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News Wrap: DHS puts Trump immigration orders into practice

February 21, 2017 at 6:50 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The federal government has formally begun moving to get tougher on illegal immigration.

The Department of Homeland Security set that in motion today with top-level memos.

The new memos on immigration were set in motion just after President Trump’s inauguration.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I just signed two executive orders that will save thousands of lives, millions of jobs, and billions and billions of dollars.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now the secretary of homeland security, John Kelly, is putting the presidential orders into practice. His directives greatly expand the pool of immigrants subject to quick deportation. Now anyone in the U.S. illegally who’s charged or convicted of any crime is an enforcement priority.

The Obama administration focused on immigrants convicted of serious crimes, threats to national security and recent border crossers.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer:

SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary: The message from this White House and from the DHS is that those people who are in this country and pose a threat to our public safety or have committed a crime will be the first to go, and we will be aggressively making sure that that occurs.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The new directives do not change the Obama program known as DACA that protected from deportation more than 750,000 young immigrants, the so-called dreamers.

Mr. Trump addressed their plight during last week’s White House news conference.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to show great heart. DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you. To me, it’s one of the most difficult subjects I have, because you have these incredible kids.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Today, he told NBC News, “We are going to try to take care of the dreamers very, very much.”

Authorities do plan to enforce a longstanding provision on people caught in the act of illegally crossing the Mexican border. They will be sent back to Mexico, even if they’re from a different country. On plans for a border wall, the Kelly memos identify locations near El Paso, Texas; Tucson, Arizona; and El Centro, California, for initial construction.

In addition, Secretary Kelly has directed Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hire 10,000 additional officers and agents.

All of this comes amid rising fears among immigrants and nationwide protests. Last week, activists staged a day without immigrants, shutting down restaurants and stores to highlight the contributions of workers born outside the U.S.

WOMAN: I think it’s important to show support and to try to open their eyes that we’re not here to be criminals.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And immigration advocates point to two cases, in Phoenix and Seattle, in which people were detained despite apparent protection under President Obama’s policies.

In the day’s other news: The death of a Mexican teenager at the hands of a U.S. Border Patrol agent reached the U.S. Supreme Court. It happened in 2010, between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The agent was on the American side when he fired at the boy on the Mexican side. Details of what preceded the shooting are in dispute. The teen’s family is seeking the right to sue the agent in U.S. federal court.

In Israel, a military court sentenced Army Sergeant Elor Azaria to a year-and-a-half in prison for killing a wounded Palestinian attacker.

Diana Magnay of Independent Television News reports on the outcome in the hotly debated case.

DIANA MAGNAY: Grinning with nerves perhaps as he enters the courtroom and still in the comfort of his mother’s arms as he awaits sentencing, Sergeant Elor Azaria, 11 months ago an unknown teenage army medic, now a household name and something of a hero to many in Israel after a military trial which has divided the nation.

And the national anthem from his supporters once the sentence is handed down, 18 months’ jail time, one year on probation, and a demotion in rank, which his defense team says they will appeal.

Rewind to March last year in the town of Hebron in the occupied West Bank. On the ground is a Palestinian man called Abdel Fattah al-Sharif. Moments before, he and another Palestinian had stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier. The other man is dead. Al-Sharif lies wounded and seemingly harmless. None of the soldiers pay him much attention, except for one, 19-year-old Elor Azaria.

He cocks his gun, steps forward and fires. In Hebron today, Al-Sharif’s family watched as Azaria celebrated. The prosecutor had asked for three to five years, but the sentence was less than half that, the judge citing mitigating circumstances, that Hebron was hostile territory and the suffering the Azaria family had experienced throughout the trial.

YOUSRI AL-SHARIF, Father of Abdel Fattah Al-Sharif (through interpreter): Getting a year-and-a-half is a joke. This is not a sentenced. If one of us killed an animal, they would put us in jail for God knows how long. They’re just making fun of us.

DIANA MAGNAY: For Azaria’s supporters, he’s a victim, doing his duty by the country in the face of a terrorist threat, no matter the rules of engagement.

MAN: He’s already spent a year in jail dealing with this. His family has been broken. His father had a stroke. His mother has collapsed. And he’s got no backing from our government. I don’t blame the army. I blame Bibi.

DIANA MAGNAY: Bibi, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has gone from backing the military on Azaria’s case for last month asking for him to be pardoned.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The prime minister was out of the country today, and had no immediate comment on the sentence.

There has been another migrant tragedy in the Mediterranean. The Libyan Red Crescent says that at least 74 bodies of African migrants have washed ashore near a city in Western Libya. They had been on a rubber dinghy that was trying to sail to Italy. Officials say more bodies are still floating offshore.

Back in this country, hundreds of people in Northern California were forced to evacuate their homes after heavy storms sent creeks and rivers flowing over their banks. In San Jose, fire crews carried out a series of rescues as water levels surged. One rescue came near a homeless encampment amid reports that up to 40 people might be trapped.

MITCH MATLOW, San Jose Fire Department: Normally, that’s only three or four feet deep out there, but that water is not where it normally sits. So I can’t tell you how deep it is. All of the water in the Coyote Creek watershed right now is dangerous. It’s swift moving. It’s carrying debris with it from areas that haven’t seen water in years. And on top of that, it may be contaminated.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Authorities say it may take four days or longer for the rivers to begin to fall.

The new head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, struck a conciliatory tone today. As Oklahoma’s attorney general, he sued the EPA more than a dozen times to rein in regulations. He also expressed doubt about climate science. Today, he told agency staffers that he wants to — quote — “listen, learn and lead.”

The rally resumed on Wall Street today, after the President’s Day break. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 119 points to close at 20743. The Nasdaq rose 27, and the S&P 500 added 14. All three closings were new record highs.

And the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., said goodbye to Bao Bao, its 3-year-old giant panda cub. After a late last breakfast, zookeepers packed the panda up, put her in a FedEx travel crate, including bamboo and other snacks, and drove her to Washington’s Dulles Airport to catch her flight, the panda express. After a 16-hour flight, Bao Bao will join a panda breeding program in China.

We will miss you, Bao Bao.

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