beach, being walked by its owner. Naturally, photo opportunities arose.

Our room (C5108) became party central for games and we played euchre, poker, Balderdash, Code Words, and other games.

Uncle Mark (Wilson) arrived from St. Louis a few days in and left a few days early. All of the Covid-19 tests required came back negative and, of our party of 12, only Jessica, Chris Poffenbarger and the granddaughters had not received at least one shot. Masks are required at the facility, but not around the pool. The crowds appear to be about half what they normally would be, but the restaurants mentioned above are teeming with patrons, who are being bombarded by high decibel noise.

The son and daughter-in-law and granddaughters and daughter left today (for Austin and Nashville,

Stacey holds Moira, the pig.

respectively). The Poffenbargers left for St. Louis and Macomb, Illinois.

The weather was sunny every day, but especially windy and, for the first 5 days, I did not get in the pool (nor, in some cases, remove my cover-up) because it was not that hot. On one day (Tuesday) the women visited the spa. I had an aromatherapy massage and, for the first time, I was not pummeled into a week of pain. The daughter has shared that the foot reflexology massage was her favorite.

On Wednesday Scott rented a boat that carried ten of the group out to go snorkeling.

I’m not a big fan of snorkeling. I did not ever get it quite “right” when we visited Hawaii, and I haven’t gotten it right since. Getting in and out of the boat has always been a challenge and I really don’t like fish rubbing against my body, which actually happened in Hawaii when we took a bag of frozen peas and lured fish toward us at Hanama Bay. It’s not a good memory.

For those reasons and others, I did not accompany the group that went out on the boat (which, also, cost $180 an hour). Craig hit his head hard on something on the boat and has a big scab on the top of his head now. He and Mark also commented on the strong current in the ocean, where the snorkeling led them.

Beach at the Royal Sands.

The boat captain also noticed their distress in a strong ocean current). Stacey cut her foot on the sharp coral while swimming back to potentially render aid. The hole in the bottom of her foot concerned me for the rest of her time with us, as I got cellulitis through a sore foot a few years ago, and it was not a laughing matter.

But all have returned home to the U.S. safely, save us. One more week in Paradise.

Cancun, Mexico.

Cancun, April 3-10, 2021.

Elise holds Moira.

Happy Birthday Night in Downtown Austin (March 20/21)

Birthday dinner in downtown Austin at Fogo de Chau.

This will be a stream-of-consciousness retelling of last weekend’s Birthday Weekend in downtown Austin.

It was my husband’s birthday AND we had secured appointments for our second Pfizer Covid-19 shots at the HEB store on 7th Street. That is truly something to celebrate, since we are supposed to fly to Mexico in early April and who wants to fly to a foreign country if unvaccinated?

We started our weekend adventure about 11:15 a.m. (for a noon appointment) and went to HEB first (did you know that the last name of the owner of HEB is Butts? Just wondering…). There was really no line, so we were done there in record time and picked up all kinds of stuff for our room: pop, beer, fruit plate, doughnuts (for the morrow), vegetable plate and dip, chips, etc.

We then drove to the hotel on Rainey Street and checked in early. We found out upon checking in that it was going to cost an additional $50 to park the car overnight. Later, we would find out that it would cost an additional $20 to watch a movie in the room. So, the tab was now soaring to over $550.

Our first shot weekend, the entire bill was $150, at the Stephen K Austin Sonesta Hotel downtown on Congress Avenue,  and it was quite quiet there.

Jessica and I celebrate at the Hotel VanZandt in downtown Austin.

The “live” band across the street played until midnight and then some idiot outside kept revving a motorcycle until 2 a.m. I had forgotten my omnipresent wind machine. Also, there had been no mention of their much-vaunted pool deck being under construction. (The one I show in my photo is an apartment building across the street). Nor did they mention “work on the outside of the building,” which meant that we were to keep our blinds closed unless we wanted to flash someone. I will attach a photo of the bathroom, which had a large tub overlooking the city—or, in this case, the workers outside.

There are robes in the room, but mine did not fit. There were no coffee pots. We asked that one be brought up when we checked in. It took 7 hours to get it. It made one cup of coffee and then would not work.

So, we hunkered down with the son, daughter-in-law and granddaughters to enjoy our goodies and watch Iowa in their first round of play. That went well, although Iowa would subsequently lose to Oregon, so there goes the season.

We also took advantage of the wine happy hour (5 to 6 p.m.) and, after that, went to Fogo de Chau, which I have probably misspelled, and ate.

Rainey Street on March 20-21st, Austin, TX.

This is directly across the street from the Convention Center downtown and was fairly busy. It is a chain (Brazilian Steakhouse). I think the price was $54.95 per person, but this was the son’s treat for his father’s birthday, and it was delicious. Waiters circle throughout the room constantly with roasted meats (sirloin, prime rib, chicken, pork, lamb) and they bring a very small dish of mashed potatoes to the table. Then there is a salad bar. Weirdly enough, they issue you a plastic baggie thing to use on your hand, like this is (somehow) going to protect you from spreading germs, were you to be infected with a disease of any kind. I don’t generally do much salad bar stuff, but I did take some potato salad (very bland) and two olives and some bread with butter packets. It was good that I took the bread, because the girls mainly wanted to eat bread and, at one point, they ran out of bread, which is odd. (Later, they brought some additional bread to our table, by request).

The dinner was delicious and very much appreciated. We then went back to the hotel, where we rented “Let Him Go” (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) and Craig—who had his shot first on Saturday—experienced some after-effects—(fever, chills) that put him out early. I stayed up until 2 a.m. and was very sorry that I had not brought my wind machine. I was finally forced to press my phone into service, as it has a not-that-satisfactory version of my wind machine on it.

Hotel Van Zandt, Austin, Tx.

Hotel VanZandt. Corner room. Austin, TX.

When we awakened the next morning, my phone was nearly dead and we had to check out immediately to make it to my 12:30 appointment back at HEB. We were supposed to check out at 11 a.m.. but had asked for a slightly later check-out, so we left at 11:30 a.m. As a result, we got there around noon and—fortunately—there was no one there but me, at first. They were looking for someone named “Emily.” Another Hispanic gentleman signed in with his paperwork right after me. He was first; I was second, and then the MIA Emily showed and was given her shot, following mine. It is now Monday and I have not had any fever or chills or unusual fatigue or headaches, all good things.

So, we are both vaccinated for Mexico and the birthday—which included shirts, an Amazon gift card, a Home Depot gift card, and the room, itself, (with a complimentary lime pie dessert at the restaurant) feted Craig’s 76th year on the planet.

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