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Obama Turns To Gov. Perry In Seeking A Solution To Border Crisis

Jul 9, 2014 (All Things Considered)

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Robert Siegel

After a meeting with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, President Obama addressed the influx of migrant children on the U.S.-Mexico border. He signaled his openness to Perry's solutions, saying he'd consider deploying the National Guard, but also called on Congress to offer solutions of its own.

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President Obama and Texas Gov. Rick Perry meet in Dallas on Wednesday. They later attended a meeting about the border and immigration together. (AP)

Congress Has The Ability To Fix Immigration Crisis, Obama Says

by Krishnadev Calamur
Jul 9, 2014

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President Obama said Wednesday that Congress has the ability to address the problem of thousands of unaccompanied children and teenagers illegally crossing the border from Mexico into the U.S.

"Right now, Congress has the capacity to work with us, work with state officials, local officials and faith-based groups and non-for-profits who are helping to care for these kids," he said in Dallas.

Obama added that it is unlikely the minors will be allowed to stay in the U.S.

"We intend to do the right thing by these children," he said. "Their parents need to know that this is an incredibly dangerous situation, and it is unlikely that their children will be able to stay."

Obama's remarks followed a meeting in Dallas with faith leaders and local officials, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, to discuss the situation at the border.

Here's more from The Associated Press:

"Obama says Perry raised four areas of concern and made suggestions. Obama says he doesn't have a philosophical objection to anything Perry suggested. He says if Congress passes his emergency funding request, the government will have ... resources to take some of the steps Perry recommended. Obama says the problem is fixable if lawmakers are interested in solving it. He says if the preference is for politics, it won't be solved."

On Tuesday, the White House asked Congress for $3.7 billion to address the humanitarian crisis.

As we reported Tuesday:

"The statement said the funds would cover domestic enforcement, repatriation and reintegration of migrants, transportation costs, additional immigration judges, prosecutors and litigation attorneys to 'ensure cases are processed fairly and as quickly as possible.' "

The money also would pay for the care of the children and teenagers who are in the country illegally.

NPR's Scott Horsley also reported on the immigrants at the border. He said:

"While the administration has tried to warn Central Americans that youngsters who cross the border illegally won't be allowed to remain in this country, the reality is that most do get at least a temporary reprieve to stay here. That word has spread in communities where any escape from violence and poverty is often seen as worth the gamble. What's more, as the number of border crossers grows, so does the backlog in immigration courts."

If you're wondering what's causing the latest crisis at the border, NPR's Alan Greenblatt has an explainer; and NPR's Frank James reports on the politics of Obama's visit to Texas.

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David Livermore, the director of the Antibiotic Resistance Monitoring and Reference Laboratory in London, studies a new class of superbugs, called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE. (Reuters /Landov)

Last-Resort Antibiotics In Jeopardy As Use Rises Globally

by Michaeleen Doucleff
Jul 9, 2014

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The total doses of antibiotics sold in clinics and pharmacies around the world rose 36 percent from 2000 to 2010, scientists reported Wednesday.

The finding, published in The Lancet Infectious Disease, comes from the first study to look at global antibiotic consumption in the 21st century. And it seems like good news, right?

"More people in poor countries are getting livesaving drugs," says the study's lead author, Ramanan Laxminarayan, who directs the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy. "That's absolutely good news."

But the world's insatiable need for penicillin and Cipro also has a dark side: the rise in drug-resistant bacteria.

Now, even the last-resort antibiotics — the ones that are used after all others fail — are in jeopardy of losing their effectiveness, Laxminarayan says.

"The concern is that the consumption of last-resort drugs has also gone up significantly since 2010," he says. "If drug resistance develops to these antibiotics, we have nothing else left to use."

Over the past decade, bacteria have evolved to evade nearly every type of antibiotic. Most of us are familiar with MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which causes deadly skin infections. But there's also a superbug version of gonorrhea, and a vicious gut pathogen, called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, which may kill up to 50 percent of people it infects.

