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Today’s Headlines: Scenes along the border

People cross a river
An increase in asylum seekers crossing the border in the Rio Grande Valley has put a strain on the immigration system.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

An up-close look at the increase in asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border.

TOP STORIES

Scenes Along the Border

As darkness fell on the banks of the Rio Grande a few miles west of Roma, Texas, cellphones glowed amid the reeds. Smugglers could be heard inflating rubber rafts they have been using to ferry hundreds of migrant families and youths to the U.S. along this one stretch of the river.

“Put it in the water,” they told the migrants in Spanish. “Get inside!”

With border crossings from Mexico approaching a two-decade high, such scenes and sounds of migrants streaming across the water take place nightly in the Rio Grande Valley. More than 130,000 migrants have already been encountered there by U.S. Customs and Border Protection since October, more than the total for the entire previous 12-month period — 90,206.

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“We all came with dreams,” said Jenny Orejana, 28, who was deported Sunday with her daughter Alicia the day after they crossed the river. They sat, dejected, near a bridge, Alicia still wearing the bracelet Border Patrol had issued her showing her age: 7. Instead of joining friends in Philadelphia, Orejana was stuck, resigned to returning to Honduras, but unclear how she would get there.

Asylum seekers wait for directions from Border Patrol agents
Asylum seekers who have just crossed the Rio Grande River in boats with smugglers wait for directions from Border Patrol agents before being processed.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

An exodus from Central America was already underway after last year’s devastating back-to-back hurricanes and economic decline caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, when human smugglers began pushing the belief that the end of the Trump administration opened the border.

But since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. has been deporting migrants without allowing them to apply for asylum in the U.S., a policy the Trump administration started and that President Biden has continued.

Though the Biden administration has urged people thinking of migrating north not to leave their homes, for many of the asylum seekers living in a growing cluster of tents right next to the San Diego-Tijuana border, the message to stay home is not helpful, nor are the administration’s promises of long-term migration solutions for the region. They left their homes long ago.

Will the United Front Hold?

As the effort to oust Gov. Gavin Newsom from office intensifies, a critical question is whether another Democrat jumps into the race to replace him. No candidate has come forward yet, but many political experts believe it is inevitable.

Democratic contenders could come from a handful of categories: an impatient progressive frustrated by the logjam for top statewide seats, a candidate with nothing to lose, a rich neophyte or a party pick, if Democratic leaders ultimately decide it’s too risky not to have a backup plan.

The signature verification process for the recall petition is expected to take weeks, but rumors are already swirling about potential candidates quietly talking to donors and allies.

More Politics

— The first China-Biden administration talks are over. It was a markedly acrimonious start.

— For Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, being in the majority puts her maverick instincts to the test.

‘We Will Not Be Silent’

Over the weekend, Asian Americans and their supporters gathered across California and the nation in response to last week’s shooting rampage in the Atlanta area, which claimed eight lives, including six women of Asian descent — which came amid a surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans.

In Alhambra, hundreds of people gathered at a “Stop Asian Hate” vigil to honor the shooting victims. In San Francisco, a rally was large, colorful, almost festive — but marked by testimonials of anguish and recollections of racist encounters.

Thousands of miles away, in Atlanta, as families mourned the victims, a diverse crowd gathered in a park across from the Georgia state Capitol to demand justice and to denounce racism, xenophobia and misogyny. And in Pittsburgh, actress Sandra Oh encouraged protesters to help and look out for each other.

New Rules for Schools

Students in California are now allowed to sit 3 feet apart in classrooms — instead of 4 or 6 feet — in guidelines state officials issued after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed that standard for schools. It’s a major change in policy that will exert pressure on local officials for a faster and more complete reopening of campuses.

Local education leaders will have the final say, and Los Angeles Unified Supt. Austin Beutner said that L.A. schools would stick with the 6-foot rule. But as schools debate the particulars of bringing students and teachers back to classrooms, numerous public school campuses have now been open for months in rural Northern California.

There were far fewer COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in this sparsely populated region than in urban areas. For those that reopened first, this school year has been an education.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

AstraZeneca’s vaccine was 79% effective at preventing any COVID-19 symptoms and 100% at preventing severe ones, and had no safety issues with blood clots in large-scale U.S. trials, the company said Monday.

— Los Angeles County public health officials continued to report a decline in coronavirus case numbers Sunday, raising hope that more restrictions on businesses might soon be relaxed — even though reports of new cases and deaths are always lower on the weekends.

