shutdown

Traders work on the floor at the NYSE in New York
FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

April 18, 2019

(Reuters) – Following are five big themes likely to dominate thinking of investors and traders in the coming week and the Reuters stories related to them.

1/CENTRAL PLANNING

The 100 years since the Fed’s creation in 1913 is said to be the century of central banking. Well, since the 2008-2009 crisis, we’ve certainly lived through a decade of central banking. But with monetary policy taken to the limit to lift growth and inflation, can central banks do any more?

Of late, some of the economic and business confidence data is giving rise to hopes rate-setters might just be able to hold fire on further action for now. German and Japanese PMIs ticked modestly higher from March, and from China to the United States, the hope is that spring will bring some green shoots on the economic front. Central banks in Japan, Canada and Sweden hold meetings in coming days so we may get some clues on what they are thinking.

ECB Vice President Luis de Guindos and Olli Rehn, widely tipped to succeed ECB Governor Mario Draghi, will also be quizzed on the subject at upcoming speeches, especially since sources tell Reuters “a significant minority” of ECB rate-setters doubt any recovery is underway. Central bankers in Australia and New Zealand have sounded similarly gloomy. A decade of central banking and planning is not over yet

(GRAPHIC: ECB balance sheet – https://tmsnrt.rs/2Hz4sUC)

(GRAPHIC: The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet – https://tmsnrt.rs/2ULcay0)

2/GDP NOW!

The working thesis through the early months of 2019 was that U.S. economic growth would continue to tail off as tailwinds faded from last year’s $1.5 trillion tax cut and headwinds picked up from a weaker global economy, partial federal government shutdown and trade wars. Indeed, that looked to be the case as most economic data through the first quarter fell short of forecasts. As a result, Citigroup’s U.S. economic surprise index came to near the most negative in around two years.

But one closely tracked gauge of quarterly gross domestic product, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s GDPNow model, has rebounded sharply in recent weeks and may be signaling that the advance reading of first quarter GDP may not be quite so grim.

A month ago, GDPNow estimated an annualized 0.2 percent growth, which would have been the lowest since a one-off GDP contraction in the first 2014 quarter. Now the model forecasts quarterly growth will come in at 2.4 percent. That would not only top current estimates of 1.8 percent but would mean growth actually accelerated from the fourth quarter’s 2.2 percent.

One factor behind the turnaround was a surprise narrowing in the U.S. trade deficit as Chinese imports plunged in the face of President Donald Trump’s tariffs. By some estimates, trade could now contribute as much as one percentage point to first quarter GDP after being a washout in the fourth quarter.

(GRAPHIC: U.S. GDP – in for a surprise? – https://tmsnrt.rs/2VPQsJN)

3/CORNER KICK

As we said above, central banks don’t have much ammunition left in their arsenal. The toolbox is probably lightest at the Bank of Japan.

At the G20 meeting in Washington, BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said he was ready to expand monetary stimulus if needed. But he also said he had no plans to change the central bank’s forward guidance, or the message it sends to signal policy intentions to financial markets. To many, that sounded like a man backed into a corner.

Kuroda has a chance to prove otherwise at the upcoming BOJ meeting. Expectations are thin though, given the BOJ’s balance sheet is already bigger than the country’s economy and Japanese financial institutions are suffering immense pain from the prolonged monetary easing.

The world’s No. 3 economy may have contracted in the first quarter, and whether it recovers depends much on first, whether China recovers too and second, on whether the trade conflict between the other two powers sharing the podium reaches a resolution.

(GRAPHIC: BOJ’s bloated balance sheet limits further easing – https://tmsnrt.rs/2DjVE16)

3/TAKING A DIP IN EUROPE

The United States is widely seen as heading into an earnings recession (defined as two straight quarters of negative year-on-year earnings growth) but Europe might, at least for now, escape one.

European firms are expected to deliver their first quarter of negative earnings growth since 2016 – the latest I/B/E/S Refinitiv analysis predicts Q1 earnings to fall 3.4 percent year-on-year. But it expects results to pick up again in Q2.

