By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Friday, August 1, 2014, U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R) from Montgomery joined Alabama colleagues Rep. Mike Rogers (R) and Rep. Bradley Byrne in voting to pass two bills which would prohibit any new amnesty applications under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order, stop the President from issuing work permits outside of current law and provide additional resources for the National Guard to help secure the border.
Supporting this key measure is part of keeping a commitment to secure the border first, Rep. Roby said. “The situation at the Mexican border is out of control. We must beef up our border security and close the trafficking law loophole that is a root cause of this current influx.”
Rep. Roby said that disparate opinions over the details of the bill dragged negotiations out for an extra day, which actually made the bill stronger. Rep. Roby said, “Ultimately the continued negotiations produced a stronger bill to address the border crisis. Our bill prioritizes funding toward border security and reuniting the unaccompanied children with their parents in their home countries. More time also allowed for strengthening language aimed to prevent the government from housing detained immigrants at military bases like Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery. I want to thank my colleague Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) for his diligent work on that issue.”
Congressman Mike Rogers (R) from Saks said, “The American people expect our laws to be enforced and our borders secured. I hope this action will send a strong message to our southern neighbors that America takes its borders and sovereignty seriously and will not tolerate a mad dash into this country.”
Rep Rogers said, “I was disappointed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent the Senate home for a long recess without passing any legislation to help address this crisis. Senator Reid should order the Senate back to Washington immediately to take up the House-passed bills.”
Rep. Bradley Byrne said, “The crisis at our southern border must be addressed, but the answer isn’t just to give President Obama a blank check. The border security bill passed in the House today would pave the way for real border security that is so desperately needed. The bill also allows for the more swift, yet still compassionate, return of the unaccompanied minors at our southern border.”
Rep. Byrne continued, “There is no doubt President Obama’s continued threat of executive action has only exacerbated the problem. By prohibiting the expansion of President Obama’s DACA amnesty program, this bill would send a clear message that his unilateral executive action must stop. The language in H.R. 5272 is very clear in that no further forms of blanket amnesty will be allowed. Until President Obama puts his pen down and hangs up the phone to engage in good-faith negotiations with Congress, I will be hard pressed to support any immigration legislation.”
The legislation would expressly prohibit the housing of unauthorized immigrants on military bases if it will displace service members or interfere with military activities at the installation. Such an arrangement is under consideration at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery.
The second measure aimed to prevent President Obama from using the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to issue de facto amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants already in the country. The supplemental appropriations bill, H.R. 5230, allocates $405 million for enhanced border protection and law enforcement, including: $334 million for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to address the rise in unaccompanied immigrant children at the Mexican border; $71 million for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for detention, processing and transportation of illegal immigrants; Additionally, the bill allocates $70 million to double the National Guard presence at the border, and $22 million to speed up judicial proceedings in immigrant cases.
The total cost is $694 million, which is offset by recessions from other areas of federal spending. H.R. 5230 amends the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (PL 110-457), which deals with unaccompanied children detained at the border. The law revision would allow for faster processing and removal of detained children arriving from Central America.
The bills would also prohibit Federal agencies from denying access or activities to border patrol agents on Federal park or Federal monument land; accelerate judicial proceedings for immigrants; and strengthen laws prohibiting criminals with serious drug-related convictions from applying for asylum.
H.R. 5230 passed by a vote of 223 to 189.
H.R. 5272 which prevents the President from taking any Executive action to authorize new deferred action on illegal aliens and prohibits the President from taking any executive action to grant new work authorizations to illegal aliens. The bill explicitly prohibits any blanket amnesty. The bill passed by a vote of 216 to 192.
Rep. Byrne said, “At the request of myself and some of my Alabama colleagues, I am pleased that House leadership included provisions to expedite the deportation process and strengthen the language prohibiting further executive action. With these changes made, I feel confident that this bill is the right step forward. By not acting on this bill before the August District Work Period, the House would be playing right into President Obama’s hands and further encourage his use of executive action. The House has now acted to address the border crisis while the Senate has skipped town. I implore the Senate to return to Washington right away to pass these bills and make positive steps toward real border security.”
Neither bill is likely to pass the Democrat controlled U.S. Senate.
A wide partisan divide exists between the two political parties. Democrats support giving amnesty and a path to citizenship to up to 12 million illegal aliens already in the country, increasing legal immigration to over two million per year, and support accepting large numbers of refugees from around the world.