— The first case of a coronavirus variant known as the Brazilian variant was confirmed in New York.

— Another LAUSD school cancels sports while charter schools move full speed ahead.

For more high school sports coverage, sign up for our new Prep Rally newsletter.

OUR MUST-READS FROM THE WEEKEND

— Subscriber exclusive: Inside the volatile resurgence of right-wing extremism in Orange County.

— They failed a “loyalty test.” Now, Japanese Americans incarcerated at Tule Lake camp reclaim their stories.

— A year without powwows: An Indigenous community loses its heartbeat amid the pandemic.

— How to be an ally: What you can do as a bystander to race-based harassment or violence.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

On this date in 1941, actor Jimmy Stewart was sworn into the U.S. Army. He was the first top-ranked Hollywood star to enter military service during the United States’ mobilization before World War ll.

The ceremony — as reported the next day in the L.A. Times — was a media event: “As he entered the induction station newspapermen, photographers and newsreel cameramen were on hand to record the scenes. Portable lights were hung up and news cameramen directed the star who would probably earn $100,000 a picture as a result of his Academy Award.

“Upstairs he filled out questionnaires. Bulbs snapped. One of them popped showering the room with glass, but no one was injured.…

“Declared mentally and physically fit by Army doctors, Stewart stepped in line with 41 other young men and sworn into the military by Col. John A. Robenson, Southern California district recruiting officer.”

During World War II, Stewart rose to rank of colonel and flew 20 bomber missions over Germany. After the war, Stewart stayed in the military, eventually becoming a brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force reserve.

A group of men raise their right hand during an oath
March 22, 1941: Actor James “Jimmy” Stewart, third from right in front row, being sworn into the U.S. Army.
( Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

— The family of a victim in a fatal shooting in Compton is calling for the 28-year-old’s death to be investigated as a possible hate crime amid a recent rise in violence against Asian Americans.

— An L.A. Goth nightclub known for its rituals and secrecy has closed amid sexual misconduct claims.

— A donation of African Americana to UC San Diego opens window on Black life in the Old West.

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NATION-WORLD

— U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, on his first visit to Afghanistan as Pentagon chief, said that the Biden administration wants to see “a responsible end” to America’s longest war, but the level of violence must decrease for “fruitful” diplomacy to have a chance.

— Officials imposed an emergency curfew for Miami Beach, Fla., after hard-partying spring break crowds trashed restaurants, brawled in the streets and gathered by the thousands without masks or social distancing, according to authorities.

— Few U.S. states require a waiting period to buy a gun, but that may be changing.

— Police officers who defied the Myanmar army’s orders to shoot opponents of the coup and escaped to India are asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government not to send them back but to provide them political asylum on humanitarian grounds.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” has finally been released into the world. Here’s a look at its years-long journey.

— With the reopening of movie theaters, L.A. film fanatics were thrilled to get the experience of sitting, with strangers, in the dark.

— Architectural scholar and cultural historian Mabel O. Wilson has helped put together a MoMA architecture exhibition that places Blackness at the heart of the show.

BUSINESS

— L.A.'s promise of social equity for marijuana businesses has been painfully slow for entrepreneurs.

— Facebook says it is working on a version of its Instagram app for kids under 13, who are technically not allowed to use the app in its current form because of federal privacy regulations.

SPORTS

— March Madness: Isaiah Mobley is playing a critical role in USC’s NCAA tournament push, while all that stands between UCLA and the Sweet 16 is a Cinderella ready to steal the show.

— Pitching and batting leadoff? The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani makes it look easy.

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OPINION

Half of Republican men say they don’t want the vaccine. They’re mooching off the rest of us, columnist Doyle McManus writes.

— Food columnist Lucas Kwan Peterson makes the case for why eating in restaurants should be more expensive.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— In the name of keeping the coronavirus out, China has adopted some of the world’s strictest restrictions on travel to the country. (New York Times)

— How libraries are leading the way on making the internet accessible to all socioeconomic groups. (The Atlantic)

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

Dr. Andrew Liu in Vacaville has merged his love of Broadway musicals and his mission to promote COVID-19 vaccine safety into a creative reimagining of “My Shot” from “Hamilton.” Troubled by the reluctance of some to get the vaccine, he began writing lyrics to promote the virus-fighting shots to the tune of the song from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit 2015 musical. He recruited six other local healthcare workers, including his wife, to perform it. It took about three months to record, shoot and edit the video project with the help of a local filmmaker.

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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