So despite this quarter’s poor outcome, hopes for a bounce-back could keep equities buoyant. After all, sentiment is already rock bottom – investors surveyed by Bank of America Merrill Lynch named “short European equities” the most crowded trade for the second month running.

The auto sector will be in focus in coming days with a flurry of earnings from Michelin, Continental, Daimler, Peugeot, and Renault. These stocks are particularly sensitive to growth in China and will be watched as the stirrings of a recovery were felt in recent Chinese GDP data .

(GRAPHIC: Earnings chart latest April 17 – https://tmsnrt.rs/2Ip8LCj)

5/ RUSSIAN ROULETTE

The past two years have seen an increasingly bitter rift open up between President Donald Trump’s Republican supporters and his Democrat critics over the alleged collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign in the 2016 U.S. election.

That may not be defused even after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 400-page report on the subject is unveiled by Atttorney General William Barr. He has already told lawmakers the investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

But that is unlikely to stop U.S. politicians from continuing their clamor for sanctions against Russia. As for investors, their appetite for Russian assets has not so far been dented. After plummeting last year, foreign buying of rouble-denominated government bonds has recovered sharply so it remains to be seen whether that bullishness continues.

Meanwhile, Ukraine — the reason behind the original 2014 sanctions on Russia — looks set to elect comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy as president. Could the election of a new leader bring about some rapprochement between Kiev and Moscow? Watch this space.

(GRAPHIC: Foreign investors dipping their toes back in OFZs – https://tmsnrt.rs/2XiDZyC)

(Reporting by Dan Burns in New York, Marius Zaharia in Hong Kong; Sujata Rao, Helen Reid and Tom Arnold in London; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington
FILE PHOTO: The Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington, U.S., March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

April 17, 2019

By Pete Schroeder

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – Labor markets remained tight across the United States as businesses struggled to find skilled workers and wages grew modestly, the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday in its latest report on the economy.

The U.S. central bank’s “Beige Book” report, a glimpse of the economy based on conversations with business contacts across all 12 of the Fed’s districts, found economic activity grew at a slight-to-moderate pace in March and early April. A few districts reported some strengthening in economic growth.

Prices have risen modestly since the last Beige Book, with tariffs, freight costs and rising wages often cited as key factors, the Fed said. It added that consumer spending was mixed but suggested sluggish sales for both general retailers and auto dealers.

Wages grew moderately in most districts for both skilled and unskilled workers, with only three reporting slight growth in workers’ pay, the Fed said.

Businesses in most districts reported shortages of skilled workers, mainly in manufacturing and construction, but also in technical and professional roles. Companies have responded to the tight labor market by boosting bonuses and benefits packages, along with raising wages moderately, according to the report.

Employment increases were most highly concentrated in highly-skilled jobs.

In terms of the manufacturing sector, the Fed said contacts in many districts reported that trade-related uncertainty was weighing on activity.

Several Fed districts said flooding and severe weather in the Midwest was affecting agricultural production. The Kansas City Fed reported that recent blizzards and flooding could weigh on the farming sector in the coming months, as it had resulted in damaged infrastructure and losses of cattle and crops.

The impact of the 35-day U.S. government shutdown that began in late December appeared muted. The Richmond Fed reported a few federal contractors saw business starting to return to normal and the San Francisco Fed saw higher-than-expected retail sales once the government reopened.

The Fed held interest rates steady at its last policy meeting in March, sticking with the “patient” approach adopted by policymakers in January, given little sign of rising inflation and the growing concerns about trade tensions and slowing global growth.

The Beige Book gives the Fed a sense of what central bank officials are hearing in their own districts, which in turn could inform their thinking when it comes to the economy and the Fed’s stance on rates.

The latest Beige Book was prepared by the St. Louis Fed based on information collected on or before April 8, 2019.

(Reporting by Pete Schroeder Editing by Paul Simao) (([email protected]; 202-310-5485)

Source: OANN

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “puff piece” interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” failed to hit on major news topics, including the “Mueller No Collusion decision,” President Donald Trump tweeted late Sunday.