Conservatives led by Senators Jeff Sessions (R) from Alabama and Ted Cruz (R) from Texas support a plan with more border enforcement and a more restrained immigration plan that protects American workers.
Many politicians from both parties had hoped that Congress could have settled this issue before the summer recess. Instead the crisis on the border is unresolved and no agreement has been reached on immigration reform. Meanwhile the President continues to hint at more Executive actions to give more and more illegal immigrants lawful status and a work visa to stay in the country. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of illegals are predicted to come to this country in the next 18 months.
Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional Districts, while Mike Rogers represents the Third, and Bradley Byrne represents the First District. All three are seeking re-election.
USDA is seeking rural energy grant applications
The deadlines to apply for grants is Feb. 1, 2021, and March 31, 2021. Applications for loan guarantees are accepted year-round.
United States Department of Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand on Wednesday invited applications for loan guarantees and grants for renewable energy systems, and to make energy efficiency improvements, conduct energy audits and provide development assistance.
The funding is being provided through the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program, which was created under the 2008 Farm Bill and reauthorized under the 2018 Farm Bill. This notice seeks applications for Fiscal Year 2021 funding.
The deadlines to apply for grants is Feb. 1, 2021, and March 31, 2021. Applications for loan guarantees are accepted year-round.
REAP helps agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce energy costs and consumption by purchasing and installing renewable energy systems and making energy efficiency improvements in their operations.
Eligible systems may derive energy from wind, solar, hydroelectric, ocean, hydrogen, geothermal or renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters).
USDA encourages applications that will support recommendations made in the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to help improve life in rural America.
Applicants are encouraged to consider projects that provide measurable results in helping rural communities build robust and sustainable economies through strategic investments.
Key strategies include achieving e-Connectivity for rural America, developing the rural economy, harnessing technological innovation, supporting a rural workforce and improving quality of life. For additional information, see the notice in the Federal Register.
Trump says that coronavirus vaccine deliveries will begin within two weeks
Trump said that front-line workers, medical personnel and senior citizens would be the vaccine’s first recipients.
President Donald Trump said Thursday that coronavirus vaccine deliveries will begin as early as next week.
“The whole world is suffering, and we are rounding the curve,” Trump said. “And the vaccines are being delivered next week or the week after.”
Trump made the announcement during a special Thanksgiving holiday message to U.S. troops overseas via teleconference. Trump said that front-line workers, medical personnel and senior citizens would be the vaccine’s first recipients. He also argued that his election opponent, President-elect Joe Biden, should not be given credit for the vaccines, which were developed during the Trump administration.
Trump referred to the vaccines, which were developed and tested in less than ten months as a “medical miracle.”
Regulators at the FDA will review Pfizer’s request for an emergency use authorization for its vaccine developed with BioNTech during a meeting on Dec. 10. The director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research says a decision is expected within weeks, possibly days after that key meeting.
The latest trial data for Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine showed that it was 90 percent effective.
The CDC plans to vote next week on where the distribution of approved vaccines will begin and who will be allowed to get the first vaccines when they become available.
Dr. Celene Gounder, a member of Biden’s COVID Advisory Board, warned against rushing a vaccine to market.
“The single biggest risk of rushing an approval would be Americans’ distrust the vaccine,” Grounder said. “It’s essential people feel confident this is a safe and effective vaccine.”
Moderna said that its vaccine is 94.5 percent effective in preventing COVID-19.
AstraZeneca says its preliminary results showed its vaccine ranged from 62 percent to 90 percent effective depending on the dosage amount given to participants. AstraZeneca is having to launch a second round of global trials to clear up the discrepancies.
Many Americans appear to have ignored CDC warnings to scale back Thanksgiving holiday plans. More than six million Americans flew over the holiday week, raising fears by public health officials that the surge in coronavirus cases we are experiencing now will be followed by a bigger surge in the next three weeks.
As of press time, there have been 62 million diagnosed cases of coronavirus cases in the world, including nearly 13.5 million in the United States, but many cases are mild and go undiagnosed.
A CDC researcher estimates that the real number of infections in the U.S. has topped 53 million since February. More than 1.4 million people have died around the world since the virus first appeared in China late last year. The death toll includes 271,029 Americans and 3,572 Alabamians.
