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US Extends Border Closures with Mexico and Canada

The borders between the United States and Mexico and Canada have been closed for at least another month due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

According to WWNYTV.com, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that the US-Canada border would remain closed to non-essential travel until at least February 21.

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The current travel restrictions have been in effect since March, when the COVID-19 outbreak began in North America. The 30-day extension maintains the order that expires on January 21.

Regarding the border between Mexico and the United States, government officials also requested to extend non-essential travel restrictions. The border closure was initially instituted on March 21 and is now scheduled to last until February 21.

“Due to the development of the spread of COVID-19 and because several states are in orange (threat level),” the Mexican Foreign Ministry told Fox San Diego. “Mexico proposed to the United States the extension, for another month, of the restrictions on non-essential land traffic on their common border.”

While decisions to extend border closures have been sympathetically accepted by most Americans due to the high number of confirmed coronavirus cases, Mexicans have complained that no one is preventing US citizens from traveling south of the border.

The news comes hours after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that it would begin requiring a negative COVID-19 test of all air passengers entering the United States, effective January 26. .

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Trump and Aides led to family separation at border, documents say

WASHINGTON – President Trump and senior White House aides have vigorously pushed the hardening policy that has led migrant families to be separated on the border with Mexico, a senior Justice Department official says in a new report of the inspector general of the department, and other internal documents.

In the report, officially released on Thursday, Gene Hamilton, a senior justice official, said the policy was implemented after complaints from the president and other White House people involved in implementing the program. Immigration of the President.

“The attorney general was aware of the White House’s desires for further action related to tackling illegal immigration,” Hamilton said in the report in response to questions about the origins of the program, in which the ministry began to prosecute adult migrants who arrived at the border with children.

Mr. Hamilton said former Attorney General Jeff Sessions “saw the need for swift action” from Mr. Trump and that after a White House meeting on April 3, 2018, Mr. Sessions ” directed that I write a memo that establishes a zero tolerance approach to border immigration law enforcement.

In a statement released Thursday after the Inspector General’s report, Rod J. Rosenstein, the former deputy attorney general involved in politics, expressed deep regret over the zero tolerance policy and the role it played in its implementation.

“Since leaving the ministry, I have often wondered what we should have done differently, and no problem has dominated my thinking more than the zero tolerance immigration policy,” he said. . “It was a failed policy that should never have been proposed or implemented. I wish we had all done better.

Notes obtained by The New York Times of two meetings – one between federal prosecutors along the Southwestern border and Mr. Sessions, and the other with Mr. Rosenstein – also indicate that law enforcement were pushing the separation policy in response to pressure from the president.

In a May 11, 2018 meeting with Mr. Sessions, the attorney general told prosecutors, “We have to take children,” according to the notes. Moments later, he described Mr. Trump as “very intense, very focused” on the matter, according to a person taking notes at the meeting.

Another person who attended the same meeting wrote of the same part of the conversation involving Mr. Trump: “INTENSE: sue everyone.”

Mr Trump has repeatedly tried to evade responsibility for his administration’s family separation policy by wrongly blaming Democrats and former President Barack Obama. But the Inspector General’s report and other documents directly implicate the Trump White House.

On May 14, just days after Mr. Sessions met with his prosecutors, Stephen Miller, the chief architect of Mr. Trump’s immigration policy in the White House, emailed Mr. Hamilton noting a newspaper article indicating that American lawyers sometimes refused to do so. prosecute migrants who crossed the border illegally, in part because migrants were crossing with young children. Mr. Hamilton replied, “This article is a big deal.”

Eight days later, on May 22, Rosenstein met again with US lawyers who deal with border issues to insist that they prosecute any cases of illegal crossings referred to them by the border patrol. He dismissed concerns from at least one prosecutor that children under 5 would be separated from their parents if adults were prosecuted.

“If they refer, then go on. THE AGE OF THE CHILD DOESN’T MATTER, ”Rosenstein said, according to notes from one person at the meeting, who wrote in all caps.

Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and new chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement: “Those who have planned and executed the zero tolerance policy will have to live with the knowledge that their cruelty and cowardice are responsible for the scars these children will bear for the rest of their lives. They must be held accountable for the fundamental human rights violations they have committed. “

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Trump will visit the Texas border wall in his first public appearance since the Capitol Riot.

President Donald J. Trump is scheduled to appear in Alamo, Texas on Tuesday, his first public appearance in nearly a week after his supporters fiercely attacked the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the election results. The purpose of the trip to the border with Mexico is to promote the partially constructed border wall, which the Trump administration sees as an achievement.

The president is scheduled to land in Harlingen at 1 p.m. local time, then fly a short helicopter ride to McAllen. From there, he should visit part of the border wall in the nearby town of Alamo, along the Rio Grande River.

Across the street from McAllen Airport, pedestrian fences have been placed where the President’s motorcade is expected to travel. McAllen Police and U.S. Border Patrol vehicles, as well as unidentified unidentified vehicles, patrolled the area prior to Mr. Trump’s arrival.

At the Aztek barber shop in Alamo, Alejandro Silva, 27, said he had nothing against Mr. Trump and had no opinion on the border wall.

“But he shouldn’t be visiting now,” said Mr. Silva, a mechanic. “He should step down and leave everyone alone.”

The president’s supporters were planning two parades on Tuesday in Harlingen and McAllen. After the riot on the U.S. Capitol last week that left five people dead, a coalition of anti-border wall activists, led by La Unión del Pueblo Entero, circulated a petition urging politicians to cancel Mr. Trump at Alamo.

“We cannot allow Trump to bring his racist mob to the Rio Grande Valley,” said John-Michael Torres, a spokesperson for the organizers.

Responding to fears, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling said in a statement: “I understand that emotions are strong on both sides, for or against the president and I hope that if there are protests for or against, that they are peaceful to our law enforcement personnel. “

The border visit draws attention to one of Mr. Trump’s flagship projects. In an effort to curb immigration from Latin America, Mr. Trump pushed forward the border wall over objections from tribal nations, local landowners and environmental groups, waiving dozens of laws, including measures protecting endangered species and Native American burial sites.

A few miles to the southeast, numerous crews erected sections of the border wall across the river from Reynosa, Mexico, in preparation for the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge in Alamo. The 2,088-acre refuge, which abuts the Rio Grande, is where the federal government was granted access to land surveying last April after U.S. District Judge Randy Crane ruled that part of the land was not was not free from construction. The move angered some local residents who had assumed the park was banned.

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In a desert of news that widens at the border, a tabloid start-up defies all odds

More than 200 men, women and children on horseback, ATVs and in vans climbed the traffic seven miles to Cienegas Terrace, a settlement between Del Rio Airport and the Rio Grande. A ranch meal followed, featuring kegs of beer, homemade tamales, a stringing show, and a band of norteño playing behind a curtain of cigarette smoke.

Diego’s uncle Beto Torez, who grew up in Del Rio, was at the party with his young family. He lives 260 miles east, in Austin, where he works as a church music director. Del Rio is fun to visit for the day, he said, but raising kids here? No way. Austin has a better music scene.

The cabalgata made the news on Noticias Del Rio TV, a local bilingual Facebook page with nearly 85,000 subscribers. The 830 Times has so far 3,000 subscribers on its Facebook page. The disparate numbers suggest the hurdles Mr Langton faces in his attempt to make the 830 Times succeed in a world dominated by Google and Facebook advertising and by competitors with an appeal in Spanish.

“For now, I’m paying the bill,” he said. “Am I playing on the printed product? Yes. I could lose it all.

At 24, Mr. Langton was married, broke and desperate to work in Minnesota. The Air Force was recruiting, so he enlisted.

The military moved him around every three years, a traveling life that reflected his education as a preacher’s son. He worked as a public affairs specialist in Indiana, Maryland, Arkansas, Nebraska, Turkey, and then in Cocoa Beach, Florida, which he called “the perfect place to recover from. a divorce”.

Mr. Langton remarried and moved with his wife to his last post at Del Rio at Laughlin Air Force Base, the largest pilot training facility in the United States.

