MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!
A big surge in migrants trying to get into the United States has created problems at the border. We’ll hear from the deputy chief of the US border patrol.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Also we’ll hear how that’s affecting people living along the border.
Plus a Virginia man who uses bicycles as outreach.
And WORLD commentator Kim Henderson on doing your civic duty.
REICHARD: It’s Tuesday, March 16th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
BROWN: And I’m Myrna Brown. Good morning!
REICHARD: Here’s Kent Covington now with the news.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: CDC encouraged by vaccination study » CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said she’s encouraged by the results of a new study on vaccinations showing that Americans are following through with their treatments.
WALENSKY: A new CDC-MMWR published today found that the vast majority of people [are] getting both doses of these vaccines within the recommended timeframes. Only about 3 percent missed their second dose.
The study looked at nearly 13 million people from mid-December to mid-February.
The Biden administration says it’s also encouraged by the pace of the rollout. White House COVID-19 response team senior advisor Andy Slavitt:
SLAVITT: Over the last seven days, we’re not averaging 2.4 million shots per day.
Still just over 11 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated. But the White House says it’s on track to reach its goal of making vaccines available to all by the end of May.
Major European nations suspend use of AstraZeneca vaccine » Several countries in Europe are halting use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, at least temporarily, over reports of dangerous blood clots. WORLD’s Anna Johansen Brown has more.
ANNA JOHANSEN BROWN, REPORTER: Germany, France and Italy on Monday became the latest countries to suspend use of the vaccine. The countries called the move a precautionary measure.
Regulators in Italy announced their temporary ban, less than 24 hours after saying the “alarm” over the vaccine “wasn’t justified.”
AstraZeneca said on its website that there have been 37 reports of blood clots out of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the EU. The drugmaker said there is no evidence the vaccine carries an increased risk of clots.
Still, regulators in the EU have called a meeting for Thursday to review experts’ findings and decide whether further action is needed.
AstraZeneca’s formula is just one of three vaccines in use on the continent. But the move amounts to another setback for the European Union’s vaccine rollout. Their vaccination program has been plagued by supply shortages and other problems and is lagging well behind the campaigns in Britain and the U.S.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen Brown.
Biden taps economist to oversee COVID-19 relief package » President Biden has tapped economist Gene Sperling to oversee the implementation of his $1.9 trillion relief package.
BIDEN: Gene will be on the phone with mayors and governors, red states, blue states, a source of constant communication, a source of guidance and support, and above all, a source of accountability.
Sperling served as an adviser in the Clinton and Obama administrations. He will lead the effort to supervise the distribution of funds from the massive spending bill.
The White House said Sperling will be coordinating with officials such as Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, who will soon hold a summit on releasing the $130 billion dedicated to K-12 education.
Meantime, President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and their spouses have embarked on a cross-country campaign this week to sell the relief plan to the public.
The president is calling it the “Help is here” tour. Harris kicked it off with a trip to a vaccination site in Las Vegas. Biden will hit the road today, beginning with a stop in Pennsylvania.
Vatican: No gay union blessings » The Vatican declared on Monday that the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Pope Francis approved a two-page document that explained God “cannot bless sin.” The Vatican’s orthodoxy office on Monday formally responded to a question about whether Catholic clergy have the authority to bless same-sex unions.
An accompanying article said any sexual activity outside of a marriage between a man and a woman contradicts God’s design. But it said the church may bless individuals “with homosexual inclinations who manifest the will to live in fidelity.”
In a 2019 interview, Francis said “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God.”
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.
Myanmar’s ruling junta declares martial law » Myanmar’s ruling junta has declared martial law in much of the country’s largest city. That followed another military crackdown over the weekend on pro-democracy demonstrators.
AUDIO: [Sound of protests]
Security forces killed more than 50 protesters in a series of clashes Saturday and Sunday.
Reports of more violence followed on Monday. The independent broadcaster Democratic Voice of Burma said security forces killed at least eight protesters in four cities or towns.
