FILE PHOTO: The Alibaba group logo is seen at the high profile startups and high tech leaders gathering, Viva Tech, in Paris, France, May 16, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
June 17, 2019
BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Alibaba Group Holding has proposed a one-to-eight stock split ahead of a listing in Hong Kong later this year that is expected to raise up to $20 billion.
The split, to be presented to shareholders for a vote at an annual general meeting in Hong Kong on July 15, will increase flexibility in the firm’s capital raising activities, including the issuance of new shares, the e-commerce giant said.
The firm’s board recommends shareholders to vote in favor of the proposal, it added in its statement dated Friday but published on the company’s website on Monday.
“The … subdivision will increase the number of shares available for issuance at a lower per share price,” it added.
Alibaba has filed confidentially for a Hong Kong listing, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters earlier this month.
Alibaba has also proposed to change the ratio of ordinary shares to American Depositary Shares (ADS) to eight ordinary shares representing one ADS to neutralize the impact of share split on its ADS listed in the U.S. market.
(Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk; Editing by Himani Sarkar)
FILE PHOTO: A man looks at an electronic board showing the Nikkei stock index outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, January 7, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
June 17, 2019
By Tomo Uetake
TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian shares wobbled near one-week lows on Monday as investors turned cautious ahead of a closely-watched Federal Reserve meeting, while political tensions in the Middle East and Hong Kong kept risk appetite in check.
European stock were expected to open higher, with futures for Britain’s FTSE climbing 0.4% and Germany’s DAX up about 0.2%.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was little changed by early afternoon, after opening slightly weaker. Japan’s Nikkei average also closed flat.
Asian markets got a quick boost after Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index jumped as much as 1.4%. At the weekend, the territory’s leader Carrie Lam climbed down on a bill that would have allowed extradition to China.
The Hang Seng fell for three sessions in a row through Friday, after the extradition bill triggered mass protests and some of the worst unrest seen in the territory since Britain handed it back to Chinese rule in 1997.
“Last week the issue looked as if it would become another thorny point between the United States and China. As the bill is now being postponed indefinitely, things will likely calm down, which is good for markets,” said Hiroyuki Ueno, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Asset Management.
Mainland Chinese shares traded within a tight range, with benchmark Shanghai Composite up 0.2% and the blue-chip CSI 300 rising 0.1%.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News on Sunday that President Donald Trump would raise the issue of Hong Kong’s human rights with China’s President Xi Jinping at a potential meeting of the two leaders at the G20 summit in Japan later this month.
Wall Street stocks ended lower on Friday as investors turned cautious before this week’s Fed meeting, while a warning from Broadcom on slowing demand weighed on chipmakers and added to U.S.-China trade worries.[.N]
Investors were waiting for more clues from the Fed after policymakers raised expectations for a rate cut in recent weeks amid worries about mounting fallout from the U.S.-Sino trade war.
Strong U.S. retail sales data on Friday rolled back expectations of a Fed rate cut at this week’s meeting to 17.5%, from 31% shortly before the release of the data on Friday, according to CME Group’s FedWatch tool. But bets of an easing by the July meeting remain high at 84%.
“The week ahead is likely to provide some clarification for investors on three fronts that have been a source of uncertainty. The FOMC meeting, with updated forecasts, is center stage,” said Marc Chandler, chief market strategist at Bannockburn Global Forex.
A private gauge on eurozone’s manufacturing sector as well as U.S.-China trade frictions will also be watched closely, Chandler said.
Financial markets were sideswiped by a sudden escalation in Sino-U.S. trade tensions in early May, with growing anxiety among investors that a protracted standoff could tip the global economy into recession.
Geopolitical tensions in the Middle East added another layer of uncertainty after the United States blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week.
Hopes that global central banks will keep the money spigots open have helped to temper some of the fears, and all eyes are on the Fed’s two-day meeting starting on Tuesday.
The Bank of Japan also meets this week and is widely expected to reinforce its commitment to retain a massive stimulus program for some time to come.
