Thursday morning news – March 18, 2021

Mayorkas spars with Republicans in testimony on border surge » Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas sparred with GOP lawmakers during a House hearing on Wednesday. 

KATKO: Given the tremendous rise and surge of individuals coming to the border, wouldn’t it be fair to call it a crisis? Because that’s what your agents are calling it. 

Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Committee, John Katko.

Mayorkas later fired back at Republicans…

MAYORKAS: A crisis is when a nation is willing to rip a 9-year-old child out of the hands of his or her parent and separate that family to deter future migration. That to me is a humanitarian crisis. 

But GOP lawmakers said the Biden administration is putting many more children in danger with policies driving many more unaccompanied minors to make the dangerous trek to the border.

Mayorkas gave ground on two Republican points. He acknowledged the administration may not have adequately notified communities chosen to host facilities for underage migrants. And he conceded that officials released some into the country without first testing them for COVID-19, though a new testing policy is now in place.

Eight people killed in crash near U.S.-Mexico border » Eight people died in a pickup truck loaded with immigrants during a police chase this week near the U.S.-Mexico border. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin reports. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Police near the Texas border city of Del Rio tried to stop the truck for a traffic violation when the driver sped away and crashed into another truck.

The Texas Department of Public Safety says troopers were chasing a red Dodge pickup truck when it collided head-on with a white Ford F-150. 

DPS said all eight people killed were in the country illegally. All were Mexican nationals between the ages of 18 and 20. 

The driver of the F-150 and one child passenger were hospitalized.

The collision happened weeks after 13 unauthorized immigrants died in a car crash in Southern California. 

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

DHS, DOJ: Russia, Iran Targeted 2020 U.S. Election » Both Russia and Iran targeted U.S. election infrastructure ahead of last year’s election. That according to the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security this week. 

In a joint report, the government agencies said “Broad Russian and Iranian campaigns” did manage to “compromise the security of several networks that managed some election functions.” But they added that the attacks—quote— “did not materially affect the integrity of voter data” and ultimately did not impact the election. 

A separate report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said intel officials found “no evidence” that any foreign actor tried to alter any technical aspect of the voting process. That would include things like registration, ballot casting and vote tabulation. 

Investigators working to determine motive in string of fatal shootings in Georgia » Investigators are trying to determine what drove a man to fatally shoot eight people at three massage parlors in the Atlanta area. 

Most of the victims were women of Asian descent, but the suspect told police that race was not a factor. 

REYNOLDS: He made indicators that he has some issues, potentially sexual addiction, and may have frequented some of these places in the past. 

Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds heard there. 

The 21-year-old suspect was on his way to Florida when police caught up to him. Officials say he was planning to carry out a similar plot at—quote—“some type of porn industry” site in Florida. 

The FBI is supporting Atlanta and Cherokee County’s investigation.

Prosecutors to drop most charges against Pastor James Coates » A Canadian pastor jailed for the past month over alleged violations of Alberta’s COVID-19 restrictions will likely be a free man very soon. WORLD’s Anna Johansen Brown reports.

ANNA JOHANSEN BROWN, REPORTER: Prosecutors in Alberta have agreed to drop most of the charges against Pastor James Coates and he’s expected to be released from jail as soon as tomorrow. That according to the nonprofit legal group representing him. 

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said Coates will face only one remaining charge of violating an Order of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Coates is the pastor of Grace Life Church near Edmonton. He’s been behind bars since Feb. 16 after refusing to follow strict limits on church gatherings, which he said were unconstitutional. 

Last month, a Justice of the Peace ordered the pastor released on bail on the condition that he and his church follow all public health restrictions. But Coates could not, in good conscience, agree to that. 

Crown prosecutors have now agreed that he can be released without conditions.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen Brown. 

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File) In this Monday, March 1, 2021 file photo, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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