The United Nations said at least 138 peaceful protesters have died in Myanmar since the Feb. 1st military coup.
I’m Kent Covington.
Straight ahead: the surge at the southern border.
Plus, Kim Henderson on her day in court.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 16th of March, 2021.
You’re listening to The World and Everything in It and we’re so glad to have you along today. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. First up: arrivals at the southern border.
Last March, former-President Donald Trump said migrants arriving at the southern border could pose a health risk by bringing COVID-19 into the United States. So under a public health code called Title 42, the Trump Administration began turning away anyone arriving at the southern border. That included single adults, families or minors traveling alone.
REICHARD: In April last year, border patrol only apprehended 17,000 migrants at the U.S. Mexico border. Since then, those numbers have been slowly growing—with last month seeing the biggest jump. In February, agents apprehended nearly 100,000 people. WORLD’s Sarah Schweinsberg reports now on what’s driving this massive increase.
SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: Tijuana, Mexico has long been a border crossing point for migrants. But over the last year, the border city has become more of a stopping point.
David Ruiz is a Christian businessman in Tijuana. He describes tent camps of migrants near the border.
RUIZ: I say about 600 people or parents 600 people at the border. It looks pretty crazy right now. You see all these tents.
Ruiz says some of these migrants have been in the city for more than a year, waiting for the U.S. border to open again. They come from all over Central America and the Caribbean.
RUIZ: You got the Central Americans and then you got the Haitians, Central American music and then go over here—they have like Jamaican music, so it’s a different different little cultures inside the little camps that they have right at the border.
Sami DiPasquale works with Abara in El Paso, Texas. The ministry helps churches and migrant shelters in El Paso and across the border in Juarez, Mexico. DiPasqaule says Juarez has also seen a steady build up of migrants over the past two years.
The buildup began under the Trump Administration’s “Remain in Mexico” Policy. Under that policy, migrants had to stay in Mexico while their asylum claims worked through U.S. immigration courts.
Then when the border shutdown last March, more arriving migrants settled down in Juarez, waiting for their chance to apply for asylum in the United States.
DIPASQUALE: So in our area, at first there were camps in a park and along the streets, right by the border crossings that just kept getting larger and larger. And then the local government disbanded those camps and many moved into shelters. There’s one large government shelter, there’s a very long term House of hospitality. And then another network of 15 to 20 smaller groups, churches, organizations that are hosting.
Now, DiPasqaule says as the world begins to open back up, more migrants are beginning to arrive.
DIPASQUALE: They’re having have not been large caravans to date but yeah, the numbers have been steadily increasing
Sarah Pierce is an immigration scholar at the Migration Policy Institute. She says the increasing number of migrants coming to the southern border is due to ongoing poverty and violence in Central America as well as destructive hurricanes last fall.
Then there’s the pull of a new administration in the United States.
PIERCE: The southern border is still largely shut down. But just the fact that President Biden lifted some of those restrictive policies, I think that alone can serve as an invitation for people who are already looking to flee problems at home.
The Biden Administration ended the Remain in Mexico Policy and said it would allow 25,000 migrants living in Mexico under the policy to enter the United States.
In January, the Biden Administration also said it would allow unaccompanied minors into the country.
That change is drawing more teenagers to the border. In February, more than 9,000 unaccompanied alien children, or UACs, arrived—nearly twice as many as the month before.
Customs and Border Patrol officials are still turning away single, adult arrivals and families at the border. But that doesn’t keep desperate migrants from trying to cross into the country. Since September, border agents have apprehended around 60,000 adult migrants each month.
And now, there’s also an uptick of families trying to cross. Last month, border agents detained 20,000 family members… three times more than in January.
Sarah Pierce says when immigration policy changes, confusion and rumors can often spread amongst migrants.
That’s what happened to Wilden and Tatiana Lopez in Honduras. In January, they heard the Biden Administration would let their family into the country. Mirabel Valasquez—the pastor of a church in El Paso, Texas—translates for the couple.