The retail sales report also sent short-dated U.S. Treasury yields higher, flattening the yield curve.[L2N23L10H]
Benchmark 10-year notes was last at 2.106%, while two-year bond yield edged up, shrinking the spread between two- and 10-year yields to 23.7 basis points compared to more than 30 earlier this month.
A Reuters poll showed a growing number of economists expect the Fed policymakers to cut interest rates this year, although the majority still see it holding steady.
In currency markets, the dollar index against a basket of six major currencies climbed to 97.583 on Friday, its highest level in almost two weeks, after the U.S. retail sales data eased fears that the world’s largest economy is slowing sharply.
The index last stood at 97.510, while the euro fetched $1.1216, near the lower end of its weekly trading range.
Oil prices rose on Monday after U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo said Washington will take all actions necessary to guarantee safe navigation in the Middle East, as tensions mounted following attacks on tankers last week.[O/R]
Brent futures added 0.4% to $62.27 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures gained 0.3% to $52.67.
Spot gold eased 0.2% to $1,338.17 an ounce after hitting a 14-month peak on Friday.
Bitcoin jumped overnight to $9,391.85, its highest level in 13 months. It was last quoted at $9,193.21.
(Additional reporting by Hideyuki Sano; Editing by Shri Navaratnam & Kim Coghill)
FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators hold flag during anti government protests in Algiers, Algeria April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina
June 17, 2019
By Lamine Chikhi
HAIZER, Algeria (Reuters) – While tens of thousands of Algerians have been gathering for four months in the capital to demand sweeping political reforms, former fighters who led the last confrontation with the establishment have been warning people not to rock the boat.
In the 1990s, they drove an uprising against the military after it canceled a landmark multiparty election that Islamists were poised to win. This time they say protests could bring a repeat of the chaos and bloodshed their actions unleashed.
“I deeply regret what happened in the 1990s,” once such fighter, Sheikh Yahya, said at his home in Haizer, a village in the Kabyle mountains 120 km (75 miles) east of the capital Algiers where he now works as a butcher.
“This is why I will never participate in any action that might end up violent.”
Some 200,000 people died in Algeria’s decade-long civil war, leaving many Algerians fearful of radical change now that longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has given into the pressure from the streets and stepped down.
Following Bouteflika’s departure in April, the protesters have been pressing for the exit of the entire elite in control since the North African country’s independence from France in 1962 – the same cause the jihadists took up arms for in 1991.
But Yahya and other former jihadists now support the army and other security forces, the strongest part of that elite. It also includes business tycoons and former independence fighters in Algeria’s ruling FLN party as well as labor unions in a state-dominated economy sustained by oil and gas production.
The ex-fighters are Salafists, a literalist Sunni school of Islam whose adherents range from the radical jihadists of Islamic State to an overwhelming majority which shies away from politics.
Salafi influence in Algeria is far wider than their numbers – an estimated one in 40 people – would suggest, analysts say. This makes their anti-protest messages a significant counterweight to calls for radical change.
“Algeria has around 18,000 mosques, most of them are under Salafi influence,” said political analyst Mohamed Mouloudi. One Salafi cleric has a website with a million followers.
By contrast leading Sufis, a more inclusive Sunni school that most Algerians belong to, have kept a low profile since the ouster of Bouteflika, their most high-profile member.
Salafists are social conservatives heavily influenced by Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabis. They reject both political Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, which led Egypt in a 2012-2013 interlude from military-backed rule, as well as Western influence – from clothing to political systems.
They were part of the reason the 2011 Arab Spring pro-democracy movement bypassed Algeria, after Sheikh Ali Ferkous, a Salafi icon, declared “unrest is forbidden in Islam”, and they continue to argue that stability is paramount.
MILITARY CHIEF, CONSERVATIVE LEADER
The Army chief, Lieutenant-General Ahmed Gaed Salah, played a key role in toppling Bouteflika by saying the president’s poor health made him unfit for office.