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Impacting Travel

Restrictions on the land border of the US, Canada and Mexico were extended

As COVID-19 cases continue to spread across the Americas like a wildfire, a decision has been made to keep the United States’ land borders with Canada and Mexico closed until at least January 21, 2021.

Just today, US and Canadian officials confirmed the extension of the mutual ban on nonessential land border crossings, which was first imposed in March in an effort to stem the spread of the pandemic. Since then, the border closure has been renewed every month, based on reassessments of the current COVID-19 situation.

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Acting Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf wrote on Twitter that the three neighboring nations have extended the ban, “to continue to prevent the spread of COVID.” He continued: “We are working closely with Mexico and Canada to keep essential trade and travel open while protecting our citizens from the virus.”

Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair also took to Twitter, explaining that “current restrictions on all non-essential travel between Canada and the US will remain in effect until January 21.” , and assured: “Our decisions will continue to be based on the best public health advice available to keep Canadians safe.”

This latest extension means that the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden will ultimately determine when those border restrictions will be lifted. Biden will take office on January 20.

US officials had reportedly previously sought some revisions to the continued closure of the Canadian border, considering that communities near the border on both sides are closely intertwined. But, given the growing and uncontrolled outbreaks of coronavirus in the United States, Canada has shown little interest in loosening restrictions.

In fact, earlier this month, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation unapologetically: “Until the virus is significantly more under control worldwide, we are not going to release restrictions on border”.

Last week, the US recorded more than 200,000 COVID-19 cases per day for four consecutive days, according to a Reuters tally of official data. On December 2, a record 3,253 deaths were reported in the United States. In all, the United States has so far seen some 15.6 million cases and 292,642 deaths, while Canada has suffered about 442,000 confirmed cases and just over 13,100 deaths.

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Families at the border present familiarity test for Biden Homeland Security choice

WASHINGTON – Alejandro N. Mayorkas opened a 2016 speech on immigration by recounting his personal connection to the subject – his story of being a political refugee. Then it only took a few minutes for Mr Mayorkas, the then Under-Secretary for Homeland Security, to respond to criticism of his ministry’s immigration case.

“Many have been very unhappy with the administration’s removal of people who have not qualified for refugee status or asylum status in the United States and our practice of removing those who do not qualify for asylum. reparation under the law, ”Mayorkas said during his address to Georgetown Law. “Whether we broaden the base on which we seek to welcome these fleeing people for a better life is a question answered by thinking about who we want to be as a country.”

His remarks not only highlighted some of the experiences that prompted President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to appoint him homeland security secretary last month – fleeing Cuba during the Castro revolution to the United States, where he became American prosecutor for the South. California – but they also heralded one of the first dilemmas he’s likely to face as head of the department.

There are early indicators that migration will swell at the southwest border, presenting the Biden administration with a first test of the human consequences. In November, border officials apprehended a child crossing the border alone 4,467 times. That’s a slight drop from the 4,661 in October, but a marked increase from the 712 recorded in April, when various countries imposed national lockdowns and the Trump administration invoked a public health emergency rule for put in place new border restrictions.

Almost all of the 70,052 border arrests in November involved an adult migrating alone, who border officials can still quickly repatriate to Mexico under public health rules. But immigration experts pointed to two recent hurricanes that devastated Central America as well as the pandemic’s damage to the economy by warning that the United States in the coming months will most likely be faced with the question of what to do with parents and children crossing the southwest border. in search of protection.

The new administration’s approach to the issue is expected to balance left-wing demands for more lenient immigration policies with concerns from moderates and law enforcement officials who believe any display of tolerance could lead to an increase. illegal migration.

“On the one hand, they are under pressure from the right to just grant amnesty and let in all those illegals and from the left that you are too hard on,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said. under President Barack Obama. . “And the challenge is to uphold the rule of law and to do it intelligently.”

The Trump administration has sought to restrict the possibility of obtaining asylum through a myriad of regulations and policies, including one that requires migrants to wait in Mexico for decisions in their case rather than being released. in the USA.

The United States also cited the public health authority given to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to empower border officials to promptly “deport” migrants at the border to Mexico or their country of origin without hearing their demands. asylum. This policy has had the unintended consequence of encouraging migrants to cross the border illegally on several occasions.

