Border official resigns amid uproar over migrant children
HOUSTON (AP) — The acting head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection resigned Tuesday amid an uproar over the discovery of migrant children being held in pitiful conditions at one of the agency's stations in Texas.
Acting Commissioner John Sanders' departure deepened the sense of crisis and added to the rapid turnover inside the agencies responsible for enforcing President Donald Trump's hardline immigration priorities as the U.S. deals with record numbers of migrant families coming across the border.
In a message to employees, Sanders said he would step down on July 5. He did not give a reason for leaving.
"Although I will leave it to you to determine whether I was successful, I can unequivocally say that helping support the amazing men and women of CBP has been the most fulfilling and satisfying opportunity of my career," he said.
In an interview last week, Sanders blamed the problems in detention on a lack of money. He called on Congress to pass a $4.5 billion emergency funding bill to address the crisis — legislation the House was planning to take up Tuesday.
Father-daughter border drowning highlights migrants' perils
MEXICO CITY (AP) — The man and his 23-month-old daughter lay face down in shallow water along the bank of the Rio Grande, his black shirt hiked up to his chest with the girl's head tucked inside. Her arm was draped around his neck suggesting she clung to him in her final moments.
The searing photograph of the sad discovery of their bodies on Monday, captured by journalist Julia Le Duc and published by Mexican newspaper La Jornada, highlights the perils faced by mostly Central American migrants fleeing violence and poverty and hoping for asylum in the United States.
According to Le Duc's reporting for La Jornada, Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, frustrated because the family from El Salvador was unable to present themselves to U.S. authorities and request asylum, swam across the river on Sunday with his daughter, Valeria.
He set her on the U.S. bank of the river and started back for his wife, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, but seeing him move away the girl threw herself into the waters. Martínez returned and was able to grab Valeria, but the current swept them both away.
The account was based on remarks by Ávalos to police at the scene — "amid tears" and "screams" — Le Duc told The Associated Press.
AP Exclusive: Imprisoned supercop's escape from Venezuela
WASHINGTON (AP) — As the last rays of sunlight faded into the Caribbean Sea, political fugitive Iván Simonovis was speeding toward an island rendezvous with freedom.
Three weeks earlier he had fled house arrest in the Venezuelan capital, rappelling down a 75-foot (25-meter) wall in the dead of night, then took a bolt cutter to his ankle monitor. Since then he had been furtively moving between safe houses to stay one step ahead of Nicolas Maduro's security forces.
It was a meticulous plan befitting his reputation as Venezuela's most famous SWAT cop.
But then, with freedom almost in sight, Venezuela's crisis dealt one final blow: The motor on his fishing boat conked out, choking on water and sediment clogging its gas tank, a growing problem in the once-wealthy OPEC nation as its crude supply dwindles and its refineries fall into disrepair.
"Nobody would've guessed that in Venezuela a motor would fail because of the gasoline," the 59-year-old Simonovis told The Associated Press in his first comments since resurfacing Monday in Washington after five weeks on the run.
Federal judges send 2020 census lawsuit back to lower court
BALTIMORE (AP) — A lawsuit that alleges a 2020 census question pushed by the Trump administration violates minorities' rights will be sent back to a federal court in Maryland so new evidence can be considered, U.S. appeals judges ruled Tuesday.
The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision comes a day after U.S. District Judge George Hazel of Maryland suggested in an opinion that racial discrimination and partisan power plays could be the underlying motives in asking everyone in the country about citizenship status. The 4th Circuit's order sending the case back to Hazel could be pivotal.
"The decision today opens up a potentially new legal front in the fight against the citizenship question," said Thomas Wolf, counsel for the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice and an expert on census matters.
The Supreme Court is expected to decide this week whether the Trump administration can add its citizenship question to the 2020 population survey. However, the justices are not considering legal questions about whether the citizenship addition might be discriminatory.
Now that the 4th Circuit has sent this lawsuit back to the federal court in Maryland, Hazel could issue an injunction blocking the citizenship question. If that were to happen, the order issued by the lower court would have to hold until the Supreme Court can take up the matter, according to Wolf.
Iran says 'idiotic' new US sanctions shut doors of diplomacy
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran warned Tuesday that new U.S. sanctions targeting its supreme leader and other top officials meant "closing the doors of diplomacy" between Tehran and Washington amid heightened tensions, even as President Hassan Rouhani derided the White House as being "afflicted by mental retardation."
President Donald Trump called that a "very ignorant and insulting statement," tweeting that an Iranian attack on any U.S. interest will be met with "great and overwhelming force ... overwhelming will mean obliteration." His secretary of state said the Iranian statement was "immature."
The sharp remarks from Tehran shows the pressure that the nation's Shiite theocracy and its 80 million people feel over the maximalist campaign of sanctions by the Trump administration. From Israel, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said Iran could walk through an "open door" to talks with America but also warned that "all options remain on the table" if Tehran makes good on its promise to begin breaking one limit from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
The verbal volleys recalled North Korea's statements about Trump before the dramatic change in course and the start of negotiations with Washington. In 2017, state media quoted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un calling Trump "the mentally deranged U.S. dotard."
