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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Inui

Weekly News Blast | Sep 10 - 17

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

Hundreds of Dreamers take to the streets to protests as the court system moves to strike down the DACA program once again (Susan Ruggles, Flickr).

Flood in Libya Claims the Lives of Thousands

Torrents from tropical “medicane” Storm Daniel recently caused unprecedented flooding in Derna, a city in northeastern Libya. According to state media, flooding overwhelmed two local dams on September 10, sending a wall of water meters high through the center of Derna and wiping out nearly a quarter of the city. Death tolls currently stand at 11,300 with over 10,000 still missing, but these numbers are expected to rise as search-and-rescue efforts continue. Even after the initial flood, with most of Derna’s infrastructure destroyed, polluted drinking water leaves thousands at high risk of diarrhea, cholera, and severe dehydration.

Amid rescue efforts, several experts have come out saying the disaster could have been prevented. Abdul Wanis Ashour, a hydrologist whose research 17 years prior had already shown signs of weathering, commented that “the Libyan government knew what was going on in the Derna River Valley and the danger of the situation for a very long time,” whether from Public Water Commission of foreign assessments of the dam.

In response, Al-Sediq al-Sour, Libya’s General Prosecutor, announced that he is launching an investigation into the collapse of the dams, including actions (or lack thereof) by local authorities and previous administrations. “I reassure citizens,” al-Sour said in a news conference on Friday, “that whoever made mistakes or negligence, prosecutors will certainly take firm measures, file a criminal case against him, and send him to trial.”

Judge Once Again Rules Against Obama’s DACA Program

On September 13, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen once again ruled against the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Created by former president Barack Obama in 2012, the DACA program protects immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation after their visas expire. In 2021, Judge Hanen had ruled against DACA, barring the program from accepting new applicants. The Biden administration implemented changes aimed at making the program more legally acceptable, but in his recent ruling, Hanen wrote that “there are no material differences” and extended the pause on new applicants.

Judge Hanen’s legal arguments largely surround the separation of power between the executive and legislative branches. “While sympathetic to the predicament of DACA recipients and their families, this Court has expressed its concerns about the legality of the program for some time,” he wrote in his 40-page ruling. “The Executive Branch cannot usurp the power bestowed on Congress by the Constitution—even to fill a void,” Hanen added, referencing the failure by Congress to create an alternate immigrant protection program.

In the wake of the ruling, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, in charge of the program’s initiation in 2012, said he was “deeply disappointed” by the decision, adding that “Congress has failed to act, and now Dreamers face an uncertain future, waiting to receive the permanent protection they deserve.” However, Hanen made it clear that he was not ordering the government to take action to deport the so-called Dreamers (the name of DACA beneficiaries). Moving forward, the government is expected to appeal the decisions to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and likely to the Supreme Court as well.

Texas Senate Votes to Acquit State Attorney General in a Historic Impeachment Trial

After nearly nine hours of deliberation, the Texas State Senate voted on September 16 to acquit state Attorney General Ken Paxton. A three-term incumbent, Paxton has been suspended from his post since the State House voted overwhelmingly in May to impeach him. Now, cleared on all 16 counts, Paxton has returned to his spot in the Texas Office of the Attorney General.

The impeachment, overseen on both the defense and prosecution sides by Republican Representatives, focused primarily on accusations by former top deputies that Paxton had abused his power as attorney general to help Nate Paul, an Austin real estate developer and one of Paxton’s top donors, as Paul faced an FBI investigation. In closing arguments, Republican State Representative Jeff Leach, one of the impeachment managers, said that “there comes a time for each of us … not to ask yourself what is safe, or popular, or politic, but what is right,” imploring the jurors to convict Paxton. However, no more than 14 state senators voted to convict Paxton on any of the 16 articles (nowhere near the 21 required to proceed with impeachment). Despite the overwhelming vote in the Republican-dominated State House to begin the impeachment process, only two of the 19 Republic senators ended up voting to convict Paxton on any of the counts.

Following the acquittal, Paxton posted a statement criticizing the process. “I’ve said many times: Seek the truth! And that is what was accomplished,” he wrote. However, even though he is back in office, Paxton’s legal troubles did not end with the state Senate vote. He currently faces an 8-year-old criminal indictment on felony securities fraud charges while a separate federal investigation is currently underway. However, until these cases make their way through the courts, Paxton’s job as the top attorney in Texas is safe.


Sources & Further Reading

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