In November, a federal judge blocked the administration from applying the rule to migrant children at the border, a move that officials in the outgoing Trump administration say will fuel northward migration.

Although Mr Biden has not said whether he will lift public health restrictions, he has said he will end the “stay in Mexico” policy that has forced tens of thousands of migrants to cross the border .

“Most transitions go off right away without incident. However, as far as immigration is concerned, it could be different, ”Mark Morgan, acting Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, told reporters on Monday. “If they do what they say they’re going to do, you’re going to have a full blown crisis. I hope they don’t do what they say they are going to do.

In October and November, the border patrol detained around 150 migrant children a day at the southwest border, up from around 80 a day in the fiscal year that ended on October 1, the agency said. The more than 4,600 detentions of children at the border in November are still less than the 5,615 arrests recorded in 2016.

Mr Biden said he will cut funding used to detain migrants and instead rely on programs that follow them after they are released in the United States to ensure they appear in court. Its immigration-focused transition team has discussed in recent weeks the upsurge in asylum officers at the border to handle more cases, as well as lobbying Congress for additional bed capacity at the Office of Relocation of refugees from the Department of Health and Social Services, according to interviews with counselors.

Once children are detained at the border, they are required by law to be transferred to shelters managed by the department within 72 hours. They are then supposed to be matched with parents acting as sponsors or placed in foster care. The refugee office has around 3,300 children in its care out of around 8,700 places that were made available during the pandemic, according to a statement from the agency.

Both the Trump and Obama administrations have been criticized for caring for children in border facilities and for the time it took to transfer them to health and social services.

In 2014, the population at the border shifted from single Mexican adults, who can be quickly deported, to Central American families and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. By law, these families cannot be expelled quickly because they did not travel from a neighboring country.

The Obama administration has responded by increasing the number of family detention centers, converting a warehouse in McAllen, Texas, into a facility that can accommodate more than 1,000 migrants in chain pens. Mr Mayorkas was confirmed as Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security in December 2013 after leading the Citizenship and Immigration Services, which oversee legal immigration.

“I think he is well aware of how the administration handled the 2014 crisis,” Doris Meissner, the Clinton administration’s immigration commissioner, said of Mr Mayorkas. And under Mr. Trump, the processing of asylum claims was effectively “stopped”.

“How can you get away with this, but put in place a system that actually allows for border control, as well as a system to judge protection claims that is fair and timely?” Said Ms. Meissner.

Biden’s advisers have said the new administration will re-commit to restoring the asylum process. But it’s unclear how he’ll fight a backlog of more than a million cases in the immigration court system that has left immigrants waiting years in the United States for decisions.

The Trump administration added another hurdle for Mr Biden last week, when it put in place sweeping rules that restrict the eligibility criteria for asylum seekers and order asylum officers to reject the claim. Most claims based on domestic violence or gang violence.

Immigration advocacy organizations have called on Mayorkas not only to reverse these policies, but to overhaul a border system that has been the point of contention for several administrations.

But he has already walked a tightrope in the face of these questions.

When Mr. Mayorkas finished his speech in Georgetown in 2016, an audience member urged him to know whether the Obama administration’s funding for detention centers would save him “the undue suffering of separation. family and community disruptions that immigration detention inevitably causes ”.

“Things are in tension. Many have expressed deep concern about the detention of families, about the detention of children, ”Mayorkas said, while also acknowledging the concern of deportation officers who had warned that some migrants would not appear for their hearings. if they were released. “Where you vote on that, you have to take all the factors into account and fundamentally answer them with what you think is most important.”

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As Biden prepares to take office, another border rush

After the brutal 2018 “zero tolerance” policy that separated children from their parents, the Trump administration last year introduced the Migrant Protection Protocols, or “return to Mexico,” forcing some 67,000 applicants to asylum to await their immigration hearings south of the border.

Politics have locked people into squalid makeshift camps controlled by gangs. But it has had the effect of drastically reducing flows and forcing thousands of migrants already at the border to turn around and return home.

Since the “return to Mexico” policy is not codified by regulation, it could be immediately canceled by the president-elect.

