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US govt approved thousands of child bride requests

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WASHINGTON: Thousands of requests by men originally from other countries, including Pakistan, to bring in child and adolescent brides to live in the United States were approved over the past decade, according to government data obtained by AP news agency. In one case, a 49-year-old man applied for admission for a 15-year-old girl.

The approvals are legal: the Immigration and Nationality Act does not set minimum age requirements. And in weighing petitions for spouses or fiancées, US Citizenship and Immigration Services goes by whether the marriage is legal in the home country and whether the marriage would be legal in the state where the petitioner lives.

But the data raises questions about whether the immigration system may be enabling forced marriage and about how US laws may be compounding the problem despite efforts to limit child and forced marriage. Marriage between adults and minors is not uncommon in the US, and most states allow children to marry with some restrictions.

There were more than 5,000 cases of adults petitioning on behalf of minors and nearly 3,000 examples of minors seeking to bring in older spouses or fiancés, according to the data requested by the Senate Homeland Security Committee in 2017 and compiled into a report.

Some victims of forced marriage say the lure of a US passport combined with lax US marriage laws are partly fuelling the petitions.

“My passport ruined my life,” said Naila Amin, a dual citizen from Pakistan who grew up in New York City. She was forcibly married at 13 in Pakistan and applied for papers for her 26-year-old husband to come to the country.

“People die to come to America,” she said. “I was a passport to him. They all wanted him here, and that was the way to do it.”

Amin, now 29, said she was betrothed to her first cousin Tariq when she was just eight and he was 21. The petition was eventually terminated after she ran away.

She said the ordeal cost her a childhood. She was in and out of foster care and group homes, and it took a while to get her life on track.

“I was a child. I want to know: why weren’t any red flags raised? Whoever was processing this application, they don’t look at it? They don’t think?” she asked.

There is a two-step process for obtaining US immigration visas and green cards. Petitions are first considered by USCIS. If granted, they must be approved by the State Department. Overall, there were 3.5 million petitions received from budget years 2007 through 2017.

Over that period, there were 5,556 approvals for those seeking to bring in minor spouses or fiancées, and 2,926 approvals by minors seeking to bring in older spouses, according to the data. Additionally, there were 204 approvals of applications by minors seeking to bring in minor spouses.

Petitions can be filed by US citizens or permanent residents.

“It indicates a problem. It indicates a loophole that we need to close,” said Republican Sen Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

In nearly all the cases, the girls were the younger person in the relationship. In 149 instances, the adult was older than 40, and in 28 cases the adult was over 50, the committee found.

Among the examples: in 2011, immigration officials approved a 14-year-old’s petition for a 48-year-old spouse in Jamaica. A petition from a 71-year-old man was approved in 2013 for his 17-year-old wife in Guatemala.

There are no nationwide statistics on child marriage, but data from a few states suggests it is far from rare. State laws generally set 18 as the minimum age for marriage, yet every state allows exceptions.

Most states let 16- and 17-year-olds marry if they have parental consent, and several states including New York, Virginia and Maryland allow children under 16 to marry with court permission.

 

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Trumps delays speech until government shutdown ends

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WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump backed down late Wednesday in a spat with Democrats over his State of the Union address, agreeing to delay it until a government shutdown ends, although the more than month-long impasse dragged on.

The US Senate prepared meanwhile Thursday to hold two showdown votes on measures to reopen the shuttered federal agencies, but Trump’s toxic sparring with House speaker Nancy Pelosi essentially assured no solution was at hand.

An intensifying war of words between the president and Pelosi came to a head Wednesday with the top Democrat effectively blocking Trump from delivering his annual address in Congress until the partial government shutdown, now in its 34th day, is brought to an end.

But in a tweet sent after 11:00 pm, Trump wrote, “As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address. I agreed.”

“She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative – I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over.”

As acrimony in Washington grew, lawmakers across the political spectrum were left searching in vain for an exit strategy for the longest-ever halt to federal operations, as furloughed government employees and contractors vented their fury on Capitol Hill.

The prospects for Trump getting to deliver his national address in Congress next Tuesday as planned were dim, with the Senate votes — one on Trump’s proposal that includes money for his border wall and changes to immigration policy, the other by Democrats seeking to reopen government before negotiating border security — bound to fail.

Traditionally the president’s annual speech is delivered before a joint session of Congress in the ornate chamber of the House of Representatives.

 

 

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Volvo recalls 219,000 cars to check for fuel leaks

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STOCKHOLM: Volvo Cars, owned by the Chinese group Geely, has recalled 219,000 diesel-engine cars to fix potential fuel leaks in the engine compartment, a spokesman said Wednesday.

“Volvo preventatively recalls the cars to avert any possible future problems,” the spokesman told media.

“There are no reports alleging injuries or damages related to this issue.”

The action concerns 11 models, including the upscale XC60 and XC90, that were sold in 2015 and 2016, he added.

Around 37,000 vehicles are to be recalled in Sweden, 31,000 in Great Britain and 26,000 in Germany, the group’s three biggest European markets.

“Some vehicles may have small cracks inside one of the fuel lines in the engine department.

This, in combination with a pressurised fuel system may over time lead to fuel leakage in the engine compartment,” the spokesman explained.

The Swedish car company, which has now begun to focus on autonomous vehicles and those powered by electric or hybrid motors, is to release 2018 results on February 7.

 

 

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Kenya to use smartphones to conduct 2019 census

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NAIROBI: Kenya plans to use smartphones to conduct the 2019 national population and housing census, a senior government official said on Wednesday.

Henry Rotich, cabinet secretary in the National Treasury, told journalists in Nairobi that the government plans to acquire approximately 165,000 mobile devices for use by the census enumerators for the exercise that will take place in August.

“We are going to use mobile technology which will enhance quality of the data as it has in built checks and can correct inconsistent responses as well as cross validate data with other records,” Rotich said.

He said that Kenya seeks to follow in the steps of other African countries such as Egypt, Senegal and Ethiopia which have conducted paperless census.

He noted that the last census which was conducted on 2009 indicated that the east African country had a population of slightly less than 39 million people.

He said that the census will provide statistical information on the size, distribution and the characteristics of the Kenya population that will be used to describe and assess the socio-economic and demographic status of the country.

 

 

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