Lithuanian Parliament on Tuesday adopted a resolution, declaring that the recent influx of illegal immigrants is a “hybrid aggression” by hostile states, and that the illegal immigrants should be treated as potential active participants of the aggression.
The resolution said that “countries hostile towards Lithuania are carrying out hybrid aggression against the Republic of Lithuania,” and that the coordinated move is aimed at destabilizing the country, according to Lithuania’s public broadcaster LRT.
The resolution also said that “this hybrid aggression can be further developed and exploited and can even be used as a basis for threats of new nature in the context of the large-scale military exercise Zapad,” referring to Russia and Belarus’s quadrennial military exercise due in September this year.
Tensions between Belarus and Lithuania intensified after Belarus intercepted a passenger flight en route to the Lithuanian city of Vilnius and arrested an opposition journalist Raman Pratasevich and his girlfriend from the plane in May.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent has called on Belarusian authorities to stop the “pressure tactic,” which he said is comparable to migrant flows from Russia to Finland and Norway in 2015.
The Lithuanian resolution on Tuesday urged the government to ramp up protection of the Belarus–Lithuania border, including building a physical barrier and mobilizing the military.
It calls for sanctions against those responsible for organizing the movements of illegal immigrants, treating illegal immigrants with no ID as possible active participants of the coordinated aggression, and placing them in detention or other arrangements.
Women with children, pregnant women, disabled people, and the under-16s will be excluded.
The resolution also set out plans to return the illegal immigrants to their countries of origin, and consulting with NATO member states if the situation deteriorates.
Red Cross and other non-government organizations have protested against the resolution, saying it violates Lithuania’s international obligations and migrants’ rights.
Jill Mortimer, a North Yorkshire farmer, comfortably won the Hartlepool by-election for the Conservatives with a majority of 6,940, overturning a Labour majority of more than 3,500 at the 2019 election.
A cabinet minister claimed that “something has fundamentally shifted” in the political landscape.
While Sir Keir said he took “full responsibility” for the opposition party’s disastrous performance.
A senior backbencher for the party said: “Keir needs to decide whether he is serious about wanting to be leader or not.
“Because if he does it is going to take some tough decisions, including looking at who is in the shadow cabinet, who is in his office and who is in the party structure.”
Lubbock voters on Saturday backed a “sanctuary city for the unborn” ordinance that tries to outlaw abortions in the city’s limits, likely prompting a lawsuit over what opponents say is an unconstitutional ban on the procedure.
The unofficial vote, 62% for and 38% against the measure, comes less than a year after Planned Parenthood opened a clinic in Lubbock and months after the City Council rejected the ordinance on legal grounds and warned it could tee up a costly court fight.
The passage of the ordinance makes Lubbock one of some two dozen cities that have declared themselves a “sanctuary … for the unborn” and tried to prohibit abortions from being performed locally. But none of the cities in the movement — which started in the East Texas town of Waskom in 2019 — has been as big as Lubbock and none of them have been home to an abortion provider.
It’s unclear when the ordinance will go into effect, and if it will be challenged in court.
The push to declare Lubbock a “sanctuary city for the unborn” began in the last two years and was galvanized by the arrival of a Planned Parenthood clinic in 2020. Anti-abortion activists gathered enough signatures to bring the ordinance to the City Council — where it was voted down for conflicting with state law and Supreme Court rulings — and to then put it to a citywide vote.
Ardent supporters of the measure, who liken abortion to murder, say it reflects the views held by many in conservative Lubbock. They believe the ordinance would stand up in court and say they have an attorney who will defend the city free of charge if it is challenged.
But the strategy of bringing the abortion fight to the local level has divided even staunch anti-abortion activists, and Texas towns like Omaha and Mineral Wells have voted down similar ordinances or walked them back under advice from city attorneys.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, which previously sued seven East Texas towns that passed similar ordinances, has said they were watching the vote closely and hinted at a lawsuit in a statement Saturday.
Drucilla Tigner, a policy and advocacy strategist with the organization, said the “ACLU has a long history of challenging unconstitutional abortion bans and will continue to fight to protect the fundamental rights of the people of Lubbock.”
A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood, which has provided birth control and other health services in Lubbock since last fall, said “we are committed to expanding access to abortion and will provide abortion services when possible in Lubbock.”
“We want Lubbock residents to know: Our doors are open and we will continue to advocate for our patients, no matter what,” said Sarah Wheat, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas.
The Lubbock ordinance outlaws abortions within the city, and allows family members of a person who has an abortion to sue the provider and anyone who assists someone getting an abortion, like by driving them to a clinic.
There isn’t an exception for women pregnant as a result of rape or incest.
The ordinance would not be enforced by the government unless the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, or made other changes to abortion laws.
It instead relies on private citizens filing lawsuits.
Richard D. Rosen, a constitutional law professor at Texas Tech University, expects someone would sue Planned Parenthood and the legal fight would go from there.