But the prospect of large numbers of migrants being suddenly taken to the United States, or detained in border facilities, would create a public relations nightmare for the new administration and almost certainly elicit fierce condemnation from restrictions on immigration and pro-immigrant activists. , for different reasons.

“The new administration is going to have to find a way to push back unrestricted and unauthorized migration with humane application while treating people seeking asylum in a speedy way that recognizes their legitimate claims,” ​​said Michael Chertoff, secretary to Homeland Security during the Bush administration.

“It’s not going to be 10 minutes after the grand opening, everyone comes in,” Chertoff said.

Any misstep would threaten a rerun of 2014 and 2016, when the Obama administration scrambled to stem a chaotic influx of migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Human rights groups were outraged when families and children were locked up and evictions were speeded up. Immigration extremists have attacked Mr. Obama for allowing tens of thousands of people to enter and remain in the United States while their asylum cases go to court, which can take years.

And while Mr Biden has said he will stop building a wall, Mr Trump’s flagship project, there is no indication his administration will refrain from deploying boots on the ground and sophisticated technology to capture border workers.

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US-Canada Border Won’t Reopen Soon, Says Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau

Based on statements made yesterday by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, it is now clear that the US’s northern neighbor will not be welcoming tourists or tourists until well into 2021.

Canada will not agree to lift its ban on pleasure travel from the United States, Trudeau told Canadian Broadcasting Corp. on Nov.30, until the current COVID-19 outbreak has been brought under control. “Until the virus is significantly more under control everywhere.” around the world, we are not going to release restrictions at the border, “he said.

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The bilateral ban on non-essential cross-border travel between the US and Canada was established in March and has been renewed by both nations on a monthly basis since then, based on ongoing assessments of epidemiological conditions in both countries.

Trade and essential commerce are not affected by border restrictions, in recognition of the fact that the economies of the two nations are highly integrated and interdependent. According to a Reuters report, 75 percent of the products exported from Canada go to the United States each month. “We are incredibly fortunate that the essential goods, agricultural and pharmaceutical trade is flowing back and forth as usual,” Trudeau said.

As on other fronts, the travel industry continues to suffer amid extended border restrictions, but the prime ministers of Canada’s major provinces indicated that they have no intention of lifting the restrictions while COVID-19 cases in the US They continue to increase.

A second surge in coronavirus infection is also spreading across Canada, and the government and local authorities are beginning to reinstate restrictions on businesses and limit the number of people allowed at meetings.

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Armed Mexicans smuggled in to guard border wall, whistleblowers say

WASHINGTON – Two whistleblowers accused the contractors of President Trump’s border wall of smuggling armed Mexican security teams into the United States to guard construction sites, or even of building an illegal dirt road to speed up the operation , according to court documents unsealed by a federal judge on Friday.

The two employees, both hired to provide security at the sites, accused the company, Sullivan Land Services Co., or SLS – as well as a subcontractor, Ultimate Concrete of El Paso – of hiring workers who have not been approved by the United States. State government, overcharging construction costs and making false claims about these actions.

Whistleblowers said Ultimate Concrete went so far as to build a dirt road to speed up illegal border crossings to sites in San Diego, using construction vehicles to block security cameras. An anonymous supervisor from the Army Corps of Engineers approved the operation, according to a complaint filed in February and released on Friday.

Mr Trump may not have kept his 2016 promise to make Mexico pay for the wall, but if the accusations turn out to be true, the administration has apparently relied on Mexican workers for the project, potentially in Americans’ expense.

The allegations came to light as data obtained by The New York Times showed that a border wall that Mr. Trump once described as “impenetrable” continued to be highly penetrable. In fact, it has been repeatedly breached by migrants, requiring repairs which whistleblowers say were carried out by workers who were not authorized by the government to work.

Documents obtained by The Times in connection with a Freedom of Information Act request show that border patrol agents struggled to stop migrants from crossing the wall, with part of the barriers in Tucson, Ariz. raped as recently as September.

Between October 2019 and March 2020, the concrete boundary markers of the wall were crossed more than 320 times in San Diego; Tucson; El Centro, California; and Yuma, Arizona, according to the documents. While Mr. Trump has built new segments in each of these areas, it is not clear whether all of the breaches affected new parts of his wall or dilapidated barriers put up by previous administrations.

