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ACROSS OUR STATE & NATION

Migrant children held in mass

shelters with

little oversight

The Biden administration is holding tens of thousands of asylum-seeking children in an opaque network of some 200 facilities that The Associated Press has learned spans two dozen states and includes five shelters with more than 1,000 children packed inside.

Confidential data obtained by the AP shows the number of migrant children in government custody more than doubled in the past two months, and this week the federal government was housing around 21,000 kids, from toddlers to teens. A facility at Fort Bliss, a U.S. Army post in El Paso, Texas, had more than 4,500 children as of Monday. Attorneys, advocates and mental health experts say that while some shelters are safe and provide adequate care, others are endangering children’s health and safety.

“It’s almost like ‘Groundhog Day,'” said Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Luz Lopez, referring to the 1993 film in which events appear to be continually repeating. “Here we are back to a point almost where we started, where the government is using taxpayer money to build large holding facilities … for children instead of using that money to find ways to more quickly reunite children with their sponsors.”

A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesman, Mark Weber, said the department’s staff and contractors are working hard to keep children in their custody safe and healthy.

A few of the current practices are the same as those that President Joe Biden and others criticized under the Trump administration, including not vetting some caregivers with full FBI fingerprint background checks. At the same time, court records show the Biden administration is working to settle several multimillion-dollar lawsuits that claim migrant children were abused in shelters under President Donald Trump.

Liz Cheney says Trump and GOP backers threaten democracy

WASHINGTON (AP) — A combative Rep. Liz Cheney lashed out at leaders of her own Republican Party late Tuesday, taking to the House floor on the eve of her near-certain ouster from a leadership post to warn that former President Donald Trump and his GOP supporters are threatening to “undermine our democracy.”

In an abruptly announced evening appearance in a nearly empty House chamber, Cheney, R-Wyo., cast herself as a defender of the Constitution. Her four-minute speech also served notice that she had no intention of backing down in her battle against a former president who has retained loyalty among many GOP lawmakers and voters, even as it leaves her once promising political career in question.

“Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar,” she said, adding, “I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.”

Cheney has for weeks faced calls for her ouster from her leadership job after her repeated public rejection of Trump’s false claim that he lost his reelection bid last November because of widespread cheating. She’s also insistently blamed him for inciting supporters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, resulting in five deaths, even as other Republicans have sought to downplay the attack.

That stance has angered many Republicans who say that as her party’s No. 3 House leader, she should focus on messages that would help the party win House control in next year’s elections, not on internal party divisions over the former president. GOP lawmakers plan to meet Wednesday behind closed doors and are expected to strip her of her leadership job and ultimately replace her with Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., a Trump loyalist.

Judge dismisses NRA bankruptcy case in blow

to gun group

DALLAS (AP) — A federal judge dismissed the National Rifle Association’s bankruptcy case Tuesday, leaving the powerful gun-rights group to face a New York state lawsuit that accuses it of financial abuses and aims to put it out of business.

The judge was tasked with deciding whether the NRA should be allowed to incorporate in Texas instead of New York, where the state is suing in an effort to disband the group. Though headquartered in Virginia, the NRA was chartered as a nonprofit in New York in 1871 and is incorporated in the state.

Judge Harlin Hale said in a written order that he was dismissing the case because he found the bankruptcy was not filed in good faith.

“The Court believes the NRA’s purpose in filing bankruptcy is less like a traditional bankruptcy case in which a debtor is faced with financial difficulties or a judgment that it cannot satisfy and more like cases in which courts have found bankruptcy was filed to gain an unfair advantage in litigation or to avoid a regulatory scheme,” Hale wrote.

His decision followed 11 days of testimony and arguments. Lawyers for New York and the NRA’s former advertising agency grilled the group’s embattled top executive, Wayne LaPierre, who acknowledged putting the NRA into Chapter 11 bankruptcy without the knowledge or assent of most of its board and other top officers.

Gas stations report shortages as

shutdown drags on

CHAMBLEE, Ga. (AP) — More than 1,000 gas stations in the Southeast reported running out of fuel, primarily because of what analysts say is unwarranted panic-buying among drivers, as the shutdown of a major pipeline by a gang of hackers entered its fifth day Tuesday.

Government officials acted swiftly to waive safety and environmental rules to speed the delivery of fuel by truck, ship or rail to motorists and airports, even as they sought to assure the public that there was no cause for alarm.

The Colonial Pipeline, the biggest fuel pipeline in the U.S., delivering about 45% of what is consumed on the East Coast, was hit on Friday with a cyberattack by hackers who lock up computer systems and demand a ransom to release them. The attack raised concerns, once again, about the vulnerability of the nation’s critical infrastructure.

A large part of the pipeline resumed operations manually late Monday, and Colonial anticipates restarting most of its operations by the end of the week, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said.

Motorists may still feel a crunch because it takes a few days to ramp up operations, but she said there is no reason to hoard gasoline.

Democrats

press for broader voter access

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans in the U.S. Senate mounted an aggressive case Tuesday against Democrats’ sweeping election and voter-access legislation, pushing to roll back proposals for automatic registration, 24-hour ballot drop boxes and other changes in an increasingly charged national debate.

The legislation, a top priority of Democrats in the aftermath of the divisive 2020 election, would bring about the largest overhaul of U.S. voting in a generation, touching nearly every aspect of the electoral process. It would remove hurdles to voting erected in the name of election security and curtail the influence of big money in politics.

At the end of a long, contentious day, the Rules Committee deadlocked 9-9 over advancing the bill to the full Senate in its current form. That leaves it to Democratic leader Chuck Schumer to try to invoke a special process to force the legislation ahead.

Though it is federal legislation, Republicans are fighting a national campaign against it rooted in state battles to restrict new ways of voting that have unfolded during the pandemic. Just Tuesday, the Arizona Legislature sent the governor a bill that would make it easier to purge infrequent voters from a list of those who automatically get mail-in ballots, the latest battleground state to push through changes likely to take months or years to finally settle in court.

GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is so determined to stop the legislation that he made a rare appearance at Tuesday’s Rules Committee session in Washington. McConnell and other Republicans on the panel argued for a wave of amendments against key sections of the bill, which Democrats turned aside in an hours-long voting session.

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