Upper House Chairman Abdelkader Bensalah became interim president but is now under pressure from demonstrators to quit, due to his links with Bouteflika and pledge on June 6 to stay in office until elections, which have been postponed indefinitely.
A group of protesters and some Salafi clerics have suggested Bensalah hands over to former conservative minister Ahmed Taleb Ibrahimi, son of well-known cleric Bachir Ibrahimi who played a role in the independence war against France from 1954 to 1962.
Ahmed Taleb Ibrahimi is a fierce opponent of Bouteflika, who did not allow him to set up a political party. Ibrahimi, 87, has promised to end of what he called “dirty money”, referring to corruption under Bouteflika, and introduce transparency.
“Ibrahimi is one of the rare clean politicians in Algeria who can reconcile the youth with politics. We believe he can play a very positive role,” said Seif Islam Benatia, a dentist prominent among protesters who encompass a wide array of views.
Yahya, who spoke to Reuters with two of his fellow former fighters Akli and Mohamed sitting alongside, also supports Ibrahimi, as well as army chief Salah. “We want stability to remain,” he said.
Their village lies in what was known in the 90s as the “triangle of death” — the flashpoint of the civil war, which the army said it was fighting to prevent Taliban-style rule. The mountains with its caves and valleys were ideal hiding ground for fighters to store arms and prepare ambushes on the army.
Yahya gave up the fight in 2006 after accepting amnesty from Bouteflika and persuaded others to make peace with the state.
Algeria’s welfare state rewarded him with $6,000 in aid to build a modest house where the ground floor serves as his poultry butchery. Two sons got jobs at state firms — a livelihood they fear losing if chaos erupts.
“GIFT FROM GOD”
Salafists have been quietly working to influence society, identifiable here, as elsewhere, by their long beards, white robes and short trousers emulating the Prophet Mohammad.
Their clout can be seen in Haizer, where Yahya’s house is a gathering point for youth, neighbors and other ex-fighters he persuaded to lay down arms.
“Marches, protests, unrest and all the tools used in democracies to topple leaders are illicit in Islam,” Yahya said.
Such messages resonate in Algeria, analysts say, because many people fear protracted unrest would undermine a state that provides jobs, health insurance and housing.
They also undermine Islamist political parties, which have struggled since the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), which almost took power in 1991, was banned the following year.
“Salafi are influential because they focus on the youth, and society,” Mouloudi told Reuters. “Political Islam’s leaders are divided, fragmented and hold little influence politically.”
In Algiers, some of the young protesters, who include many women and some children, oppose any kind of Islamist takeover.
“We want radical change, but I don’t want to end up with Islamists ruling the country,” said Nadia Beigacem, 21, who studies English at Algiers University and does not wear a veil. “Western democracy is my model, not the Saudi Arabian model.”
Rather than Ibrahimi, she wanted a young Algerian as leader, like former U.S. President Barack Obama or French President Emmanuel Macron. “We are a young nation,” she said.
Salafist leader Ferkous has not commented on recent protests but other followers have rejected them. “What is forbidden remains forbidden, even if everyone does it,” said Mohamed Al-Habib, a prominent Salafist in a video message.
The weekly Friday protests have been continuing, but numbers have declined in recent weeks, indicating the resignation of Bouteflika and prosecution of his younger brother and closest former advisor Said and others have slowed their momentum.
“After chaos and 200,000 people killed, we now have peace and stability, this is a gift from God,” Yahya said.
“Let’s preserve it.”
(Editing by Ulf Laessing and Philippa Fletcher)
FILE PHOTO: The Federal Reserve building is pictured in Washington, DC, U.S., August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo
June 17, 2019
By Ann Saphir and Howard Schneider
SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Reserve, facing fresh demands by President Donald Trump to cut interest rates, is expected to leave borrowing costs unchanged at a policy meeting this week but possibly lay the groundwork for a rate cut later this year.