“Her leadership has passed no meaningful Legislation,” Trump said. “All they do is Investigate, as it turns out, crimes that they instigated & committed. The Mueller No Collusion decision wasn’t even discussed-and she was a disaster at W.H.”

Pelosi during a wide-ranging interview with “60 Minutes” pushed back on claims the Democratic Party is embracing socialism, described a tense meeting with Trump over the border wall and a government shutdown last year and said she believed Democrats could work with Trump.

She also pushed for the release of the Mueller report and said she didn’t trust Attorney General William Barr.

“Do you think that the attorney general is covering anything up?” CBS’ Lesley Stahl asked.

“I have no idea,” Pelosi said. “I have no idea. He may be whitewashing, but I don’t know if he’s covering anything up. There’s no use having that discussion. All we need to do is see the Mueller report.”

Pelosi saw Trump’s tweet and responded: “Thanks for watching! We will continue to do our work #ForThePeople.”

Source: NewsMax Politics

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries Friday said that despite divided opinions among his party’s members strides have been made during Democrats’ first 100 days as the majority party in the House this year, adding that lawmakers are united on healthcare reform.

“We were elected in part to be a check-and-balance on an out-of-control executive branch, and we’re going to continue to take that oversight responsibility seriously,” the New York Democrat told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “Primarily, we’ve been focused on kitchen-table pocketbook issues trying to get things done on behalf of the American people and to bring our democracy to life.” 

The first 35 days as a majority party, Democrats faced a “reckless” government shutdown, said Jeffries, but were able to end that successfully without giving President Donald Trump “a dime of taxpayer dollars to do it.”

In addition, Democrats were able to enact a bipartisan border security agreement, and also to increase pay for federal employees, said Jeffries.

There are differences of opinion, said Jeffries, but “we embrace that diversity.”

“We’ve consistently come together to get 218 votes to move legislation onto the floor of the House of Representatives,” said Jeffries. “We’ll continue to do that, and we’ll continue to focus on the two primary things over the next 100 days that we said we wanted to get done for the American people, lowering healthcare costs, with an emphasis on driving down the high cost of life-saving prescription drugs, and moving closer toward and enacting a real infrastructure plan.”

He also said he believes the Democratic caucus is united under Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leadership.

“There’s a singular principle on health care that brings us all together,” said Jeffries. “In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, every single American should have access to high-quality affordable healthcare.”

Source: NewsMax Politics

FILE PHOTO: Jet Airways planes at Chhatrapati Shivaji International airport in Mumbai
FILE PHOTO: A Jet Airways plane is parked as another moves to the runway at Chhatrapati Shivaji International airport in Mumbai, India, February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo

April 12, 2019

By Abhirup Roy and Tanvi Mehta

MUMBAI (Reuters) – The Indian prime minister’s office has called for an urgent meeting to discuss a crisis at debt-laden airline Jet Airways on Friday, television news channels reported.

The carrier, saddled with more than $1.2 billion of debt, has had to ground more than 80 percent of its fleet over unpaid dues to leasing companies, pushing it to the brink of shutdown and jeopardizing hopes of attracting a new investor.

A Jet Airways spokesman said the airline had suspended all west-bound international flights until Monday.

Government officials have previously expressed concern about the loss of jobs at the airline and on the prospect of higher Indian air fares if Jet Airways collapses.

Jet’s lenders, led by State Bank of India, are still trying to seek expressions of interest in the carrier from potential investors.

The banks have received initial bids from five to six companies, television channels reported, citing sources.

Nripendra Mishra, the principal secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will chair the meeting at 6pm India time (1230 GMT), the TV channels said, adding that the aviation regulator and civil aviation secretary were also expected to attend.

Television news channel ET Now reported late on Friday that India’s aviation secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola said the company had money to operate only 6-7 aircraft over the weekend and after that the lenders would have to decide how many aircraft the airline could operate beyond Monday afternoon.