VALASQUEZ: They said that or they heard that under Donald Trump they couldn’t come in to the United States. But that they heard that Biden was giving 90 days for the families to come into the United States.
With that false knowledge, the Lopezes took their two small children and headed north. When the family first arrived at the Juarez/El Paso border crossing, U.S. border patrol agents sent the family back to Mexico.
Two weeks later the Lopezes tried crossing into the U.S. again, this time through the Rio Grande Valley, where, it just so happens, the Mexican government announced this fall it’s too dangerous for the U.S. to send migrant families back into Mexico. So border patrol officials released the Lopezes into the United States.
VALASQUEZ: Having their children with them when they were apprehended helped them not be immediately sent back across the river.
The Lopezes journey north worked out for the family. They’re safe. But many others won’t have a similar story.
Victor Manjarrez is a border scholar at the University of Texas at El Paso. As more migrant families and teenagers make their way north, Manjarrez worries the business of human smuggling will grow.
MANJARREZ: What I fear the most, though, is the exploitation of these people coming up. There’s there’s a lot of money. This has become a very big business.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: Border Patrol operations. As you just heard, migrant arrivals at the border are spiking.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And joining us now with another first-hand perspective of what’s happening at the southern border is Deputy Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol Raul Ortiz.
Thank you for joining us today.
ORTIZ: Well, thank you for having me.
REICHARD: Deputy Chief Ortiz, you’ve been with the U.S. Border Patrol for almost 30 years. How has the job of border patrol agents changed over the years and specifically, how has it changed in the past few years with surges in unaccompanied minors?
ORTIZ: Well, yeah, thank you. I have been with this organization for 30 years. And I can tell you the demographics and certainly the border security mission has changed considerably. When I started out in San Diego, California, most of the traffic that we saw were single adults and they were from Mexico. What we’ve experienced really, I think, over the last probably seven or eight years has been a shift. We’ve seen more nationals from Central America, family units and unaccompanied children. So, historically, most of our traffic, we were able to repatriate back to Mexico.
Now, when you’re apprehending folks from Central America and really all over the world—on last count I think we’ve already apprehended folks from 128 different countries. Last year it was in the neighborhood of 150 different countries. And so there’s an awful lot of coordination to repatriate somebody if they’re from Western Africa or Haiti or Cuba and whatnot, and then, of course, this year we’re starting to see another uptick in unaccompanied children. Very similar to what we saw in 2014.
REICHARD: When we hear about spikes in migrants trying to cross the border it’s always important to put that number into context. In February, 100,000 migrants arrived at the border. Of those, 9,000 were unaccompanied minors. And 19,000 were families. How do those numbers compare to past surges?
ORTIZ: Yeah, so when you look at 2020, we had 29,000 UAC encounters. We’ve already surpassed that in the first four or five months of this fiscal year. And that’s going to continue to increase because traditionally our high traffic months are April, May, and June. And so we’re starting to see a lot more Central Americans cross, Guatemalans. And then increases in folks from Ecuador, Brazil, Haiti, Cuba, and so those create some challenges for us.
REICHARD: When you said UAC, you mean Unaccompanied Alien Children?
ORTIZ: Yeah, that’s correct. Sorry. Unaccompanied Alien Children. And what we’re seeing unaccompanied children and our facilities overcrowded is sort of the first step in this coordination process. We’re mandated to turn over any unaccompanied children to Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement. And what they end up doing is either placing that kid with a sponsor, a guardian, or a relative or a parent or into a shelter facility. So our mandate is to transfer custody of those individuals as quickly as possible.
REICHARD: In the past we’ve seen large groups of people trying to cross the border, caravans of people. And that’s caused big spikes. Is this happening now? Are these people who’ve been waiting along the border during the past year?