New economic projections that will accompany the U.S. central bank’s policy statement on Wednesday will provide the most direct insight yet into how deeply policymakers have been influenced by the U.S.-China trade war, Trump’s insistence on lower interest rates, and recent weaker economic data.
Analysts expect the “dot plot” of year-end forecasts for the Fed’s benchmark overnight lending rate – the federal funds rate – will show a growing number of policymakers are open to cutting rates in the coming months, though nowhere near as aggressively as investors expect or Trump wants.
The Fed is also widely, though not universally, expected to remove a pledge to be “patient” in taking future action on rates, opening the door to a possible cut at its coming policy meetings.
Risks may be rising, but “I don’t think they want to box themselves into a corner,” said Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at Northern Trust. “The markets are set up for a cut in July, and if they don’t get it, financial conditions will tighten.”
The federal funds rate is currently set in a range of 2.25% to 2.50%.
The Fed’s policy-setting committee is due to release its latest statement and economic projections at 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT) on Wednesday after the end of a two-day meeting. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell will hold a press conference shortly after.
MIND THE DOTS
The Fed’s last set of economic and policy projections, released in March, showed most policymakers foresaw no need to change rates this year and only very gradual rate hikes thereafter. (For a graphic of the gap between market and Fed expectations, please see https://tmsnrt.rs/2WzJ6tu.)
But since that meeting the economic outlook has become cloudier.
Recent U.S. retail sales numbers were strong. But while unemployment has held near a 50-year low of 3.6%, U.S. employers created a paltry 75,000 jobs in May. Inflation, which Powell says is low in part because of temporary factors, continues to undershoot the Fed’s 2% target.
The Atlanta Fed forecast on Friday that gross domestic product will increase at a 2.1 percent annualized rate in the April-June quarter, a drop from the 3.1 percent pace of the first three months of the year.
Trade uncertainty has increased as well, with Trump using the threat of tariffs on goods from Mexico to force the country to curb the number of mostly Central American immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
He has also vowed to slap more tariffs on Chinese imports if no trade deal is reached when he meets Chinese President Xi Jinping at a Group of 20 summit at the end of this month in Japan.
Concern that mounting tariffs could further slow U.S. and global economic growth is one of the chief reasons traders in interest rate futures loaded up on contracts anticipating three U.S. rate cuts by the end of the year.
Fed officials may have reason to trim their rate outlook a bit, but meeting market expectations would involve a dramatic shift. Nine of the Fed’s current 17 policymakers would have to move their rate projections downward for the median to reflect a single cut, let alone three.
“Powell will do what he can to try to downplay the dots especially if they don’t show what the markets want them to show,” said Roberto Perli, economist at Cornerstone Macro. “He will have a tough time.”
Adding to the pressure for a rate cut is a yield curve inversion in parts of the market for U.S. government debt, historically a precursor of recessions. The three-month Treasury bill, for instance, has paid out a higher rate than a 5-year Treasury note for the last several months running.
And Trump, who has said that rates should be lowered by perhaps a full percentage point or more, continues to publicly berate the Fed and Powell, his handpicked chairman, for refusing to act.
“I’ve waited long enough,” Trump said in an interview with ABC News last week, talking favorably of the “old days” when Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon intervened forcefully in Fed policy – and set the stage, many economists argue, for the high inflation, economic volatility and recessions that followed in the 1970s.
Most of the more than 100 economists polled June 7-12 by Reuters say they are not penciling in a rate cut until the third quarter of next year. But views are shifting rapidly. Forty respondents expected at least one rate cut sometime in 2019, up from just eight who did in the previous poll.
Within the U.S. central bank, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard is the only policymaker who has said a rate cut may be needed “soon.”
Several others have signaled a readiness to move off their wait-and-see stance, with Powell saying earlier this month in a speech in Chicago that the Fed will act “as appropriate” in the face of risks posed by the global trade war and other developments.
The word “patient,” which had been repeatedly used by the Fed since early this year to signal its willingness to hold off further rate hikes, was notably absent from Powell’s remarks, though the Fed chief stopped well short of suggesting a rate cut was coming soon.