Kharola said the company will meet bankers on Monday for infusion of funds in the interim, the TV channel said.

Earlier on Friday, hundreds of Jet’s employees marched from the airport to the airline’s headquarters in Mumbai to seek clarity on whether they will get paid soon and if their jobs will be secure over the coming months.

The All India Jet Airway’s Officers & Staff Association, which represents ground handlers, ground crew, loaders and guest service executives working at Mumbai airport, has filed a police complaint against the airline’s former chairman Naresh Goyal, CEO Vinay Dube and representatives of its lead lender SBI.

“The company has not paid salaries to its employees (to date) which is in gross violation of the law of the land,” Kiran Pawaskar, president of the association said in the complaint.

(Additional reporting by Aditi Shah and Aftab Ahmed; Editing by Martin Howell and Jane Merriman)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds a weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington
FILE PHOTO – U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks at her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 4, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

April 11, 2019

By Susan Cornwell

LEESBURG, Va. (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Democrats are accusing Republican President Donald Trump of aggravating a crisis situation at the southern U.S. border, saying he has not used funds available to help deal with a surge of migrants and exacerbated the problem with his attempts to crack down.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that bipartisan immigration reform, which has eluded Congress and the White House for years, is still the solution. It is in fact “inevitable,” Pelosi said on the sidelines of a Democratic party meeting in Leesburg, Virginia.

In Washington, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, also called for bipartisan discussions on immigration. But he focused on toughening U.S. asylum law, a move that Democrats likely would oppose.

Democrats have not proposed a comprehensive immigration bill since taking the majority in the House this year. Republicans still hold the Senate.

Instead, Democrats last month proposed legislation offering a pathway to citizenship for more than 2 million undocumented immigrants who were brought illegally to the United States as children. Known as Dreamers, they face possible deportation.

The House Democratic bill would also help immigrants from countries hit by civil conflicts or natural disasters who have temporary protected status, known as TPS.

U.S. officers arrested or denied entry to over 103,000 people along the border with Mexico in March, a 35 percent increase over the prior month and more than twice as many as the same period last year, according to data released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection this week.

The steady increase in migrant arrivals, which has been building over the past several months, is driven by a growing number of children and families, especially from Central America.

Trump has threatened to close the border, saying the United States is “full.” He has urged the building of a wall on the southern border since before he became president in 2016. Recently his ire has been directed at his own officials, Congress, and Latin American countries, who he says have not done enough to stop their citizens from traveling to the United States.

Pelosi, asked Thursday what should be done at the border, said the bipartisan legislation Trump signed to end a government shutdown in February included money for judges and humanitarian aid “to bring order to the border,” but Trump has not used the funds.

Although a bipartisan effort at comprehensive immigration reform by Democrats and Trump last year failed, Pelosi said such an overhaul still had a chance.

“I’m not giving up on the president on this,” Pelosi said. “I still say to him, ‘We’ve got to have comprehensive immigration reform’.”

Representative Pramila Jayapal, speaking to reporters later, said the Trump administration had manufactured a crisis at the border in part by “stripping away” legal routes to immigration, such as by stopping asylum seekers at legal ports of entry.

Trying to curb the flow of Central American asylum seekers, the administration has been sending more people back to Mexico to wait for their asylum claims to be heard by U.S. courts.

Representative David Cicilline said the Trump administration had exacerbated a challenging border situation by not spending money that was appropriated for border facilities and personnel, as well as by cutting off aid to Central American countries for sending migrants to the United States.

Cicilline, who runs the House Democrats’ policy and communications committee, denied Democrats were simply “looking on helplessly” at the problems.

“But the administration has responsibility in all these areas. And we can appropriate funding and we can pass legislation but ultimately they are responsible for executing the immigration laws in this country,” he said.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by James Dalgleish)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Shoppers at a Walmart store in Chicago Illinois
FILE PHOTO: A customer shops for a turkey at a Walmart store in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., November 20, 2018. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski/File Photo

April 10, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. consumer prices increased by the most in more than a year in March, but underlying inflation remained benign against the backdrop of slowing domestic and global economic growth.