ORTIZ: I think it’s a combination of both. I think what we’re experiencing now are, one, a lot of folks that were probably staged either in Mexico or another country and then I think you also find that people see an opportunity and they’re taking advantage of it right now. Our officers are stretched awfully, awfully thin. Both to be able to manage in between the ports of entry and then deal with this migrant population that we have to care, transport, feed, and have services for, I think it really has created, I think, some gaps along the southwest border. And so the cartels, plaza bosses, I think are encouraging these migrant populations to come northbound.
REICHARD: We have heard from law enforcement in border counties that it’s not unusual to find human remains in the vast distances between border ports of entry on ranches and in mountains, not to mention the danger of trying to cross the currents of the Rio Grande. What do you think the average American is unaware of with regard to the human toll at the border?
ORTIZ: Well, I think there’s a couple of things. One, that we certainly have an immigration system that needs to be adjusted. When you have parents that are making a conscious decision to allow their tender age children, like a child who’s five or six or seven years old, to travel through multiple countries to get to our doorstep with somebody who they don’t know or could be a neighbor or a distant family member or just a smuggler in general, you’re really putting that child at risk. And so I think we have to be concerned that we’ve got a very vulnerable population out there and we’ve got to do everything we can to safeguard those children. The second thing I think the rest of America doesn’t understand is that we’re at a point now where we’re stretching our resources awfully, awfully thin. And I’m not just talking about the border patrol resources. I’m talking about the government resources as a whole. And so I think people forget about 9/11. People forget about some of those other threats. And so, as I mentioned, we apprehend people from 130, 140 different countries. We don’t know, just because they don’t have a criminal record in the U.S., we don’t know what they’ve done in other countries and what they’re coming to the U.S. to do. And so those are concerns that — those are the kinds of things that keep me up at night.
REICHARD: Much work to do. U.S. Border Patrol Deputy Chief Raul Ortiz, thank you for your time today.
ORTIZ: Thank you.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Most every child has a well loved toy.
CLIP: T-O-Y Toy.
Excuse me. I think the word you’re searching for is “space ranger.”
Well, toy or space ranger, it’s hard on everyone when that favorite toy goes missing.
A little boy named Hagen Davis left his beloved Buzz Lightyear toy on a plane he boarded in Little Rock, Arkansas. By the time he realized it, his family had already landed in Dallas and was driving away from the airport.
Here’s where the story makes a turn. A ramp agent found Buzz, noticed Hagen’s name written on Buzz’s foot. Then he went through the passenger lists and figured out who Buzz belonged to.
Get this: a few days later, a hand-decorated package arrived at little Hagen’s house. Inside, the toy, and pictures of Buzz posing at the airport with a letter detailing his excellent adventures while away!
Here’s Hagen’s mom Ashley reading part of the letter on WUSA-tv.
DAVIS: My journey has taught me a lot but I’m so thankful to return to my buddy. To infinity and beyond! Your buddy, Buzz Lightyear.
Now that’s going above and beyond.
BROWN: Well done.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, March 16th.
Thanks for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: bicycles.
One upside of the pandemic is a greater demand for bikes. One downside of that though is a supply problem. Last month an insurance company reported that bike theft is up more than 20% over last year. Today, WORLD reporter Jenny Rough talks with a pastor who turned a stolen bike into a ministry.
AUDIO: [SPINNING WHEEL]
JENNY ROUGH, REPORTER: On a recent Friday afternoon in northeast, Virginia, 44-year-old Robbie Pruitt spots a high-end, name-brand mountain bike. The bike has a U-lock secured on the crossbar. Hefty steel with double shackles. Pruitt takes a saw with a metal cutting blade to bust the lock.
AUDIO: [CUTTING BIKE LOCK]
When that doesn’t work, he tries a sledgehammer.
AUDIO: [HAMMER POUNDING BIKE LOCK]
ROBBIE PRUITT: Well, I would never be a bike thief!
Exactly right. Pruitt isn’t trying to steal the bike. He’s trying to fix it.