The Iron Bowl is today
Alabama will have to play without head football coach Nick Saban who has tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Auburn University college football team will play the University of Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa on Saturday with the game kicking off at 2:30 p.m. Attendance is strictly limited because of COVID-19 restrictions. The game will be televised on CBS stations.
Alabama will have to play without head football coach Nick Saban who has tested positive for the coronavirus and is experiencing mild symptoms. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will coach the Crimson Tide in Saban’s absence. He has a 46-35 record as a head coach at USC and Washington.
Auburn will be coached by Gus Malzahn, who has a 67-33 record as a head coach. He is the fifth winningest coach in Auburn history, trailing only Shug Jordan, Mike Donahue, Pat Dye and now-Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville.
Alabama has a 7-0 record and is currently the No. 1 team in the country in the college football rankings. Auburn is 5-2 but with a win could still win the SEC West with wins in its remaining two games, and if Alabama were to lose another game down the stretch. Alabama is just one game ahead of Texas A&M for first place in the SEC West, but the Tide has the tiebreaker by virtue of having defeated the Aggies in head-to-head competition.
In addition to team honors, there is a lot riding for individual players in today’s game. Alabama redshirt junior quarterback Mac Jones has thrown for 2,426 yards and 18 touchdowns in Alabama’s first seven games. Jones’s strong performance has made him a Heisman contender and has earned him consideration as a possible first-round or high second-round draft pick by the NFL if he were to leave Alabama early.
Auburn quarterback Bo Nix has thrown for 1,627 yards and ten touchdowns over seven games.
Alabama and Auburn played their first football game against each other in Lakeview Park in Birmingham on Feb. 22, 1893. The game is called the Iron Bowl because historically the game was played on a neutral site: Birmingham’s historic Legion Field. Birmingham at the time was best known for the iron that was mined there and then made into steel and other metal products.
The game is now played as a home and home series, but the Iron Bowl name has stuck with the rivalry.
Alabama leads the series with 46 wins to Auburn’s 37. There has been one tie. Auburn defeated Alabama 48 to 45 in last year’s high scoring contest.
Vaccines should protect against mutated strains of coronavirus
Public health experts say it will be some time before vaccines are available to the wider public.
Multiple vaccines for COVID-19 are in clinical trials, and one has already applied for emergency use authorization, but how good will those vaccines be against a mutating coronavirus? A UAB doctor says they’ll do just fine.
Dr. Rachael Lee, UAB’s hospital epidemiologist, told reporters earlier this week that there have been small genetic mutations in COVID-19. What researchers are seeing in the virus here is slightly different than what’s seen in the virus in China, she said.
“But luckily the way that these vaccines have been created, specifically the mRNA vaccines, is an area that is the same for all of these viruses,” Lee said, referring to the new type of vaccine known as mRNA, which uses genetic material, rather than a weakened or inactive germ, to trigger an immune response.
The U.S. Food And Drug Administration is to review the drug company Pfizer’s vaccine on Dec. 10. Pfizer’s vaccine is an mRNA vaccine, as is a vaccine produced by the drug maker Moderna, which is expected to also soon apply for emergency use approval.
“I think that is incredibly good news, that even though we may see some slight mutations, we should have a vaccine that should cover all of those different mutations,” Lee said.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Wisconsin-Madison found in a recent study, published in the journal Science, that COVID-19 has mutated in ways that make it spread much more easily, but the mutation may also make it more susceptible to vaccines.
In a separate study, researchers with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation found that while most vaccines were modeled after an earlier strain of COVID-19, they found no evidence that the vaccines wouldn’t provide the same immunity response for the new, more dominant strain.
“This brings the world one step closer to a safe and effective vaccine to protect people and save lives,” said CSIRO chief executive Dr. Larry Marshall, according to Science Daily.
While it may not be long before vaccines begin to be shipped to states, public health experts warn it will be some time before vaccines are available to the wider public. Scarce supplies at first will be allocated for those at greatest risk, including health care workers who are regularly exposed to coronavirus patients, and the elderly and ill.
Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, speaking to APR last week, urged the public to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing for many more months, as the department works to make the vaccines more widely available.
“Just because the first shots are rolling out doesn’t mean it’s time to stop doing everything we’ve been trying to get people to do for months. It’s not going to be widely available for a little while,” Harris said.