The Labor Department said on Wednesday its Consumer Price Index rose 0.4 percent, boosted by increases in the costs of food, gasoline and rents. That was the biggest advance since January 2018 and followed a 0.2 percent gain in February.

In the 12 months through March, the CPI increased 1.9 percent. The CPI gained 1.5 percent in February, which was the smallest rise since September 2016. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the CPI climbing 0.3 percent in March and accelerating 1.8 percent year-on-year.

Inflation has remained muted, with wage growth increasing moderately despite tightening labor market conditions. The tame inflation environment, together with slowing economic activity, support the Federal Reserve’s decision last month to suspend its three-year campaign to raise interest rates.

The U.S. central bank dropped projections for any rate hikes this year after increasing borrowing costs four times in 2018.

Excluding the volatile food and energy components, the CPI nudged up 0.1 percent, matching February’s gain.

In the 12 months through March, the core CPI increased 2.0 percent, the smallest increase since February 2018. The core CPI rose 2.1 percent year-on-year in February.

The Fed, which has a 2 percent inflation target, tracks a different measure, the core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, for monetary policy.

The core PCE price index increased 1.8 percent on a year-on-year basis in January after a rising 2.0 percent in December. It hit the Fed’s 2 percent inflation target in March last year for the first time since April 2012.

The February and March PCE price data will be released on April 29. The February data was delayed by a 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government that ended on Jan. 25.

Energy prices jumped 3.5 percent in March, accounting for about 60 percent of the increase in the CPI last month, after gaining 0.4 percent in February. Gasoline prices surged 6.5 percent after rising 1.5 percent in February.

Food prices gained 0.3 percent after accelerating 0.4 percent in February. Food consumed at home increased 0.4 percent. Consumers also paid more for rent. Owners’ equivalent rent of primary residence, which is what a homeowner would pay to rent or receive from renting a home, increased 0.3 percent in March after a similar gain in February.

Healthcare costs rebounded 0.3 percent after slipping 0.2 percent in February. Apparel prices fell 1.9 percent, the biggest drop since January 1949, after two straight monthly gains. There were decreases in the price of used motor vehicles and trucks, airline fares and motor vehicle insurance.

The cost of new vehicles, however, rebounded 0.4 percent after declining 0.2 percent in February.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: People walk past an American Airlines logo at John F. Kennedy (JFK) airport in in New York
FILE PHOTO: People walk past an American Airlines logo on a wall at John F. Kennedy (JFK) airport in in New York November 27, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

April 9, 2019

(Reuters) – American Airlines Co Group Inc said on Tuesday its first-quarter revenue per available seat mile would be below its previous forecast due to the groundings of Boeing 737 MAX planes and the U.S. government shutdown.

The airline said it now expects https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/4515/000000620119000014/a8kinvestorupdateex991q1-19.htm the closely followed measure of airline performance to be flat to up 1 percent compared with the prior forecast of flat to 2 percent growth.

(Reporting by Rachit Vats in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

Source: OANN

Isel Rojas put his dream of leaving Cuba on hold when the United States ended a generous immigration policy for island residents. But watching coverage of migrant caravans heading from Central America toward the United States on Cuban television last year, he began to see a new path.

One morning in January, he woke up and told his wife he was finally ready. Fifteen days later, he was gone.

“If they can do it, why can’t we?” said Rojas, a 48-year-old who worked in agriculture in the eastern city of Holguin, recalling the images of young men and families traveling en masse to the Mexico-U.S. border.

Rojas is now waiting to apply for U.S. asylum in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juarez, which has become a magnet for Cuban migrants.

Political repression and bleak economic prospects remain the primary reasons cited by Cubans for migrating from the Communist-ruled island, a Cold War foe of the United States. But some in Ciudad Juarez say news of the caravans also motivated them, giving them the impression the United States was accepting migrants.

Since early last year, the caravans have been a frequent target of U.S. President Donald Trump as he advocates for stricter immigration policies. Critics say the president’s statements about the caravans, including a series of angry tweets, have ironically enlarged the groups and publicized asylum as a possible avenue to legal status.