The Fed raised rates four times in 2018 but has since abandoned plans to continue lifting borrowing costs this year.
It is likely to avoid signaling any move to cut rates until it is ready to deliver, predicted Bruce Monrad, a high-yield bond portfolio manager at Boston-based Northeast Investors Trust.
Nevertheless, Monrad added, Fed policymakers may have tied their own hands by letting bets in financial markets stray so far. “They have had six months to control the rhetoric. They really haven’t walked back the market.”
(Reporting by Ann Saphir and Howard Schneider; Editing by Paul Simao)
June 15, 2019; Pebble Beach, CA, USA; Gary Woodland plays a shot on the 16th hole during the third round of the 2019 U.S. Open golf tournament at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
June 17, 2019
By Steve Keating
PEBBLE BEACH, CA. (Reuters) – Gary Woodland held his nerve to claim his first major with a three-shot victory at the U.S. Open on Sunday, bringing Brooks Koepka’s two-year reign to an end.
Woodland had not managed a top-10 finish in his first 27 majors before last year’s PGA Championship, where he tied for sixth, but he handled the final round with the composure of someone who had been playing for golf’s biggest prizes his entire career.
Ending his round in style with a birdie at the last, Woodland carded a two-under 69 to keep Koepka from becoming the first man in more than a century to sweep three straight U.S. Opens.
“Just glad it was over,” smiled Woodland. “I didn’t let myself get ahead at all today.
“Didn’t ever let myself think the tournament was over.
“So I just stayed in it.”
World number one Koepka went down fighting, finishing with a three-under 68 to leave him three short of Woodland’s winning total of 13-under 271.
Justin Rose began the day one shot back of Woodland but the Englishman crumbled on the back nine with three bogeys for a three-over 74 and a tie for third at seven-under with Xander Schauffele, Chez Reavie and Spain’s Jon Rahm.
It was a remarkable display of determination and guts by the 35-year-old Woodland, who seven times before had held a 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event and seven times could not close the deal.
As Woodland made the turn with a two-shot lead, faint cracks in his composure began to show as Koepka trimmed the advantage to one with a birdie at 11.
With tension building with each shot, Woodland kept his cool and collected his first birdie of the back nine at the par five 14th to reclaim a two-stroke advantage and turn the U.S. Open into a two horse race.
Rose, who saw the red-hot putter that had come to his rescue so often during the week suddenly turn cold, had his bid for a second U.S. Open title seriously wounded with back-to-back bogeys at 12 and 13 and then killed off completely with another at 15 that dropped him five off the pace with three to play.
Down to the closing two holes and a relentless Koepka had one last opportunity to put pressure on Woodland with a birdie at the 18th that would have left his opponent clinging to a one-shot lead coming home.
But Koepka watched his nine-foot putt slip by the cup, settling for a par to give Woodland some breathing room.
“I hit a good putt, it just dove right across the front,” said Koepka. “Sometimes there’s just nothing you can do.
“I thought it would be nice to put some pressure on him, one shot going into the last hole.
“Nothing I could do. I gave it my all. I give it my all every time and sometimes it’s not meant to be.”
A maiden major now within his grasp, a relaxed Woodland capped off his round in spectacular style, rolling in a 30-foot birdie at the last to trigger a standing ovation and chants of “Gary, Gary”.
Tiger Woods, a three-time U.S. Open winner, had ended the third round 11 shots back of the leader but still gave himself a chance of winning a 16th major on Sunday.
Those slim hopes disappeared quickly when he bogeyed four of his opening five holes.
Woods hit back with six birdies, including one at the 18th, for a two-under round, his lowest final round at a U.S. Open in a decade but still 11 back of winner.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)
June 16, 2019; Pebble Beach, CA, USA; Viktor Hovland with the low amateur medal after the final round of the 2019 U.S. Open golf tournament at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
June 17, 2019
PEBBLE BEACH, CA. (Reuters) – Viktor Hovland ended his amateur career in style on Sunday by breaking a U.S. Open record that Jack Nicklaus had held for 59 years.