“As long as Roe is good law I think these suits will ultimately fail, but it [could make] abortion providers … expend money for attorneys fees and it takes time,” he said.
The election’s results were cheered by conservative state lawmakers and other anti-abortion activists.
“Today is a victory for life and proof that the silent majority will still stand up for its Christian conservative values,” state Rep. Dustin Burrows, a Lubbock Republican, said in a statement Saturday.
Mark Lee Dickson, an East Texas pastor behind the “sanctuary city for the unborn” movement, helped push the ordinance in Lubbock and said he was “grateful that the voters of Lubbock voted so overwhelmingly to outlaw abortion.”
“Planned Parenthood and its supporters also worked hard to get their supporters to the polls, and we congratulate them on their efforts,” he said Saturday night. “Now that the voters have spoken, we expect Planned Parenthood to respect the outcome of this election and cease providing abortions at its Lubbock clinic.”
Opponents of the ordinance said it could leave people wanting to terminate their pregnancies — sometimes because of traumatic circumstances, like rape or incest — with limited options.
Without the recently opened Planned Parenthood location, the closest abortion clinics are a five-and-a-half hour drive away, said Marilyn Mathew, co-founder of a “Medical Students for Choice” group at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. That could prove to be a cost-prohibitive journey for people needing to stay overnight to comply with state abortion regulations, she said.
“I’m worried about how this is going to play out in the long run,” she said.
Disclosure: Planned Parenthood and Texas Tech University have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
After initially opposing it, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz voted in favor of a Senate bill that aims to combat hate crimes against Asian Americans, which overwhelmingly passed the Senate through a bipartisan 94-1 vote Thursday.
In a previous statement to The Texas Tribune, Cruz lambasted the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which was introduced into Congress by U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, D-New York, calling it “a Democratic messaging vehicle designed to push the demonstrably false idea that it is somehow racist to acknowledge that Covid-19 originated in Wuhan, China.”
A Cruz spokesperson said Thursday that he ultimately decided to support the bill during the final vote because of an amendment added by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, in cooperation with Hirono.
“While it was unfortunate that Senate Democrats blocked Sen. Cruz’s amendment to fight discrimination against Asian Americans in higher education, Sen. Cruz believes the adoption of Sen. Collins’ language made substantial improvements to this legislation and so he voted in support of the final proposal,” the spokesperson told the Tribune in an email.
Despite several failed Republican attempts to amend the bill, Hirono and Collins reached an agreement to modify the bill’s language “to broaden bipartisan support while retaining the purpose of the bill,” according to Hirono’s office.
Before it was passed, Cruz and Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, tried to amend the bill to “prohibit Federal funding for any institution of higher learning that discriminates against Asian Americans in recruitment, applicant review and admissions,” which was narrowly rejected in a 49-48 vote. It was among other unsuccessful Republican-led efforts to amend the bill.
Cruz previously accused Democrats of not taking racism seriously because they didn’t call out the U.S. Department of Justice for withdrawing its Trump-era affirmative action lawsuit against Yale University for allegedly discriminating against Asian American and white applicants through race-based admission quotas. The lawsuit was dropped in February after President Joe Biden took office.
In a joint statement, the two senators called the rejection of their amendment “an unbelievably cynical move.”
“Despite their calls to end racism, it is clear Democrats are only paying lip service to fighting discrimination against Asian Americans and will allow targeted discrimination against them to continue at America’s universities and colleges,” they said in the statement.
In response, Hirono said racial discrimination in higher education is already illegal and called the Cruz-Kennedy amendment a “transparent and cynical attack” on university policies that aim to promote diverse student bodies, according to Politico.
If signed into law, the bill would expedite the processing of hate crimes by assigning an employee at the Justice Department for that task. The Hirono-Collins amendment extended the amount of time the department has in designating the official to oversee that review from one day to seven.
The bill would also issue guidance to local law enforcement officials on making hate crime reporting more efficient through online reporting, which would be available in multiple languages. Additionally, the bill would expand “public education campaigns aimed at raising awareness of hate crimes and reaching victims.”
Another key aspect of the bill is its plan to issue guidance that would be aimed at raising awareness of hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the amended bill. Former President Donald Trump regularly called COVID-19 “the China virus” while crimes against Asian Americans surged since the dawn of the pandemic.
In San Antonio, an Asian restaurant was vandalized with anti-Asian racial slurs, and in Midland, an Asian American family was stabbed at a Sam’s Club, according to WFAA-TV.
According to Stop AAPI Hate, an organization that tracks Asian American discrimination, there were 103 incidents in Texas from March 19, 2020, to Feb. 28, 2021, which were among nearly 3,800 nationwide.
The U.S. House will eventually take up the bill, where it is expected to pass because of the Democratic majority.
“Today’s historic, bipartisan vote on the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act sends a powerful message of solidarity to the AAPI community—that the United States Senate rejects anti-Asian hate. Now, I urge the House to swiftly pass this legislation so the bill can go to President Biden to sign into law,” Hirono said in a written statement.
Disclosure: Politico has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.