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Players stand during the national anthem before the Rosemont Dogs played their baseball home-opener against the Milwaukee Milkmen at Impact Field in Rosemont, Ill., in this Tuesday, July 7, 2020, file photo.

Biden quadruples refugee cap

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Monday formally raised the nation's cap on refugee admissions to 62,500 this year, weeks after facing bipartisan blowback for his delay in replacing the record-low ceiling set by former President Donald Trump.

Refugee resettlement agencies have waited for Biden to quadruple the number of refugees allowed into the United States this year since Feb. 12, when a presidential proposal was submitted to Congress saying he planned to do so.

But the presidential determination went unsigned until Monday. Biden said he first needed to expand the narrow eligibility criteria put in place by Trump that had kept out most refugees. He did that last month in an emergency determination. But it also stated that Trump's cap of up to 15,000 refugees this year “remains justified by humanitarian concerns and is otherwise in the national interest," indicating Biden intended to keep it.

That brought sharp pushback for not at least taking the symbolic step of authorizing more refugees to enter the U.S. this year. The second-ranking Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, called that initial limit “unacceptable” and within hours the White House made a quick course correction. The administration vowed to increase the historically low cap by May 15 — but the White House said it probably would not hit the 62,500 Biden had previously outlined.

In the end, Biden returned to that figure.

Biden said he received additional information that led him to sign the emergency presidential determination setting the cap at 62,500.

“It is important to take this action today to remove any lingering doubt in the minds of refugees around the world who have suffered so much, and who are anxiously waiting for their new lives to begin," Biden stated before signing it.

Biden said Trump’s cap “did not reflect America’s values as a nation that welcomes and supports refugees.”

But he acknowledged the “sad truth” that the U.S. would not meet the 62,500 cap by the end of the fiscal year in September, given the pandemic and limitations on the country’s resettlement capabilities — some of which his administration has attributed to the Trump administration’s policies to restrict immigration.

The White House insisted it was unable to act until now because the administration was being taxed by a sharp increase in unaccompanied young migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras arriving at the southern U.S. border, though any link between the border and the government’s decision on refugees was not immediately clear. Refugee advocates, including Durbin, accused Biden of playing politics.

Biden said Monday it was important to lift the number to show “America’s commitment to protect the most vulnerable, and to stand as a beacon of liberty and refuge to the world."

It also paves the way for Biden to boost the cap to 125,000 for the 2022 fiscal year that starts in October.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said work is being done to improve U.S. capabilities to process refugees in order to accept as many of them as possible under the new cap. Since the fiscal year began last Oct. 1, just over 2,000 refugees have been resettled in the U.S.

Travel preparations are being made for more than 2,000 refugees who were excluded by Trump's presidential determination on Oct. 27, 2020.

Refugee resettlement agencies applauded Biden's action.

“We are absolutely thrilled and relieved for so many refugee families all across the world who look to the U.S. for protection,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, head of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, one of nine resettlement agencies in the nation. “It has a felt like a rollercoaster ride, but this is one critical step toward rebuilding the program and returning the U.S. to our global humanitarian leadership role.”

Biden has also added more slots for refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Central America and ended Trump’s restrictions on resettlements from Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

Some 35,000 refugees have been cleared to go to the United States, and 100,000 remain in the pipeline. Resettlement agencies that closed more than 100 offices during the Trump administration said the cap needed to be raised to unleash resources.

“The way you rebuild capacity is by setting ambitious commitments that signal to domestic and international stakeholders that U.S. leadership is back," said Nazanin Ash of the International Rescue Committee.

Council gives go-ahead
Sioux City Council approves resolution for welcome sign

SIOUX CITY -- The Sioux City Council, in a split decision, approved a resolution Monday adopting plans, specifications, form of contract and estimated cost for the construction of a new sign to welcome visitors to the city.

The sign will be located on the hillside south of the Sergeant Floyd Monument and northbound I-29. The project is expected to cost $250,000 based on the city engineer's estimate. The funds are budgeted for in the city's Capital Improvement Program.


A conceptual design of a welcome sign, which will be located on the hillside south of the Sergeant Floyd Monument, is shown. 

The project was part of the council's consent agenda, but Mayor Bob Scott asked for a separate roll call vote. There was no discussion on the project before the vote. Scott was the lone council member to vote "no." 

After the meeting, Scott explained to The Journal why he voted against the project.

"It's terribly expensive. I don't think it's the right location. And, I think we're causing a problem in the future, because we're not putting a sidewalk going down to that," he said. "People are going to want their picture by it, so when somebody falls or we have an emergency there, it's going to be a problem." 

The project is expected to go out for bid this week, with bids being received by May 25. The project has a completion date of Oct. 31. 

breaking top story
UPDATED: 2 in custody in connection with Sioux City homicide

SIOUX CITY -- The victim of an early Saturday homicide was assaulted and shot after coming to the aid of his girlfriend, who had come to a west side bar to retrieve him from an escalating confrontation.

Martez Harrison, 22, of Sioux City, was shot once in the chest shortly after 1 a.m. across the street from Uncle Dave's Bar, 1427 W. Third St., according to documents filed in Woodbury County District Court. He died of his injury at a Sioux City hospital.

Complaints filed by police identified the shooter as Dwight Evans, 17, of Sioux City, who was arrested later that night on charges of first-degree murder, assault while participating in a felony, going armed with intent, possession of a controlled substance and failure to affix a drug tax stamp. He is being held in the Woodbury County Jail on a $1 million bond.

Provided by Woodbury County Sheriff's Office 


Also arrested was Lawrence Canady, 20, of Sioux City, who is being held on a $250,000 bond and faces charges of assault causing bodily injury, willful injury causing serious injury, assault while participating in a felony and using a juvenile to commit an offense.

According to court documents, Evans was outside Uncle Dave's Bar after being denied entrance and was armed with a .38-caliber revolver with an obliterated serial number.

Canady, who is referred to in court documents as a friend of Evans, got into a verbal altercation with Harrison, who called his girlfriend to pick him so he could leave. When the woman arrived, the complaints said, Canady assaulted her, causing injuries that would require medical attention. When Harrison came to the woman's aid, Canady began punching and kicking him. The fight moved across the street, and Harrison fell to the ground while Canady continued to beat him.

While Canady was assaulting Harrison, court documents said, Evans ran across the street and fired a shot. Canady got off Harrison, and Evans shot Harrison in the chest from close range. After Harrison was shot, Canady resumed kicking and punching him in the head.

Evans was pulled from the scene by person not identified in court documents and fled on foot. Canady also fled. Police located him at about 4:30 a.m. in the 1100 block of West 21st Street in possession of a firearm consistent to the one witnesses described and of the same caliber as the bullet recovered near the Harrison's body. Evans had posted a picture of the gun on social media hours before the shooting, court documents said.

Police executing a search warrant at Evans' home seized additional ammunition and more than 100 grams of marijuana and a scale from his room.

Community policing Sgt. Jeremy McClure said police are searching for no other suspects, and the incident remains under investigation.

A search of court records showed that Evans was charged at age 14 in juvenile court with robbery and theft in 2018. He was later adjudicated on the theft charge and successfully completed a probation term. He also had a 2016 curfew violation when he was age 12. He pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor and was fined $65.

Canady is currently on probation from a September 2019 shooting at Sioux City's Riverview Apartments.

He pleaded guilty in March to one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and received a suspended five-year prison sentence and three years probation.