“The person who created the media coverage and who drove the issue of the caravans has been President Trump,” Tonatiuh Guillen, the head of Mexico’s National Migration Institute, said on local radio last week.

The addition of Cubans to those flows is adding to the pressure on already overwhelmed shelters and border authorities in Mexico and the United States. More than 100,000 people were apprehended or presented themselves to authorities in March, the White House said on Friday, calling it the highest number in a decade. Trump has threatened a border shutdown or tariffs on Mexico in retaliation.

What’s more, some say Trump’s harder line on Cuban relations has contributed to a sense of gloom on the economically weak and tightly controlled island.

The White House and the Cuban government did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Mexico’s migration institute declined to comment.

‘TREATED LIKE EVERYONE ELSE’

Like Rojas, many Cubans who reached northern Mexico in recent months ultimately traveled with a smaller group, and caravans were not a factor for all who left. But a caravan of 2,600 migrants currently contained by authorities in southern Mexico, the largest this year, includes dozens from the island. Mexican immigration officials said they flew some 60 Cubans home on Friday.

In Ciudad Juarez, Cubans represent 75 to 80 percent of some 3,600 migrants in town, said Enrique Valenzuela, director of the state commission for population. The wait to apply for asylum is about two months, shelter directors say.

The bottleneck highlights a new reality: Cubans do not enjoy the same advantages they once did in the U.S. immigration system.

“For the first time this year, Cubans are being treated like everyone else,” said Wilfredo Allen, a Miami-based lawyer who works with Cuban migrants. “The special door for the Cubans has already closed.”

In 2017, U.S. President Barack Obama ended the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which allowed Cubans who reached U.S. soil to stay but returned any intercepted at sea, triggering a decline in immigration from the island.

In the first five months of fiscal-year 2019, 6,289 Cubans turned up at ports of entry on the U.S.-Mexico border without papers. That number is on track to nearly double the total for the whole of fiscal-year 2018, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

While Cubans generally face slightly better chances of receiving asylum than Central Americans because their tales of political persecution are often more clear-cut, success is anything but assured, Allen said.

Allen estimates only 20 to 30 percent of his Cuban clients will win their cases.

That message has not reached those in Ciudad Juarez, many of whom sold their vehicles, businesses or homes to finance the trip. Some have literally bet the farm.

“They say that we have priority, that (the United States) will accept us in one form or another,” said Rojas, who sold almost half his cattle. “They always accept us.”

A NEW ROUTE

Cubans lucky enough to get a U.S. visa, to visit family for example, can fly there legally and are eligible to apply for residency after a year in the United States. For most though, reaching the United States is no easy feat.

Even before “wet foot, dry foot” ended, Cubans began forging new routes, flying into countries in Central and South America with loose visa requirements and then heading north. Only a few countries, such as Guyana, do not require visas for Cubans.

Last year, Panama made it easier for Cubans to come to the country to shop, creating another opening for some from the island to reach Central America.

Arasay Sanchez, 33, said she was browsing the internet in a park one day when she saw a story about the caravans.

After selling her house and most of her belongings, Sanchez flew into Panama on Jan. 25, she said.

She relied on a seven-page guide she inherited from Cubans who had traveled to the United States, detailing everything from where to sleep to where to buy a phone. On the trail, it was among her most valuable possessions – she carried it in her clothes.

The route ended in Ciudad Juarez, regarded by many Cubans as a safer and more orderly place to seek asylum than other more crowded Mexican border crossings, despite its reputation as one of the world’s most violent cities. Ciudad Juarez, just south of El Paso, Texas, received relatively few asylum seekers until late last year.

Many are dismayed by the long wait they find, shelter directors say, and they are increasingly concerned about safety after reports of Cubans going missing in Mexico. Few leave the shelters, 10 migrants said in interviews.

Sanchez and her partner arrived in Ciudad Juarez in late February, moving from shelter to shelter and struggling with spicy Mexican food.