The Norwegian’s four-under-par 280 total at Pebble Beach was two strokes better than the best previous score by an amateur, set by Nicklaus at Cherry Hills in Colorado in 1960.
Nicklaus finished second to Arnold Palmer that year, and though Hovland could not quite match that lofty result on Sunday he was nonetheless pleased to bow out of amateur ranks on a high note.
“It’s obviously cool to perform such a thing and I hope that I can feed off of this going into my professional career and do more things like this and be in contention of winning tournaments,” said Hovland.
He shot a closing 67 and tied for 12th, nine strokes behind winner Gary Woodland, and five ahead of the second-placed amateur, Brandon Wu.
Hovland became the eighth player to be the low amateur in the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year, and the first since Matt Kuchar in 1998.
Others to achieve the feat include Nicklaus in 1961 and Phil Mickelson in 1991.
Hovland won last year’s U.S. amateur championship at Pebble Beach.
After a three-year stint on a golf scholarship at Oklahoma State University, he will make his pro debut at the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship in Connecticut starting on Thursday.
“I’ve had the three best years of my life at Oklahoma State and I’ve learned so much not only as a player but as a person,” said the 21-year-old.
(Reporting by Steve Keating; Writing by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)
FILE PHOTO: A security guard walks past in front of the Bank of Japan headquarters in Tokyo, Japan January 23, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo
June 17, 2019
By Leika Kihara
TOKYO (Reuters) – The Bank of Japan is expected to maintain its massive stimulus program on Thursday and signal its readiness to ramp up monetary support if growing risks such as the escalating U.S.-China trade war threaten the economy’s modest expansion.
Many BOJ policymakers are wary of using their dwindling policy ammunition any time soon as years of ultra-low interest rates strain financial institutions’ profits, say sources with knowledge of the central bank’s thinking.
But the darkening outlook is also forcing them to brace for the likelihood of another economic downturn and brainstorm ideas on how to respond, they say.
Adding to the uncertainty are heightening market expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve will start to cut interest rates to fend off the damage from the trade war with China.
While such rate cut expectations have kept a floor on stock prices so far, an actual cut by the Fed could push down the dollar and trigger an unwelcome yen spike that hurts Japan’s export-reliant economy, some analysts say.
“There may be no immediate need for action,” one of the sources said. “But with uncertainty over the outlook so high, the BOJ would need to think about how to respond if a shock hits the economy.”
At the two-day rate review ending on Thursday, the BOJ is widely expected to keep its short-term rate target at -0.1% and a pledge to guide the 10-year government bond yield around zero percent. The Fed meets this Tuesday and Wednesday.
The BOJ board is likely to maintain its view Japan’s economy continues to expand moderately as a trend, but debate whether its projection of a rebound in overseas growth later this year remains valid, the sources say.
At a post-meeting news conference, BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda is likely reinforce his view the central bank is ready to deploy additional stimulus if the economy loses momentum to hit its 2% inflation target.
Japan’s economy expanded an annualized 2.1% in January-March but many analysts predict growth to slow in coming quarters as the U.S.-China trade row hurts global trade. A scheduled domestic sales tax hike in October may also cool consumption, they warn.
Many in the BOJ prefer to wait for more data, such as the central bank’s “tankan” quarterly business sentiment survey due July 1, to see how deeply the trade tensions could hurt domestic demand, the sources say.
“Domestic demand, including capital expenditure, is still firm. The key is to see whether this will remain the case,” a second source said.
Japan’s annual core consumer inflation hit 0.9% in April, remaining distant from the BOJ’s target, despite years of heavy money printing by the central bank.
Many analysts say the BOJ has very little tools left to fight the next recession, with its negative rate policy hurting financial institutions’ margins and long-term yields already hovering below zero.