AUDIO: [Pruitt fixing a bike]
But bike theft is what motivated Pruitt to start repairing bikes for others in the first place. After riding his own mountain bike on a dirt trail last September, he left the bike strapped to his car outside his home in Ashburn, Virginia.
PRUITT: It was going to rain, and my bike was muddy from my mountain bike ride. So, I was just going to leave it and let the rain clean it off, you know?
Later, Pruitt noticed the empty bike rack.
PRUITT: I knew right away somebody had stolen the bike.
He warned his neighbors.
PRUITT: I made a post on Facebook that my bike got stolen, so be careful to lock them up.
Because of the bike shortage caused by the pandemic, Pruitt couldn’t find a replacement. Parts were also hard to find. Stores had a backlog on bike repairs.
All this gave Pruitt an idea.
PRUITT: And that’s when I decided to reach out to the community and if, indeed, people had bikes they didn’t want, or that were broken. I could fix them and give them away. Or get them back on the trail.
So on that same Facebook post, he made an offer: If anyone needs a bike or a bike repair I can help you for free. Not long after, bikes filled his front yard. He fixed 30 that first week. And posted a second offer.
PRUITT: That the one where it got pretty big. I started numbering them.
Pruitt has fixed over 200 bikes since October.
PRUITT: Every one of these bikes were donated by someone. This is about the community’s generosity. The community is doing this.
Pruitt has always been handy, even as a toddler. As the story goes:
PRUITT: I would have a hammer and a screwdriver in my diaper, and I called it my broke-fix-it and my oo-iver. So I’ve always been taking stuff apart. I’ve always been tinkering.
His handyman skills continued into teen years—out of necessity. Pruitt’s parents divorced when Pruitt was 1 and he had an absent father.
PRUITT: You have to learn how to fix it. And so I did. I just worked on the bike myself.
No YouTube instructional videos. He took the bike apart, kept the pieces in order, and reverse engineered.
PRUITT: And try to put them back on the same way, you know? Certainly I broke things beyond repair. It was broken when I started, so why not give it a shot?
When Pruitt was a six, someone stole his Big Wheel. Later, his BMX bike. Pruitt isn’t happy about all the bike theft he’s experienced. But a part of him understands. He was a troubled youth.
PRUITT: I started drinking and smoking cigarettes in sixth grade, breaking and entering. I had gotten arrested with the wrong crowd of people.
His grandfather and a church pastor mentored Robbie.
PRUITT: And I think it’s also why I don’t get too bent out of shape, I guess, that somebody stole my bike. Because I did stupid things when I was a kid too. You never know what’s going on in somebody’s life or what their motivation is.
Back in his yard, Pruitt sets a donated bike on a stand and gives it a look over. First, he squeezes the brakes. The back brake on this one needs tightening with a wrench.
PRUITT: Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey. Unless you’re dealing with spokes, and then it’s backwards. It’s lefty-tighty, rightly-loosey, which you learn the hard way.
Next, he checks the grips; the seat.
PRUITT: Just a little crooked. Straighten it out just now.
The cables and chain.
PRUITT: So once I cut this chain off, put a new derailer on it.
He keeps spare parts in the laundry room. Finally, he checks the tires for dry rot, tread wear, and air.
PRUITT: I’m also spinning it to see if the wheel’s running true, or straight. And it is.
PRUITT: They go as quickly as I can fix them, they’re gone.
Some want to take up bicycling as a new hobby. Others want to gift bikes to their children. Or replace a bike they have outgrown.
Once, while Pruitt worked on a bike, a group of neighborhood kids rode by:
PRUITT: And they were circling around this circle, and I invited them to come over, socially distanced of course and asked them if they knew how to work on bikes. And they said no. And I said, “Well, you want to learn how to replace disc breaks?”
The kids kept coming.
PRUITT: They just started bringing their bikes to me. I broke my pedal, can you fix that?
Yes. Not only would he fix it. He would teach them how to.
