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Migrant surge in US on way to surpassing 2019 crisis numbers

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With thousands of Latin American migrants continuing to make their way across the border, aid groups and border agents are worried that their numbers will swell to crisis levels not seen since 2019, when more than 800,000 people were apprehended by Border Patrol agents.

“We believe the numbers will certainly increase to 2019 levels,” said Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in McAllen, a city near the Mexican border.

The organization runs a respite center where newly arrived migrants can get a meal, clean clothes and arrange travel to other parts of the US where they have family. Pimentel told The Post her organization is processing more than 500 people a day. At the height of the border crisis in 2019, Pimentel’s organization was helping more than 1,000 migrants a day, she said.

“There are efforts on the part of the administration to fix root causes because most people want to stay in their own countries,” she said. “But until we fix that, people will just keep coming.”

According to Pimentel, the migrants who are now crossing the border are coming in family groups with children under six, which allows them to seek asylum in the U.S. Many are escaping gang violence and devastation from several hurricanes in Central America, she told The Post.

Asylum seeking migrants weep as they are escorted out of thick brush by a Texas State Trooper after they crossed the Rio Grande.
Asylum seeking migrants weep as they are escorted out of thick brush by a Texas State Trooper after they crossed the Rio Grande.
Adrees Latif/Reuters

Pimentel said her group has also also helped thousands of migrants who have been waiting for nearly two years in make-shift camps on the Mexican side of the border. They are finally being allowed into the country by the Biden administration, she said.

The recent surge is forcing government agencies such as US Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to seek reinforcements. Michael Meade, the acting assistant director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement called for the “immediate” deployment of volunteers in a memo to staff on Thursday, according to emails obtained by the Washington Post.

In Texas alone, U.S. officials are processing hundreds of migrants per day.

“U.S. Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley are commonly encountering families and unaccompanied alien children being smuggled into the country in groups of more than 100,” according to a US Customs and Border Protection statement issued Friday.

On Tuesday, Border Patrol apprehended 100 illegal aliens in La Grulla Texas that included nine migrants from Romania and two Cubans. On Wednesday agents apprehended 102 near La Joya Texas. There are already more than 3,500 children stranded in detention centers near the Mexican border, and hundreds more on the Mexican side.

“Even with the spread of the COVID-19 virus, human smugglers continue to try these brazen attempts with zero regard for the lives they endanger,” the statement said.

Migrants cross the Rio Bravo river to turn themselves in to U.S Border Patrol agents to request for asylum in El Paso, Texas.
Migrants cross the Rio Grande to turn themselves in to U.S Border Patrol agents to request for asylum in El Paso, Texas.
Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters

The numbers are so overwhelming that some children are being forced to sleep on the floors of detention centers in Texas. The Biden administration said Friday that they do not have the capacity to add more beds as more than 3,500 unaccompanied children and teens crossed the southern border last week, according to statistics from the Department of Homeland Security.

Across the border from McAllen, in Reynosa more than 700 children have been detained by Mexican authorities as they attempted to make their way to the US in order to join their relatives, according to a report in the Washington Post.

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FDA finds peeling paint, debris at US plant making J&J’s COVID vaccine

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A US plant that was making Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine must fix a long list of problems including peeling paint and unsanitary conditions and practices to resume operation, according to a highly critical report by the Food and Drug Administration.

Experts said addressing the issues raised in the scathing FDA inspection report could take months.

Neither J&J nor the FDA has said when they expect vaccine production to restart at the Baltimore plant owned by Emergent Biosolutions. Only two other plants are currently equipped to supply the world with the key drug substance for J&J’s vaccine.

“It may take many months to make these changes,” said Prashant Yadav, a global health care supply chain expert at the Center for Global Development. He described some of the issues raised by the FDA as “quite significant.”

No vaccine manufactured at the Emergent plant has been distributed for use in the United States. However, J&J said it will exercise its oversight authority to ensure that all of the FDA observations are addressed promptly and comprehensively.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was put on a pause in the US over a potential link to a blood clotting condition.
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The health care conglomerate has drawn scrutiny for months over its halting process to scale up production of a vaccine that is easier to handle and, by virtue of being a single shot, easier to use than other authorized vaccines.

Its use in the United States has been paused since last week as health officials study a possible link to a very rare but serious blood clot condition.

Emergent has been seeking regulatory authorization to make the J&J vaccine in the United States. It stopped production at the plant recently, saying the FDA had asked it to do so after an inspection.

J&J’s plant in Leiden, the Netherlands, is still producing doses for the world. It has another facility in India, which is currently curtailing exports of the shot as it struggles to vaccinate its own population.