(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Kim Coghill)
The Trump administration is doing just about everything it can to slow the flood of undocumented Mexicans and Central Americans coming to the U.S. and claiming asylum. But alleviating our growing border crisis is impossible unless Congress changes our immigration laws.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, was right when he said Tuesday during a congressional hearing on border security that there is “absolutely no justification whatsoever for Congress to sit on the sidelines and watch as this crisis continues to unfold.” The emergency on the border is “getting worse and worse as Congress sits on its hands and does absolutely nothing” to help.
The border pandemonium is literally fatal. Since December, six migrants have died while in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Five were children. This isn’t the fault of the Trump administration’s policies that aim to stanch the stream of illegal immigrants. It’s the result of a border patrol collapsing under the weight of hundreds of thousands of migrants making a dangerous and debilitating journey to the U.S. and needing urgent medical care as soon as they arrive.
In fiscal 2018, border agents apprehended nearly 106,000 “family units,” meaning families that made their way illegally onto U.S. soil and, more often than not, claimed asylum. We’re only halfway through this year, and that number has tripled to more than 316,000.
Why is this happening? It is because everyone south of the border knows that to secure indefinite legal protection to stay in the U.S., they need simply to arrive with children, who by law must not be detained for more than 20 days. When the child is released by border patrol, as it inevitably will be, so too is the person who came with them. That’s why the number of apprehensions of supposed families dwarfs apprehensions of single adults.
News media and Trump’s critics blame administration cruelty for the crisis. They’ve started referring to detention centers as “concentration camps” (see P.xx). But the crisis is caused by our nonsensical asylum laws, which are well intentioned but incapable of dealing with the sort of massive run on the border we’re seeing today. Our laws act as a magnet for illegal immigrants, encouraging migrants to make dangerous journeys with children, across Mexico, and enter our country without documentation.
Asylum claims at the border are rising rapidly. The vast majority of migrants who claim asylum, 90%, pass a first screening. They’re ordered to show up at court on a specified date that, because of a backlog of about a million cases, may be five years later. In that time, they’re allowed to work legally within the U.S. Even so, some 40% don’t show up for their court hearings, having disappeared into the country, perhaps forever.
Kevin McAleenan, acting homeland security secretary, is calling for reform, so the asylum process can no longer be abused by migrants who aren’t really fleeing persecution in their own countries but are simply looking for a better way of life in the biggest economy in the world. That’s the lure of the United States. Congress should raise the bar for who can qualify for asylum, McAleenan argues, and make it much easier to remove people quickly if they don’t meet the standard.
Asylum laws are to provide a safe haven to people who arrive at our door with a well-founded fear of persecution. If you’re genuinely fleeing drug gangs out to kill you and your family in Mexico or Canada, you should be let in. If you are persecuted by Iran and can get a flight to America, this country should grant you asylum and keep you safe.
But our crisis is from South American and Central American migrants fleeing El Salvador or Venezuela and merely passing through Mexico. Most arrivals at our southern border are not Mexicans.
The question is, why didn’t they stop in Mexico? And why should they become this country’s responsibility? There are many good reasons to prefer the U.S. to Mexico — more jobs, more freedom, more welfare — but none of these are remotely valid reasons to grant asylum.
These are simple economic migrants, encouraged by massive loopholes in the law and the fecklessness of a Congress unwilling to doing anything about them. Trump has leaned on Mexico to absorb more of them, and that seems to be working. But for a lasting reform, Congress needs to change the law.
More border security, which Democrats say implausibly that they want, and fewer detained migrants: Shouldn’t everyone jump to these reforms?
The problem is that House Democrats have little political incentive to work with Republicans and the White House on any measure that would reduce the flow of illegal immigrants. Democrats are loath to cooperate with the GOP while they, at the same time, hope to drag Trump down to defeat in the 2020 election. It is certainly true that most Democrats are at best muddled on the immigration question and at worst fully in favor of opening the southern border to anyone who wants to come into the country.
But the party of the Left cannot deny that we have a crisis at the southern border. If Democrats are honest, they’ll admit it’s caused by our asylum laws, and they will help fix them.