PRUITT: I’m getting to teach these kids a skill, to take something broke and fix it. We’re all broken in some way, shape, or form. I’m broken. You’re broken. God doesn’t just throw us away. He fixes us. He repairs us.
This spring, he hopes to hold more pop-up clinics. Lesson one: Pump up a flat tire.
PRUITT: We want to get this up to 40 psi
Flats are the number one reason bikes are abandoned. But it’s a simple fix! Other bikes are not easy fixes.
PRUITT: Others are, have been hit by a car, like this one. This one got run over, and the wheel is completely out of true.
But even problems that seem insurmountable can be tackled one step at a time.
PRUITT: I’ve talked to kids about bikes and the whole thing about we all have our problems. If you can assess the problem, you can fix the problem. We just assessed some major problems, a bent wheel, to an unnecessary clamp that we took off, that we threw away. You’re not going to ride until you get that dealt with.
Pruitt loves to mountain bike because he feels like he’s flying. Now someone else can see how that feels. The bike is ready for the road. And a happy rider.
PRUITT: That is such a nice bike!
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Jenny Rough in Ashburn, Virginia.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Tuesday, March 16th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Commentator Kim Henderson now on the importance of doing our civic duty.
KIM HENDERSON, COMMENTATOR: I have a great respect for all things pertaining to jury duty. I obtained it in the Clay County Courthouse years ago while watching a juror doze off during a trial. The man in the defendant’s box at those proceedings happened to be responsible for a three-inch scar in my state trooper husband’s scalp. The fact that Sleepy (maybe Dopey, too) would have a say-so in rendering the verdict—well, it woke me up to the seriousness of jury selection and service. Ever since then, I’ve been a big believer in doing your duty.
So when a summons came in the mail, I made plans to do mine, right beside the teacher who was missing her spring break and the roofer whose crew was without its chief.
The National Center for State Courts says the number one complaint citizens have about jury duty is the waiting—waiting for orientation to begin, waiting in the hallway during last-minute motions, waiting to find out who’ll be impaneled. I sensed the sentiment strongly from where I sat in a hard wooden seat with time to notice the courtroom’s Corinthian columns and peeling plaster on a far wall.
It didn’t help that the hands on the huge clock behind the judge’s bench didn’t move—may not have moved for years. Being eternally stuck at 8:44 seemed to underscore the reality that we were on their time now.
Eventually we got numbered fans to raise when speaking, and the voir dire began. We quickly learned a surefire way to rile the judge: change zip codes but forget to transfer your voter registration. Someone named Virginia dodged duty by this means, but the judge thoroughly chastised her in the process. He also made his point to a potential choosing to cash in on his over-65 status. “Seniors sometimes make the best jurors, sir,” he said.
Undeterred, Juror No. 9 also attempted an exit when the opportunity arose.
“You said anyone who’s 65 can opt out,” she smiled.
The judge corrected: “I believe I said over 65.” She apologized in a flutter and quickly sat down. Hours later, she would make the cut.
I, however, was no first-round pick. Never have been, in spite of a strong desire to do this civic duty. Here’s how it went this time: the prosecuting attorney began naming officers involved in the case, and asked if we knew any of them. I fumbled for my fan.
“Juror No. 5, how do you know so and so?“
I responded as quietly as I could. “My husband. He’s in law enforcement.”
I was out of the running faster than the defense lawyers could scribble a note next to my name.
So that’s how I came to be eating a large order of onion rings at Sonic while 12 of my betters weighed in on the scales of justice. I wanted my day in court, but the court didn’t want me. If you get the opportunity, go for it. Do your duty.
I’m Kim Henderson.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Tomorrow: Executive orders. President Biden has issued lots of them. How significant is this? We’ll talk about it.
And, we’ll hear from a woman whose life has spanned two pandemics so far: 1918’s Spanish Flu and today’s Covid19.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Mary Reichard.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.
The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio.
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