Johnson & Johnson reiterated on Wednesday that it was working to establish a global supply chain in which 10 manufacturing sites would be involved in the production of its COVID-19 vaccine, in addition to the Leiden plant.

The company has a US government-brokered agreement with rival drugmaker Merck, which is preparing to make doses of J&J’s vaccine.

Failure to train personnel

The FDA in its final 12-page inspection report said it had reviewed security camera footage in addition to an in-person site visit to the Emergent plant.

It found a failure to train personnel to avoid cross-contamination of COVID-19 vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, which had also been produced at the site. The agency also cited staff carrying unsealed bags of medical waste in the facility, bringing it in contact with containers of material used in manufacturing.

The FDA reviewed security camera footage and visited the Emergent BioSolutions plant in Baltimore.
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Earlier this week, the House launched an investigation into whether Emergent used its relationship with a Trump administration official to get a vaccine manufacturing contract despite a record of not delivering on contracts.

Emergent said in a statement that it is working with the FDA and J&J to quickly resolve the issues outlined in the report.

Production of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not yet authorized for use in the United States, was previously stopped at the Emergent plant after ingredients from that shot contaminated a batch of J&J vaccine, ruining millions of doses.

The FDA also noted that Emergent did not produce adequate reports showing that the vaccines it was producing met quality standards.

The inspection, carried out between April 12 and April 20, also found the building not of suitable size or design to facilitate cleaning, maintenance or proper operations.

J&J said it was redoubling its efforts to get authorization for the facility as quickly as possible.

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One dead after pair of fires breaks out in Manhattan

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One person was killed and several others were injured in a pair of Manhattan fires Wednesday morning, officials said.

The first blaze erupted in Midtown around 8:15 a.m. inside a DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse at 213 W. 34th St., where an escalator became fully engulfed in flames — sending smoke billowing into the first and second floor and the interconnected 40-story hotel building, fire officials said.

It was not immediately clear which hotel it was.

Five firefighters suffered minor injuries putting out the blaze.

“The fire went out, but we have a smoke condition that we’re trying to alleviate,” FDNY Battalion Chief John Porretto said at the scene. “Units are going to remain on scene until all the smoke alleviates.”

The fire marshal will determine the causes of the fire.

A second blaze broke out 15 minutes later on the Upper East Side at 1576 2nd Ave., officials said.

A three-alarm fire at 213 W. 34th Street in Manhattan that left one dead
A three-alarm fire at 213 W. 34th St. in Manhattan left one dead.
NYFD

One man died in the fire and a second man was in serious condition at Lenox Hill Hospital, police said.

A firefighter suffered minor injuries battling the blaze and was taken to Cornell Hospital, fire officials said.

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NYC school leaders react to Derek Chauvin guilty verdict

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The leaders of the city’s public schools and largest charter network both weighed in on the Derek Chauvin verdict with passionate statements about how there is still a long way to go to reach systemic equality.

Department of Education Chancellor Meisha Ross-Porter issued a personal commentary Tuesday night after the murder conviction of former Minnesota cop Chauvin.

“I felt pain and rage, deep in my bones,” she said of her initial reaction to George Floyd’s death. “It wasn’t a new feeling. I have felt that many times in my life, as a Black woman, sister, daughter, and mother to Black children—and as an educator who has served children of color in this city for more than 20 years.”

Ross-Porter said the Department of Education would be issuing guidance for teachers and families to help them process the verdict.

Eva Moskowitz with two students, the CEO and Founder of the Success Academy
Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz issued a statement on the Derek Chauvin verdict.
Brigitte Stelzer

“For our Black and brown children to know that they matter, the accountability this verdict represents is so important,” she stated. “In a world that too often tells them otherwise, accountability in this moment tells the Black and brown children in our schools that their lives matter, and lifts up the importance of their futures.”

Several teachers told The Post on Wednesday morning that they planned to broach the topic with their students to allow them to discuss Floyd’s death and Chauvin’s conviction.

Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross-Porter said the Department of Education would issue guidance to help teachers and families process the verdict.
Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross-Porter said the Department of Education would issue guidance to help teachers and families process the verdict.
Mark Lennihan/AP

“Because while the individual who took George Floyd’s life will be held accountable, we recognize that systemic racism, and the violence it fuels, is still creating tragedy and inequality across our country every single day,” Ross-Porter said. “We are all part of the work to undo this harm and reach true justice.”

Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz, who oversees the city’s largest charter school network, also issued a statement.

People react after the verdict was read in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis.
People react after the verdict was read in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

“We are grateful that justice has been served and that the judicial process has worked as intended,” she wrote. “We recognize, however, that this verdict does not resolve the systemic inequities that led to Floyd’s death; nor does it heal the anguish we feel witnessing our fellow citizens die at the hands of the public servants tasked with protecting us.”

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