The U.S. at a glance ...
DACA drama: A federal judge this week ordered the Trump administration to maintain protections for 800,000 “Dreamers” who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, potentially upending negotiations in Congress over their fate. San Francisco–based Judge William Alsup ruled that the White House must continue to allow Dreamers to renew their deportation protections and work permits under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program while courts hear lawsuits challenging President Trump’s decision to end the program. The decision came the same day Trump presided over rare televised talks on DACA with members of Congress, designed to showcase the president’s leadership skills in response to questions about his fitness for office. Trump appeared to flip back and forth during the negotiations, alternately saying he would approve any bill to protect Dreamers and demanding that border wall funding be part of an agreement.
Deadly mudslides: Hundreds of rescue workers slogged through rivers of muck and debris this week searching for survivors of mudslides that ravaged a swath of the Southern California coast. At least 15 people died, swept away after heavy rains sent torrents of mud flowing down from vegetation-stripped hills burned by wildfires last year. In Montecito, houses were lifted off their foundations by waves of waist-high mud, covering the downtown with a thick layer of sludge. Santa Barbara County officials had anticipated flooding and issued mandatory evacuation orders for some 7,000 residents. But most people chose to stay in their homes, and some later had to be rescued by emergency crews. “It looked like a World War I battlefield,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said. “It was literally a carpet of mud and debris.”
Arpaio for Senate: Republicans gained a baggage-laden Senate candidate this week after former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio declared he’s running for retiring Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat. The 85-year-old Arpaio, known for his hard-line immigration stance and birther conspiracy theories about former President Obama, was pardoned by President Trump last year after being convicted of criminal contempt in a racial profiling lawsuit. Arpaio tweeted that his “one unwavering reason” for running is to support President Trump. In the primary, most Republican leaders are likely to back Rep. Martha McSally, a swing district congresswoman who is expected to announce her candidacy this week. If Arpaio wins the nomination, some GOP strategists worry it could increase Democrats’ chances of picking up the Senate seat. The polarizing lawman lost his re-election bid for sheriff in reliably Republican Maricopa County in 2016.
Voting map rejected: North Carolina must redraw its congressional map after federal judges ruled this week that it was drawn specifically to advantage Republicans—the first time a federal court has thrown out a congressional map for partisan gerrymandering. The three-judge panel gave the state’s Republican-dominated General Assembly until Jan. 24 to come up with a replacement map for the 2018 midterm elections. In a blistering 191-page opinion, Judge James A. Wynn Jr. wrote that the state legislature was “motivated by invidious partisan intent” in creating the map, with GOP leaders specifically instructing consultants to draw districts to minimize Democratic seats. Voting in the state has been split in recent statewide elections—Trump and a Democratic governor were elected on the same day in 2016—but Republicans currently hold 10 of the swing state’s 13 seats in the House of Representatives. Republican lawmakers vowed to appeal.
Frat sentencing: A Pennsylvania judge this week handed down one of the toughest punishments ever meted out to a college fraternity for a hazing death, sentencing four members to prison and banning the organization from the state for 10 years. Four members of Pi Delta Psi, a national Asian-American fraternity, were sentenced to up to two years in prison after pleading guilty in May to manslaughter in the death of Chun Hsien “Michael” Deng, a student at Baruch College in New York City. Deng died in 2013 during a fraternity trip to Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, where he suffered brain and bodily injuries during a hazing ritual in which he was forced to wear a blindfold and a backpack full of sand while fraternity members tackled and pushed him. Although fraternal organizations themselves are rarely prosecuted in hazing incidents, Pi Delta Psi was found guilty of aggravated assault and involuntary manslaughter. The fraternity must also pay more than $110,000 in fines.
Salvadorans must go: Nearly 200,000 people from El Salvador who have been living and working in the U.S. for almost two decades will have to leave the country by next year, after the Trump administration announced this week it is ending the humanitarian program that gave them legal status. The U.S. government granted Salvadorans temporary protected status in March 2001 after two earthquakes devastated the country. The program was extended multiple times under both President Bush and President Obama, because of extreme poverty and gang violence in El Salvador. The Department of Homeland Security now says that conditions have improved enough since the earthquakes for people to return home. Salvadorans who have put down roots in the U.S. must decide whether to leave the country by September 2019 or risk deportation. Salvadorans living in the U.S. with protected status have 192,700 children who are U.S. citizens, 88 percent have jobs, and nearly one-quarter own a home here. ■