Doctors still have a few potent weapons against these pathogens, such as cephalosporins for gonorrhea and polymixins for CRE. But to keep these antibiotics effective, we need to make sure their use is limited.

"These are second- and third-line drugs that need to be used carefully," Laxminarayan says. "Unfortunately, there's not a lot of guidance for how these drugs are being used."

The current study found that three-quarters of the increase in antibiotic consumption occurred in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — countries where most people have incomes high enough to buy the drugs. Last-resort antibiotics are available over-the-counter throughout these nations.

Even when a doctor is required to give a prescription, there's no guarantee the drug is being used appropriately, Laxminarayan says. "There's really no evidence that physicians are better gatekeepers of antibiotics than pharmacists."

Laxminarayan and his colleagues analyzed pharmaceutical sales of 16 antibiotics in 71 countries over the 10-year period. Overall, India and China are now the two largest consumers of the antibiotics for human use. The U.S. isn't far behind, in third place. And the U.S. still has the highest per capita use in the world.

The study couldn't tease out the cases in which the drugs were taken appropriately to treat bacterial infections from the times when they were wrongly prescribed for viruses or other types of infections. And the study didn't look at the use of antibiotics on farms. So the estimates are only minimum values.

"There's potentially a massive increase on farms, and we have no idea what's going on there," Laxminarayan says. "We're working on a study about that now. But it's too soon to say anything."

"Antibiotics are a natural resource, just like fossil fuels," Laxminarayan says. "As we run out, finding new ones will be hard and expensive. Penicillin costs pennies. Newer antibiotics may cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars."

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Protesters outside a San Antonio courthouse advocate for legal representation for immigrant children. (NPR)

For Kids In Immigration Court, Legal Counsel Is Catch As Catch Can

Jul 9, 2014 (All Things Considered)

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The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups sued the federal government Wednesday for its failure to provide legal representation to immigrant children in deportation proceedings.

The class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of eight immigrants — ages 10 to 17 — who the ACLU says have not been able to find a lawyer. But the complaint applies to the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children who have illegally crossed the Southwest border in recent years and have ended up in U.S. immigration court.

In this country, immigration courts, unlike criminal courts, do not provide lawyers for immigrants who are fighting deportation. This leads to remarkable scenes like the one that unfolded in Courtroom No. 4 in San Antonio last week.

Judge Anibal D. Martinez sits at the bench in this small courtroom, presiding over the weekly juvenile immigration docket in San Antonio. At the table to his right sits a stern lawyer for the Department of Homeland Security, which seeks to remove children who cross the border illegally. And at the table on his left sits a pudgy, 9-year-old girl from Honduras named Berta Mejia Martinez.

Berta wears a sparkly butterfly shirt, and she's so small that her flip-flops don't touch the blue carpet. At the moment, Berta is representing herself in immigration court, though an adult family friend who speaks English accompanies her.

Martinez tells the girl in his booming judicial voice that he is postponing her hearing until late August to give her more time to get an attorney. She smiles bashfully.

When he adjourns her case, Berta trots happily out of the courtroom seemingly unaware that she is, in the language of the court, a deportable alien.

Lawyer Jonathan Ryan, who attends the juvenile docket week after week, says he's seen this scene play out before. Ryan runs RAICES, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, in San Antonio.

San Antonio is one in the nation's network of 59 immigration courts, which are backlogged with more than 367,000 pending cases of children and adults. The courts are the main bottleneck in the nation's beleaguered immigration system.

"You've got a very highly paid, well-trained prosecutor. You've got a highly paid, well-trained judge. And a child," Ryan says, sitting in the lobby of the building after court has ended for the day. "If we are going to put these children through this gauntlet, appoint them a lawyer."

Immigrant advocates generally agree that more than half of all unaccompanied children in deportation proceedings do not have legal counsel.

And with more than 50,000 newly arrived kids in the past nine months seeking green cards, the number is sure to balloon.