However, there are no signs the Iranian leadership would welcome talks.
Warren in the spotlight as Democrats gather for 1st debate
MIAMI (AP) — After circling each other for months, Democratic presidential candidates will converge on the debate stage in Miami on Wednesday as the campaign enters a new — and likely more contentious — phase.
Given the massive field , the debate will be split over two nights with 10 candidates appearing each evening. It's the highest-profile opportunity yet for many White House hopefuls to offer their vision for the country and — if for just two hours — chip into a political news cycle often dominated by President Donald Trump.
Elizabeth Warren will take center stage at the debate's opening night. The Massachusetts senator's constant stream of policy proposals has helped her campaign gain ground, and she's the sole top-tier candidate who will appear at the Wednesday debate. Widely viewed as a talented debater, Warren is well positioned to showcase her strengths, strategists say.
"I don't think anyone else on that night has her level of skill and her level of experience in this format," said Maria Cardona, a Democratic strategist. "I think she should look at this as an opportunity to really shine and come out of the first night as the one that is dominating the conversation."
Yet Warren could still face challenges. The other candidates on stage Wednesday aren't as well known and could use the moment to take aggressive stances against Warren in an effort to find a breakout moment.
San Francisco is 1st major US city to ban e-cigarettes
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco became the first major U.S. city to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes after supervisors gave the measure its second and final vote Tuesday.
Backers say they hope the legislation will curb underage use of e-cigarettes, but critics say the ban will make it harder for adults to purchase an alternative to regular cigarettes.
San Francisco is a city that celebrates its marijuana culture, but it appears deeply opposed to other vices. Last year, voters approved a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco and in 2016, a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks.
E-cigarette maker Juul Labs, which is based in San Francisco, says it is opposed to youth vaping.
The company is working on a ballot initiative that would regulate but not ban e-cigarette sales.
Smoke from US wildfires boosting health risk for millions
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Climate change in the Western U.S. means more intense and frequent wildfires churning out waves of smoke that scientists say will sweep across the continent to affect tens of millions of people and cause a spike in premature deaths.
That emerging reality is prompting people in cities and rural areas alike to prepare for another summer of sooty skies along the West Coast and in the Rocky Mountains — the regions widely expected to suffer most from blazes tied to dryer, warmer conditions.
"There's so little we can do. We have air purifiers and masks — otherwise we're just like 'Please don't burn,'" said Sarah Rochelle Montoya of San Francisco, who fled her home with her husband and children last fall to escape thick smoke enveloping the city from a disastrous fire roughly 150 miles (241 kilometers) away.
Other sources of air pollution are in decline in the U.S. as coal-fired power plants close and fewer older cars roll down highways. But those air quality gains are being erased in some areas by the ill effects of massive clouds of smoke that can spread hundreds and even thousands of miles on cross-country winds, according to researchers.
With the 2019 wildfire season already heating up and fires breaking out from Southern California through Canada to Alaska, authorities are scrambling to better protect the public before smoke again blankets cities and towns. Officials in Seattle recently announced plans to retrofit five public buildings as smoke-free shelters.
Feds: Rep. Duncan Hunter used campaign cash for affairs
LOS ANGELES (AP) — U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter of California illegally used campaign funds to finance romantic flings with lobbyists and congressional aides, spending thousands of dollars on meals, cocktails and vacations, federal prosecutors say.
Details about the married Republican congressman's alleged affairs were outlined in a government court filing late Monday connected to charges that Hunter and his wife misspent more than $200,000 in campaign money on trips and personal expenses.
Margaret Hunter pleaded guilty this month to one corruption count and agreed to testify against her husband.
The congressman has said he is the target of politically motivated prosecutors. His lawyer, Gregory Vega, didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment about the new court filing.
Prosecutors said evidence about the congressman's affairs is necessary to "demonstrate Hunter's ... intent to break the law and to establish his motive to embezzle from his campaign."
Trump opponents turn the Mueller report into an art form
NEW YORK (AP) — Liz Zito is a multimedia artist so immersed in the Mueller Report that she wrote fan fiction to fill in the parts that were redacted by the Justice Department. When she worried that other Americans didn't know about the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller, she found her own way to make them accessible: A "performative reading" in downtown Manhattan.
"When you deliver a comedic performance, you want people to laugh at all the jokes, but a lot of positive feedback from that night came from people learning what was actually in the report and how manipulated we all were-are as world citizens," Zito says of her June 13 show at the gallery 601 Artspace.
First made public in April, the Mueller report detailing the results of the two-year investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia is no longer just a book or a document to read online. It is a work of theater and other art forms, and a touchstone for Donald Trump opponents seeking to highlight his alleged misconduct, including possible attempts by the president to impede or halt the investigation.
Over the past month, there have been readings in New York, Washington and elsewhere. A San Diego-based publisher, IDW, is planning a graphic novel and at least one musical act, Electric Parrot, has named a song after it.
On Monday night, an all-star reading from New York City's Riverside Church featured John Lithgow, Annette Bening and others. The event was presented and livestreamed by Law Works, which identifies itself as a bipartisan organization that advocates for the rule of law.