The New York Times was unable to independently verify charges brought by a former San Diego County Deputy Sheriff and a former FBI special agent securing the construction of the wall. The misrepresentation law complaint was filed in the Southern District of California, allowing the federal government to investigate the allegations while they remained sealed and decide whether to pursue the case. The Justice Department informed the court last week that it would not intervene in the case, prompting a judge to expose the allegations. Federal law allows whistleblowers to continue to pursue the matter “on behalf of the United States” or, with the permission of the federal government, to seek a settlement or close the matter.

Liz Rogers, a spokesperson for SLS, said in a statement that the company has not commented on the disputes. Jesse Guzman, president of Ultimate Concrete, said in a telephone interview on Monday that he was unaware of the complaint, but dismissed the charges.

“Anyone can pretend what they want, and that doesn’t fix it or make it true,” he said, adding that two security guards were angry that “something had gone wrong in the their meaning ”.

One of the guards, who served as the on-site security official for the contractors, told FBI special agents that he discovered through monthly audits of workers at the San Diego site that many staff members working on construction and security were not verified or approved by customs and border protection

SLS, one of the main builders of Mr. Trump’s wall, has secured contracts worth more than $ 1.4 billion for work on several parts of the border. With the funds, the company is said to have enabled its subcontractor, Ultimate Concrete, to hire armed Mexicans and facilitate illegal border crossings that the president has worked to shut down.

Ultimate Concrete “built a dirt road that would allow access on the Mexican side of the border into the United States,” the whistleblowers said in the complaint. “This UC-constructed road was apparently the route by which armed Mexican nationals illegally crossed the United States.”

An SLS project manager then pressured one of the whistleblowers in July 2019 not to include information about Mexican security guards in reports to be submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Border patrol agents raised concerns that month about these Mexican guards with security companies one of the whistleblowers worked for. When the whistleblower discussed concerns about Mexican guards working on the U.S. side of the border with an SLS project manager, the company said the Mexican guards’ work had been approved – a claim rejected by the whistleblower.

“What are you going to do about it?” said the project manager to the security guard, who lodged the complaint.

About three weeks later, one of the whistleblowers received a report of a shooting that had taken place between Mexican security guards and others who had crossed the border to steal property. One of the whistleblowers sent a report on the shooting to the corps.

Corps officials responded that they would investigate the episode and that the information was inconsistent with what the executives of Ultimate Concrete had reported.

One of the whistleblowers also said in the complaint that he interviewed a witness who said armed Mexican guards were working on the US side of the border. Executives of the two contractors also admitted they were aware of Mexican guards working in the United States, with an Ultimate Concrete representative saying he “paid for Mexican guards’ services.”

One of the security guards then contacted the FBI. Trump’s wall.

Whistleblowers also said in the complaint that Ultimate Concrete employees submitted fraudulent invoices to the federal government. One of the whistleblowers was informed by an employee that a member of the management of the company, identified in the complaint as chairman of the UC, “hid” the full extent of his profits on the Border Wall project ” , in part by submitting bogus claims for diesel fuel, according to the complaint.

“If they used a forklift, they only used it sporadically throughout the day, but billed the government for fuel, in essence and in substance, ‘as if it was running all the time,'” the report said. complaint.

Whistleblowers said in the complaint that at least one anonymous corps supervisor, who later resigned, was aware of the use of Mexican guards and had an inappropriate relationship with the management of Ultimate Concrete, assistant often on golf outings with the UC President. . “

One of the whistleblowers claimed to have expressed concerns about the company to the corps supervisor, only to be told to “step back”.

Customs and Border Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers acknowledged the Times’ requests but did not respond with comments.

The Justice Department did not respond to requests for comment. Nicholas J. Lewin, attorney for one of the whistleblowers, did not respond to requests for comment. Marc S. Harris, lawyer for another security guard, declined to comment.

Employees also accused the companies of submitting fraudulent invoices for the costs of the border walls and “hiding” the entire benefits of the project.