“Even the candy” has chile, she said, clutching the extra folds of fabric in her jeans to show she had lost weight.

Experts do not expect the flow of Cuban migrants to ebb anytime soon. Obama made it easier for Americans to travel to the island, generating new business. But that money dried up after Trump tightened the rules, said Pedro Freyre, a lawyer who studies the U.S.-Cuba relationship.

What is more, a gradual opening of the island’s private sector triggered a backlash from conservatives, creating headaches for small businesses, Freyre said.

Reaching the United States would end a long quest for Reinaldo Ramirez, a 51-year-old construction contractor from the western town of Jaguey Grande. Starting in 2006, he tried and failed to reach Florida seven times by boat – including the day Obama canceled “wet foot, dry foot.”

The new route has been just as arduous. After flying into Guyana in September, Ramirez and his wife had to hike across the Darien Gap, a remote stretch of jungle straddling Panama and Colombia. After they crossed the first time, Panamanian authorities deported them to Colombia, forcing them to repeat the trek.

Ramirez arrived in Ciudad Juarez about three weeks ago, and hundreds of asylum seekers are ahead of him in line. But he cannot help but feel that he is close.

“I’ve almost achieved my objective, my American dream,” he said.

Source: NewsMax America

Cuban migrants work at a restaurant in Ciudad Juarez
Cuban migrants, waiting for their appointment to request asylum in the U.S., work at a restaurant in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, March 27, 2019. Picture taken March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

April 8, 2019

By Julia Love

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (Reuters) – Isel Rojas put his dream of leaving Cuba on hold when the United States ended a generous immigration policy for island residents. But watching coverage of migrant caravans heading from Central America toward the United States on Cuban television last year, he began to see a new path.

One morning in January, he woke up and told his wife he was finally ready. Fifteen days later, he was gone.

“If they can do it, why can’t we?” said Rojas, a 48-year-old who worked in agriculture in the eastern city of Holguin, recalling the images of young men and families traveling en masse to the Mexico-U.S. border.

Rojas is now waiting to apply for U.S. asylum in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juarez, which has become a magnet for Cuban migrants.

Political repression and bleak economic prospects remain the primary reasons cited by Cubans for migrating from the Communist-ruled island, a Cold War foe of the United States. But some in Ciudad Juarez say news of the caravans also motivated them, giving them the impression the United States was accepting migrants.

Since early last year, the caravans have been a frequent target of U.S. President Donald Trump as he advocates for stricter immigration policies. Critics say the president’s statements about the caravans, including a series of angry tweets, have ironically enlarged the groups and publicized asylum as a possible avenue to legal status.

“The person who created the media coverage and who drove the issue of the caravans has been President Trump,” Tonatiuh Guillen, the head of Mexico’s National Migration Institute, said on local radio last week.

The addition of Cubans to those flows is adding to the pressure on already overwhelmed shelters and border authorities in Mexico and the United States. More than 100,000 people were apprehended or presented themselves to authorities in March, the White House said on Friday, calling it the highest number in a decade. Trump has threatened a border shutdown or tariffs on Mexico in retaliation.

What’s more, some say Trump’s harder line on Cuban relations has contributed to a sense of gloom on the economically weak and tightly controlled island.

The White House and the Cuban government did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Mexico’s migration institute declined to comment.

‘TREATED LIKE EVERYONE ELSE’

Like Rojas, many Cubans who reached northern Mexico in recent months ultimately traveled with a smaller group, and caravans were not a factor for all who left. But a caravan of 2,600 migrants currently contained by authorities in southern Mexico, the largest this year, includes dozens from the island. Mexican immigration officials said they flew some 60 Cubans home on Friday.

In Ciudad Juarez, Cubans represent 75 to 80 percent of some 3,600 migrants in town, said Enrique Valenzuela, director of the state commission for population. The wait to apply for asylum is about two months, shelter directors say.

The bottleneck highlights a new reality: Cubans do not enjoy the same advantages they once did in the U.S. immigration system.