Having a lawyer makes a difference. Court records show that asylum seekers with an attorney are ordered deported at a much lower rate than those who go it alone through U.S. immigration law, which has been compared to IRS rules in its complexity.

Having an attorney speeds up the process because there are fewer delays.

"It makes the court process not just more efficient, but more fair when both parties are represented," says Ryan.

As an example, he mentions an incident that happened in Martinez's court.

"We saw today that a notice of hearing was not sent to one of the respondents just because it lacked an apartment number," he says. "It could be a very minor mistake; it could be a misspelling that may lead to the notice of hearing going to the wrong address."

The result?

"They may be ordered removed in their absence, and they'd become a fugitive from justice," Ryan continues.

In the current system, there is a mad scramble among immigration attorneys to offer pro bono help to as many youths in court as possible.

The government is not deaf to the problem.

The Executive Office of Immigration Review, the formal name for the immigration court system, funds several programs designed to help immigrant children find a lawyer. Among them: Justice AmeriCorps, the Legal Orientation Program, and the Recognition and Accreditation Program. A spokesperson for the office declined comment for this report.

But the fact remains that the search for legal counsel in juvenile cases is, essentially, catch as catch can. And that's why the ACLU filed its lawsuit against the immigration system.

"They're trying," says Ahilan Arulanantham, senior ACLU attorney, of the government's attempts to bring fairness to the courtroom. "But on the other hand, the government pays for a lawyer in every case to prosecute the child. Then they really should also be willing to spend the resources needed to represent children on the other side."

The hard reality is that the immigration court system is perennially underfunded. It just came off of a three-year hiring freeze and is trying to find judges to backfill 200 empty positions.

"Do I think it's a good idea that children have lawyers? Absolutely," says Bruce Solow, a retired immigration judge in Miami and former president of the National Association of Immigration Judges. "The question is, who's going to fund it? Is Congress going to fund it? Is the Department of Justice going to fund it?"

The Obama administration's recent request for emergency funds to handle the wave of immigrants on the Southwest border includes $45 million for 40 additional immigration judge teams and $15 million for direct legal representation to children.

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Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., grills Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen as he testifies June 23 before the House Oversight Committee. (AP)

Interpreting The IRS Emails, Washington-Style

Jul 9, 2014

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Here's the biggest recurring theme in the IRS controversy — the one about alleged targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

Throughout the yearlong investigation, congressional Republicans and Democrats have not only highlighted their own evidence but also taken the same evidence and drawn diametrically opposed conclusions.

The latest example came Wednesday afternoon, at a subcommittee hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Officially, the subject was a separate IRS issue. But lawmakers couldn't help veering off into a row over Lois Lerner's missing emails.

Lerner was head of the IRS exempt organizations division, overseeing the tax-exempt applications. Her computer hard drive crashed in 2011, destroying many months of archived emails. The committee members all seem convinced Lerner is culpable of something. Democrats and a Treasury Department inspector general call it gross mismanagement. Republicans say it's political scheming and destroying evidence.

On Wednesday, committee Republicans asked IRS Commissioner John Koskinen about a new discovery: It turns out the IRS has an internal messaging system, called OCS.

In a chain of emails, shown to Koskinen at the hearing, Lerner asks if OCS messages are searchable, and she gets an answer.

To Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the emails show Lerner was trying to cover her tracks. He pointed to the first sentence of the second email, that "OCS messages are not set to automatically save."

Jordan's interpretation: "Miss Lerner says, 'Wow. I know I've gotten rid of the emails, when the computer crashed two years earlier. But I better double-check on this intraoffice, instant messaging capability we have here at the Internal Revenue Service.' And she says 'Perfect' when she learns that it's not traceable, not trackable, not stored."

But Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., said Lerner's "Perfect" comment concerned the third paragraph, where she was advised to treat OCS messages as potentially searchable.

Jordan burst out, "That is the most ridiculous interpretation — there is no one with any common sense that would reach that conclusion my colleague reached. No one."

A long way to a short question.

Read the emails. What do you think?

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