Seamus Hughes and Kitty Bennett contributed to the research.

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Two women accused of railway terrorism near Canadian border

Two women in Washington state have been charged with terrorist attacks after they were caught on camera tampering with train tracks in a way that could risk a derailment, federal officials said this week.

Authorities, who have investigated dozens of similar cases this year, believe the actions are aimed at expressing solidarity with Indigenous peoples in Canada who oppose the construction of an oil pipeline, according to the criminal complaint.

The women, Ellen Brennan Reiche, 23, and Samantha Frances Brooks, 27, were arrested Saturday in Bellingham, Wash., And charged with one count of terrorist attacks and violence against rail carriers, the bureau of the United States Attorney General for the Western District of Washington. said in a statement. They appeared in Seattle Federal District Court on Monday and were released until their next court appearance on Dec. 14, the office said.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force has been investigating the placement of shunts – devices made up of wires and magnets that interfere with signals indicating the presence of a train – on area tracks since Jan.19, according to the complaint. Some of the shunts were hidden under rocks, he said.

Since January, there have been 41 cases of shunts placed on BNSF rail lines in Whatcom and Skagit counties, near the border with Canada, causing level crossings to malfunction, interference with the railroad system. braking and, in one case, the near derailment of tanks carrying dangerous chemicals. , according to US Attorney Brian T. Moran.

“These crimes endanger our community,” Mr. Moran said in the statement.

On 10 occasions, shunts were placed in areas where tracks and streets intersected, which could expose vehicles to an oncoming train, the statement said. On October 11, shunts were planted in three locations in the two counties, triggering a brake system on a train that was carrying hazardous and combustible materials, he said.

The emergency braking caused part of the train to separate from the engine, the statement said. “Decoupling has the potential to derail – in this case – flammable gas tank cars in a residential area,” he said.

Shortly after the discovery of the first shunt, a claim of responsibility was posted on an anarchist website, prosecutors said. The site, a “digital community center” for anarchist, anti-fascist and anti-capitalist movements called It’s Going Down, published an article on January 22 saying the action was “in solidarity with the Native American tribes of Canada seeking to prevent the construction of ‘an oil. pipeline through British Columbia, and for the express purpose of disrupting BNSF’s operations and supplies for the pipeline, ”according to the complaint.

The complaint appears to refer to an anonymous article saying, in part, that “we have disrupted the high volume railroad that carries resources from active ports of Everett, Edmonds, Seattle and further south to Blaine border post in Canada.

The website, which states that it does not take responsibility for the content it posts, states that it “does not condone or promote illegal, violent or unlawful behavior or actions, or acts of intimidation against individuals or individuals. groups”.

The criminal complaint did not provide any further details about Indigenous groups and the pipeline. But a broader movement in opposition to Canada’s fossil fuel ambitions has prompted some groups to assert sovereignty over the land and attempt to block oil and gas projects.

Jesse Cantor, the public defender representing Ms Reiche, said the case was at a very early stage. “SP. Reiche is presumed innocent and she was released on bail Monday,” he said in an email on Wednesday.

A lawyer for Ms Brooks and a spokesperson for BNSF, which serves two-thirds of the western United States and three Canadian provinces, were not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.

The arrests of the two women took place on Saturday, when Deputy Chief Tyler Nies of the BNSF Rail Police received a motion alert from a game camera installed on part of the network in Bellingham, the complaint said. . He examined the photograph, saw an “intruder” and another object or person nearby, and contacted the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, he said.

Chief Nies then opened his laptop and noticed that the track signals were interrupted in the same area; he then called a member of the task force, he said.

When officer Lucas Shulman arrived at the scene, Ms Reiche told him and a sheriff’s deputy that she and Ms Brooks were looking for the keys to her car, which was parked nearby. The car had a bumper sticker with the words Indigenous Land superimposed on a map of the United States, according to the complaint.

The two were arrested for trespassing, and authorities later discovered that Ms Reiche had a bag with rubber gloves, copper wire, and a drill with a wire brush that was said to have been used to scrape the track to improve its contact with the shunt. , says the complaint.

Authorities also found a shunt where the women were found kneeling, he said.