“For the first time this year, Cubans are being treated like everyone else,” said Wilfredo Allen, a Miami-based lawyer who works with Cuban migrants. “The special door for the Cubans has already closed.”

In 2017, U.S. President Barack Obama ended the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which allowed Cubans who reached U.S. soil to stay but returned any intercepted at sea, triggering a decline in immigration from the island.

In the first five months of fiscal-year 2019, 6,289 Cubans turned up at ports of entry on the U.S.-Mexico border without papers. That number is on track to nearly double the total for the whole of fiscal-year 2018, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

While Cubans generally face slightly better chances of receiving asylum than Central Americans because their tales of political persecution are often more clear-cut, success is anything but assured, Allen said.

Allen estimates only 20 to 30 percent of his Cuban clients will win their cases.

That message has not reached those in Ciudad Juarez, many of whom sold their vehicles, businesses or homes to finance the trip. Some have literally bet the farm.

“They say that we have priority, that (the United States) will accept us in one form or another,” said Rojas, who sold almost half his cattle. “They always accept us.”

A NEW ROUTE

Cubans lucky enough to get a U.S. visa, to visit family for example, can fly there legally and are eligible to apply for residency after a year in the United States. For most though, reaching the United States is no easy feat.

Even before “wet foot, dry foot” ended, Cubans began forging new routes, flying into countries in Central and South America with loose visa requirements and then heading north. Only a few countries, such as Guyana, do not require visas for Cubans.

Last year, Panama made it easier for Cubans to come to the country to shop, creating another opening for some from the island to reach Central America.

Arasay Sanchez, 33, said she was browsing the internet in a park one day when she saw a story about the caravans.

After selling her house and most of her belongings, Sanchez flew into Panama on Jan. 25, she said.

She relied on a seven-page guide she inherited from Cubans who had traveled to the United States, detailing everything from where to sleep to where to buy a phone. On the trail, it was among her most valuable possessions – she carried it in her clothes.

The route ended in Ciudad Juarez, regarded by many Cubans as a safer and more orderly place to seek asylum than other more crowded Mexican border crossings, despite its reputation as one of the world’s most violent cities. Ciudad Juarez, just south of El Paso, Texas, received relatively few asylum seekers until late last year.

Many are dismayed by the long wait they find, shelter directors say, and they are increasingly concerned about safety after reports of Cubans going missing in Mexico. Few leave the shelters, 10 migrants said in interviews.

Sanchez and her partner arrived in Ciudad Juarez in late February, moving from shelter to shelter and struggling with spicy Mexican food.

“Even the candy” has chile, she said, clutching the extra folds of fabric in her jeans to show she had lost weight.

Experts do not expect the flow of Cuban migrants to ebb anytime soon. Obama made it easier for Americans to travel to the island, generating new business. But that money dried up after Trump tightened the rules, said Pedro Freyre, a lawyer who studies the U.S.-Cuba relationship.

What is more, a gradual opening of the island’s private sector triggered a backlash from conservatives, creating headaches for small businesses, Freyre said.

Reaching the United States would end a long quest for Reinaldo Ramirez, a 51-year-old construction contractor from the western town of Jaguey Grande. Starting in 2006, he tried and failed to reach Florida seven times by boat – including the day Obama canceled “wet foot, dry foot.”

The new route has been just as arduous. After flying into Guyana in September, Ramirez and his wife had to hike across the Darien Gap, a remote stretch of jungle straddling Panama and Colombia. After they crossed the first time, Panamanian authorities deported them to Colombia, forcing them to repeat the trek.

Ramirez arrived in Ciudad Juarez about three weeks ago, and hundreds of asylum seekers are ahead of him in line. But he cannot help but feel that he is close.

“I’ve almost achieved my objective, my American dream,” he said.

(Reporting by Julia Love; additional reporting by Jose Luis Gonzalez in Ciudad Juarez, Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City, Sarah Marsh in Havana, Kristina Cooke in San Francisco and Yeganeh Torbati in Washington; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Peter Cooney)

Source: OANN


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